What’s the difference between a teacher vs. a mentor?

Published July 29, 2020

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

What’s the difference between a teacher vs. a mentor?

Illustration from Icons8

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 and their differences
  • The differences between a mentor and a teacher
  • When do you need a mentor vs a teacher

Let’s go!

Defining a teacher vs a mentor and their differences

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

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.

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).

3 differences between a teacher and mentor

Difference between mentor and teacher

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.

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.

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.

When do you need a mentor vs a teacher

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

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.

Join MentorCruise for deep and meaningful mentorship experiences

In this article, you’ve learned the differences between a teacher vs mentor 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 where you want to be.