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Since launching my first writing business, Venture Booth, I’ve often thought about my students’ coding skills. Now in a new career where I mentor and teach digital marketing and advertising to people of all backgrounds, I often think about how I will use to teach my students. Most of my work is happening digitally, thanks to new media platforms like podcasts, videos, and podcasts. If I know people can understand the material, I can let them know about my many freelancing and media-producing colleagues who teach or write on any topic. I get to know their writing styles, their experiences, and their day-to-day work.
But to be a good mentor or guide, I also need to be able to teach. I want my students to understand that I can provide the same help in a holistic way. When I’m walking them through the various parts of a website or an article, I want them to also be excited about that. I want them to see that my resources are also theirs. It’s not just an empty promise. In my work as a freelance media producer, I know how to use SEO, Flavour, PageRank, and Google Analytics to build content. I’ve written articles for Racked, Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and Upworthy. And I’ve written stories for publishers in small towns across the United States. My experience at The Huffington Post in New York is invaluable, even if I was never a writer there.
The ability to show my students both ways of doing things — the tactile processes of mixing paint or pouring ice cream — also opens the door to sharing my love of language. I want them to understand the business and technical aspects of writing, how to build an audience, how to write best and how to hit your targets. I teach them all that, but I also want them to see that good writing isn’t just the easy parts, that it’s not just about words. It’s about beauty, clarity, and story. And I want them to feel like they have the same opportunities to take all that inspiration, apply it to their own lives, build their own businesses, communicate with customers, and get paid for their work.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to be a good mentor and good guide. How do I teach my students the kinds of principles I work by? How do I show that I’m capable of doing and fulfilling my own tasks in whatever way I see fit? And how do I convey my love for my students, despite my own scheduling struggles?
Today, when I’m in the middle of setting up my classroom for a 15-minute video tutorial on getting a website up, I look at the students. I see them all working together on their laptops, designing the background for the poster board. I see them all in the dark chatting over their work. I see all of them trying to answer me questions. I feel their eager eyes and their excited banter. The feeling of having each of them feel like I care more about them than my own schedule is palpable.
My life is not quite perfect — even in the best of times. I have some experiences I wish I could rewind and do over. I have moments where I wonder how it could have all worked out differently. I am deeply insecure about my skills. It can be easier to show my students how great I am at my job, but it’s easier still to show them how much I care about them and their future.
I love my students. I love their voices. I love their kindness. I want to show them their power. And I want them to show me that they have the same potential and life chances that I have.
And even with that goal, I’m not getting any work done.
This piece originally appeared on the blog, WWQ, which is an affiliate of Business Insider. Maryanne Roller is a writer for WWQ, and a former editor-in-chief at Refinery29. You can follow her on Twitter at @Maryannetweet.
Editor’s Note: This piece is part of the Next Gen reporting series produced in partnership with business consulting firm Impact Engine. If you would like your work considered for inclusion in the series, please contact email@example.com.