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What’s the difference between a teacher vs. a mentor vs. a coach, and a guide?

What’s the difference between a teacher vs a mentor, vs. a coach, an instructor, and a guide? All may be related to personal development, but I’d argue that they are quite different.

Most of us know what teachers do. Like many others, I’ve had teachers throughout grade school, high school, and college. Mentors didn’t come until later on when I decided to venture into entrepreneurship, and they have immensely helped me bring clarity to the otherwise chaotic world of building a business.

As a mentorship platform with a thriving community of passionate people, at MentorCruise, we believe that effective mentorship can unlock a person’s potential in deep and meaningful ways. Teachers are extremely important. But teachers and mentors fulfill different roles when it comes to personal growth. Mistaking one for the other isn’t entirely helpful for those seeking out different forms of guidance.

So in this article, you will learn:

  • Defining a teacher vs a mentor vs. a coach, an instructor, and a guide and their differences
  • The differences between a mentor, a teacher, and a coach
  • When do you need a mentor vs a teacher vs. a coach, an instructor, and a guide

Let’s go!

Defining a teacher vs a mentor vs a coach vs, an instructor, and a guide and their differences


Want to know the fundamental difference between a teacher, a mentor, a coach, an instructor, and a guide? A teacher typically has more knowledge of the topic that you’re studying than you do. A mentor has a greater vision of what you’re trying to achieve.

On the other hand, a coach is a trainer or instructor whose goal is to improve someone’s performance or skill or help them prepare for something. For example, you can hire a sports coach to train a basketball team or a life coach to help you achieve personal development goals.

You probably already know what a teacher is. A teacher provides knowledge and information out of a structured testing framework, such as exams and presentations. They show you how to do something, like solving a math problem or writing a narrative essay.

On the other hand, a mentor is more like a friend to guide you through your vision. Think Yoda and Luke Skywalker for the Star Wars nerds out there. Or Steve Jobs who mentored Mark Zuckerberg during the early days of Facebook. These mentors have provided their mentees with crucial wisdom that’s led the mentees to success (and billions of dollars).

What about an instructor vs. a teacher vs. a guide, and a mentor?

Typically, teachers provide instruction and guidance in a limited setting, such as a classroom or online. Mentors serve as long-term advisors who guide their mentees through life. So a mentor can be a guide as well.

Guides, however, are shorter-term advisors who help mentees navigate specific situations or tasks. For instance, a mentor can provide advice on how to approach a career change, while a guide can help a mentee with a specific job application process.

An instructor is an individual who teaches specific skills or techniques in a particular area. For example, an instructor can teach a student how to code or how to use specific software for their job.


In summary, a teacher can play the roles of an instructor, a guide, and a mentor. A mentor can also be a guide since they provide some guidance. However, mentorship stands out from other types of personal development approaches since it focuses on building a relationship with the mentee.

But mentorship isn’t teaching, as shown below.

3 differences between a teacher and mentor

1. Mentorship is based on building a relationship between mentor and mentee

Mentorship is a two-way street. As the mentor instructs the mentee, a closer bond forms between both of them. This relationship is fundamental behind every great mentorship. If this relationship doesn’t exist, the mentee will be less likely to follow the mentor’s guidance or even trust what they have to say.

Here’s what Arvid Kahl, who sold FeedbackPanda and is the author of Zero to Sold, says about some of his experiences on MentorCruise:

“I had several calls with mentees this week, and every single one of them has been insightful, cheerful, uplifting, and full of ideas being exchanged.”

As a mentor, Arvid places a huge emphasis on guiding entrepreneurs through the murky world of bootstrapping. After all, he’s someone who’s been in that path and successfully sold a 6-figure business. Sharing his wisdom means that he is helping fellow entrepreneurs and bootstrappers get where they want to be. At the same time, he also gets to hear their stories and personal fears.

Don’t get me wrong. You can also have this relationship with teachers, but it’s not a requirement for a good learning experience. Most schools measure teaching performance through the students’ grades, not by how well students got along with the teacher.

Down the line, this relationship between teacher and student can develop to that of a mentor and mentee. As such, a person can be both a teacher and a mentor at the same time.

2. A mentor guides you. A teacher teaches or instructs. A coach trains.

Mentorships are based on a mentor’s effective guidance of the mentee’s growth, whether professional or personal. As such, this is hard to quantify and is largely based on how the mentee decides to proceed following the mentor’s advice.

On the other hand, a teacher instructs you on a subject matter based on a set of predefined criteria. Most of the time, the main goal of a teacher is to make sure that their students get great grades.

Compared to teaching and mentoring, coaching occurs in the real world. For instance, a football coach can instruct their team to change tactics while the game is on. Players receive instant instructions, advice, and tips in the thick of things.

So coaching happens during the action, where the trainer taps into their practical knowledge and experiences to enable you to develop and hone your skills.

They don’t depend on a script or a rigid plan of action to help you overcome particular challenges. Coaches can change their training methods to suit your circumstances and specific needs.

3. Mentorship is more holistic, complex and based on fulfilling a vision

Finally, mentorship isn’t measured quantitatively in the same way that teaching is. But this does not make it any less effective.

As mentorship is based on guidance, a mentor can also help their mentee on more complex social situations, such as getting promoted, founding a company, or switching careers.

How? These things can be achieved in many different ways. The mentor is telling you how they’ve achieved this feat based on their personal experience, or they’re giving you actionable tips to succeed in what you, as the mentee, are trying to do.

Teach vs. mentor. vs coach examples

Teachers or instructors use several strategies to impart knowledge to students. Some include:

  • Instruction-based learning (IBL): Also known as rapid instructed task learning (RITL), IBL is teaching an individual how to perform a task quickly from instructions. Think of how to prepare pizza or make your bed.
  • Lecture-based learning: This is a passive learning approach where the teacher passes information to students while they sit back and listen.
  • Technology-based learning: This is a learning strategy where teachers leverage technology and students learn using digital information such as videos, artificial intelligence apps, etc.

For example, a teacher can focus on management concepts, examples, and case studies to ensure you understand the subject. They can help you grasp the five management fundamentals, such as planning, leading, organizing, controlling, and staffing.

In contrast, a coach uses various techniques to help you learn new skills and achieve goals. The methods depend on the type of coaching, such as lifestyle, leadership, career, or business coaching. Examples of coaching strategies include:

  • Role-play: A coach simulates a real-life situation to teach a particular concept, like making a sales presentation.
  • Psychometric Profiling and skills assessment tools for job coaches: This is trying to understand an individual’s behavioral style, reasoning skills, and personality.
  • Employee recognition for managers: This is recognizing and acknowledging an employee’s effort in achieving a company’s goals.

Mentoring involves guiding someone to discover and fulfill their vision in life. A mentor may use the following approaches:

  • Role model: being an example to the mentee
  • Active listening: allowing the mentee to lead the conversations

Individual and group mentoring are examples of mentoring in the workplace. Individual mentoring may involve a senior manager working with new hires to familiarize them with the organization’s ways. Group mentoring might happen when several IT immigrant employees offer each other advice on advancing their professions in a foreign country.

When do you need a mentor vs a teacher vs a coach?

With these in mind, a mentor may be better-equipped for certain things than a teacher and vice versa. Makes sense, right?

If you’re looking to build a meaningful relationship based on growth and progress, look for a mentor. You cannot expect a teacher to build this relationship with you when the main goal for them is for you to get you good grades. While a teacher building a rapport with their students lends to a good teaching atmosphere, it’s not a pre-requisite to great grades.

If you want to further your knowledge on a topic to get a certification, get a teacher and learn a course. Ultimately, teachers tell you about various statistics. This includes facts and figures on how businesses and other ventures fail or succeed.

Here are the signs you need a teacher or instructor:

  • You want to gain knowledge and education in a controlled environment, like an online lesson.
  • You want guidance in learning specific subject concepts.
  • You need help preparing for exams.
  • You’re pursuing a particular career, such as machine learning.

A coach empowers you to set meaningful goals and create an action plan to accomplish them in a real-life situation. For instance, a business coach can show you how to train salespeople through role-play. They help you understand your weaknesses and strengths so you can change behaviors that can stop you from meeting your goals.


Here are some reasons you may need a life coach, for example:

  • You feel overwhelmed and can’t focus on achieving your goals.
  • You lack direction and purpose. You aren’t sure what you’re doing and where you’re going.
  • You’re stuck and stagnant. You have settled for mediocrity.
  • You procrastinate crucial decisions and tasks in your life or job. You start things but don’t finish them.

A mentor tells you how to become successful through their wisdom from years of experience.

Here are the signs you need a mentor or guide:

  • You’re looking for a trusted advisor or ally.
  • You want personal growth.
  • You need some doses of encouragement and support to breathe life into your goals.
  • You don’t mind getting unbiased opinions, so you need new perspectives.
  • You want to enlarge your network connections.

You get a gist. Getting a mentor ultimately depends on a fit between your aspiration and the mentor’s lived experience and wisdom. You need to have trust in this relationship for this to work out.

Ultimately, some of my best experiences with mentors always ended with me feeling inspired and motivated to do what needs to be done to achieve my goal. After all, launching a business or any sort of endeavor in life involves some sort of getting out of the norm and independence. Gaining a mentor’s perspective on the hardships behind launching a business helps mentees get through trials and tribulations, instead of giving up.

How to choose a mentor

So how can you find an ideal mentor to guide, inspire, and share ideas with you? The following tips can make the process a breeze:

1. Make sure your mentor shares your values and goals

Consider your own personality traits, goals, and values when choosing a mentor to work with you.

Look for someone who shares the same values as you to help you develop a robust relationship with them. For instance, take time to research your mentor’s career, online presence, and professional network to grasp who they are and what they do.

Also, it becomes easier to understand their mentoring strategies if you’re on the same page.

2. Align your goals with your role model

After looking through various mentors’ profiles, select a person you aspire to be in your industry. Note down the things you like about the potential mentor and the reasons you want to be like them in your career. For example, you may be inspired by the mentor’s tenacity, business shrewdness, perseverance, generosity, etc.

Repeat this investigation with two or three more mentors. An individual who aligns with your personal dreams is the right fit.

3. Keep your timeline in mind

To make the most of your mentoring, determine your timeline by asking yourself these questions:

  • What type of assistance would you most benefit from right now?
  • In six months or one year, what kind of help do you expect you’ll need?

Knowing your timeline determines how long you need the mentor’s services and what you can pay if you’re hiring for mentorship. Also, it helps you choose a mentor whose availability matches yours.

4. Choose a mentor who can challenge you

A great mentor is more of an advisor; they should challenge you to scale the heights of success. For instance, if you’re a beginner in coding and want to learn a new language, then a mentor can push you to complete the task in a specific amount of time and guide you through the steps.

5 Opt for someone who’s willing to make relationships

Successful mentorship hinges on the relationship you build with your mentor. The two of you need to have adequate time for each other so you can get to know each other better, leading to improved relations. Your mentor should be committed to, and invested in, seeing you accomplish your objectives. They need to be active and introduce you to more opportunities for growth.

It’s a wise idea to maintain constant lines of communication when your mentoring relationship is still young. You need lots of advice and guidance when you are starting your mentorship. But as you mature in your relationship, you can check in every now and then. This allows you more freedom to make independent decisions.

6. Get to know your potential mentor

Arrange a meeting to familiarize yourself with your mentor before you put pen to paper and agree to a contract. You can have an in-person session to check if their character traits align with what you’re looking for.

You may ask them what they expect to see in a mentee so you can understand if you’re up to the challenge. For example, qualities such as commitment to the mentorship programme, willingness to learn and accept criticism, etc., can set you up for success.

Join MentorCruise for deep and meaningful mentorship experiences

In this article, you’ve learned the differences between a teacher vs mentor, an instructor, a guide, and a coach and how they can impact your personal growth in various ways.

While you may be familiar with what teaching requires, chances are, you’re new to what mentorship is and how it can truly improve many aspects of your life.

Need a mentor, not a teacher? Whether this is changing your career or pursuing new things like entrepreneurship, on MentorCruise, you can find mentors that will help you get to The Difference Between a Teacher, a Mentor, and a Guide.

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