For Anakin Skywalker, Qui-Gon Jinn was much more than a teacher strong in the Force.
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Star Wars: The Phantom Menace provides a window into a key aspect of teaching with Star Wars: the mentor/student relationship. Anakin Skywalker is only nine-year-old when he meets Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace, but the two instantly share a bond. While the moments they share are brief (the Trade Federation keeps everyone fairly occupied), the lessons learned have far reaching implications across any galaxy.
Qui-Gon is an experienced, well-respected Jedi, with his own way of doing things. He sees instant potential in Anakin, and soon learns how strong the young boy is in the Force. Anakin is intuitive, has remarkable instincts, and can see things before they happen. Qui-Gon knows these gifts reveal Anakin’s immense potential.
But his new mentor quickly realizes something much more important: although Anakin has great power, he needs a guide for his specialized gifts. While his mother loves him dearly, she does not know much about the Force. Her son needs an instructor.
Qui-Gon can help Anakin Skywalker, and instantly does so by believing in him, talking to him with respect and kindness, and meeting him on his level. The Jedi Council is skeptical of Anakin, but Qui-Gon feels differently. There is no preconceived judgement here. Anakin is more than the sum of his parts, and Qui-Gon makes sure to emphasize that in a number of heart-to-hearts.
Like any good teacher, Qui-Gon sees the potential, and attempts to tap into it by connecting with Anakin and building a relationship. That is what makes him a great mentor. Yes, Qui-Gon is strong with the Force, and outstanding with a lightsaber, but his ability to see Anakin’s humanity and connect with him on a personal level is what makes Qui-Gon so special to young Skywalker.
Ask your Padawan to think about a person in his or her life who is not a parent, but is someone who believed in them. Have them consider:
- How did this person show they believed in you?
- What did he or she do that helped to emphasize you as an individual?
- What's an important lesson you learned from your mentor, and how does it impact your life each day?
Encourage your Padawan to reach out to their Qui-Gon, and ask them to thank their mentor for how they made a difference. You have undoubtedly made a difference in their lives, too.
Dan Zehr is the Host and Brand Director of Coffee With Kenobi, a podcast that examines the mythology of Star Wars from a place of intelligence and humor. He is an author of the upcoming The Star Wars Book, along with Pablo Hidalgo and Cole Horton, and is also a high school English teacher with an MS in Teaching and Learning.
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