“Gr8 Mates Rox!” wrote a student participating in the Gr8 Mates school based youth mentoring program when the first surveys of the trial program were carried out. How positive is that, especially coming from a student who was experiencing low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence when she embarked on her mentoring journey.
While there were a few wobbles during the early days of the program as a result of some transient students, the program did settle down and became a wonderful journey of self-empowerment and building relationships between young people and their volunteer adult mentors.
On one occasion the mentors from one of the programs accompanied their mentees to a local Careers Market where they had the opportunity to visit a variety of stalls covering many possible careers, places for further study, Apprenticeship opportunities and lots more. Approximately 6,600 students passed through this event over two days.
It was easy for some students to waste the opportunity, perhaps even feel overwhelmed by all the information on offer to them, though this was not the case in the situations where mentors accompanied their mentees.
One mentor assisted a student with the development of a career plan, offering extra time to take the student to visit a friend of hers to chat about the career this young student had expressed an interest in pursuing.
On another evening a mentor accompanied her mentee to the student’s subject selection evening at the student’s school and, judging from the emails that were exchanged after that particular evening, this experience further cemented the mentoring relationship.
Another mentor was planning to introduce his mentee to a high profile sporting organisation later that year if the mentee met all his school commitments and so I could continue sharing true stories of the power of mentoring.
What might also be useful is for me to share some tips and strategies for mentors, who are involved in school based mentoring programs, to consider:
- Get out and about when you meet. Go for a walk and talk, rather than just settle in a chair and don’t move ie, bring variation into the mentoring meetings. If you move around a bit, this gets oxygen flowing to the brain and the focus of the student is likely to be consistently positive. I recall a mentor shooting hoops on the Basketball court during one mentoring session and this led to a discussion on goal setting.
- Use the computers for researching career possibilities and other areas of interest, checking emails and so on.
- If you are sitting at a table, sit next to one another rather than across from one another. This leads to better communication, you can observe body language and so on.
- Preferably sit some way apart from another mentoring pair so you can chat without being overheard.
- Battling to know how to start a conversation? Ask your mentee what were some of the highlights of his or her life since you last met? This could lead to a wonderful time of sharing 🙂
The challenge is to develop a variety of strategies for communicating with your mentee. One is likely to work and, once you have established the relationship, you should experience few problems communicating, even on a so-called ‘bad’ day. When the latter occurs, the mentee will probably tell you why it’s a bad day – how to unpack those feelings and experiences, showing empathy and respect, and turning the mentoring moment into a message of HOPE then becomes the challenge. That’s why it is so important to know the interests and dreams of a mentee.
Not only does your mentee have to be encouraged to stretch himself or herself, but also the mentors have to step out of their more comfort zones.
Do you have a mentoring experience to share, as well as successful strategies you have used to connect with your mentee?
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website