How effective Mentoring sows the seeds of HOPE

How effective Mentoring sows the seeds of HOPE

“When it comes down to it, we all just want to be loved.” (John Yellin (14)) What is it that tugs at your heart strings and wants you to interact with adolescents? This is a question I have been asking myself during the past week as I collate my research on the adolescent brain and interact with a couple of adolescents who have asked me to mentor them. There are days when I wish I had a magic wand and could connect with every young person who just wants to feel loved and cared for, reach out to them and encourage them to become the best they can be. It’s this passion that is deeply rooted in my heart and soul that led me to become a teacher, sports coach, set up youth mentoring programs, peer mentoring programs, train student leaders and run Life Skills workshops for adolescents. During the past week I have experienced four different moments that have pulled at my heart strings and reminded me of the massive global need for mentoring programs. I follow a fairly self-disciplined daily routine these days. I wake up and, enjoying a cup of tea, do my Quiet Time before heading off on a 6km old man’s jog along the sea front, a good opportunity to reflect and enjoy the beauty of the sunrise. After a shower I head off to the local News Agent to purchase the daily newspaper. I am a newspaper addict, not wanting the electronic version, rather the hard copy tabloid, which, I am sure is better for my aging eyes. Last week, while returning from the News...
Celebrate the power of mentoring relationships

Celebrate the power of mentoring relationships

Can you think of just one teacher that positively impacted your life? That’s a question I asked myself while my teaching career was coming to a close and I entered retirement. I ended up reflecting on my whole education journey as a child through to becoming a young adult and was amazed at what I came up with. While I was a child recovering from Cancer, I am sure that resulted in some teachers being sympathetic and kind towards me. Of course I appreciated their support, but that’s not really what I was considering. Which teachers shaped me, molded me, refined me, disciplined me, coached me, mentored me and nurtured me?From my entry to Pre-primary School to finishing my school days, I could think of at least 15 teachers who positively impacted my life. Quite amazing, really! Sometimes it might have been a sport coach for six months, a class teacher for a year, another coach for a year or two, a subject teacher for a couple of years, the equivalent of a House Tutor for about three or four years, so many people to whom I am indebted for becoming the person I am today. Indeed, I was also fortunate that I was able to attend a Pre-School and then attended the same School for my Junior and Senior Schooling experience. My key point, though, is that we all have opportunities to find a teacher who can mentor and encourage us, no matter what the situation might be. That word RELATIONSHIPS is a key to how we develop as young people. In a November 2002 study, Finding Out What Matters...
13 Key Qualities of Positive Peer Relationships

13 Key Qualities of Positive Peer Relationships

Can you remember the relationships you had when you were an adolescent? Did you belong to a small clique or did you have a wide circle of friends? As I played plenty of sport, I tended to hang out with some of those in the different teams I  participated in and this tended to lead to a wide circle which was great, though I had one or two closer friends who remained friends for many years. Emily (not her real name) and I were chatting about friendships the other day. Emily, almost 16, is keen to do well at School and is genuinely striving to be the best she can be. She had concerns about how she was handling the different pressures in her life and approached me to have a discussion about all this. I have noticed that she hangs around at times with students whose behavior borders on being ant-social, yet is not quite in that category and she is aware that she could be ‘labelled’ along with that crowd.  They are all great students, simply in different places on their adolescent journey and this leads to inconsistent behavior which Emily admits she struggles with. So, our conversation moved to looking at the importance of hanging out with positive friends.There is so much research these days that tells us over and over again that, other than parents, one’s peer relationships are the most important relationships to adolescents. Emily and I chatted about the importance of having different peer groups. Adolescents are renowned for having fall-outs with friends and it’s a natural part of their journey through adolescence. Thus it’s...
Mentoring is like a jigsaw puzzle

Mentoring is like a jigsaw puzzle

When last did you complete a jigsaw puzzle? Or do you prefer Crossword puzzles or Sudoku and those types of mind games? I completed a jigsaw puzzle this morning. It took me about three days, though I was doing it at various times of the day and night, as I don’t enjoy becoming too intense about it. I particularly enjoy the 1000 piece Wasgij puzzles, where one doesn’t know the final picture and has to use one’s imagination, creativity and develop strategies to work out the best way forward. In many ways this activity reminded me of some of the the challenges of a mentoring journey. Let me explain, though only after we consider how completing puzzles might be benefitting the brain.Some years ago I started doing jigsaw puzzles, as a friend of mine suggested they were a great way of keeping the brain sharp, especially as one aged. Dr Shen-Li Lee, author of Brainchild: Secrets to unlocking your child’s potential, and author of a parenting website figure 8.net, shared some research she undertook about jigsaw puzzles and the positive impact on the brain. From her research, which she states can’t be scientifically proven, she collated what she had found about the benefits of solving jigsaw puzzles: enhances visual perception hones coordination improves memory develops critical thinking increases dopamine production in the brain heightens creativity stimulates the whole brain It would be great if all these bullet points were proven to be scientifically true, as it would justify the hours I spend wrapped up in trying to solve the picture puzzle! There is a great mentoring tip in this information, though, namely encouraging your...
Reflections on retiring – a path well travelled

Reflections on retiring – a path well travelled

If you are not already retired, what would you do if you were retiring tomorrow? It’s an interesting question and one that I am facing. Tomorrow I retire after about 40 years as an educator, having the privilege to work alongside so many wonderful colleagues and students. Memories abound from my first teaching position in an Independent School in the bush of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where a war for power was being waged between the government of the day and the terrorists or freedom fighters, the name used dependent on one’s political persuasion; then back to teaching in South Africa, returning to the newly independent Zimbabwe for a few years, back to South Africa, emigrating to New Zealand and then moving to Australia where my full-time career ends tomorrow with the School closed because of the after effects of a cyclone that has swept through parts of Queensland. Not too many people will be able to claim that as a way to head into retirement 🙂 What have I learnt over the years?Teaching is about taking the gifts that God has blessed me with and investing in the lives of young people on their journey through adolescents to becoming responsible role models who will make a positive difference within the global community. It’s not about power, status, ego, hours I work or being beholden to any Union or other self-serving organization with little understanding of the holistic nature of education and what it means to encourage a young person to be the best he or she can be. It’s about being true to myself, warts and all, honoring God...
Creating meaningful relationships through constructive communication

Creating meaningful relationships through constructive communication

If you did not grow up with social media, can you recall any difference between how you communicated with others then and how you communicate with others these days? “Sally (not her real name), you seem to spend a lot of time on your phone.” “Yes, I do.” “Are you addicted?” “Yes, sometimes I think I am.” “Well, I watched you at sport last weekend. You went along to watch the Sport, yet spent most of your time looking at your phone.” “I saw the Sport.” “Yes, right!” I had a conversation that went something like that with a student in her final year of school the other day. We continued along these lines: “Do you keep your phone in your bedroom overnight?” “Yes.” “Do you keep your phone on through the night?” “No, I turn it off at about 9.30 pm.” “And I am sure you have been on it on and off since 7.00?” I smiled. “Yes, you’re probably right.” Being addicted to social media appears to be an increasing issue emerging in the global world of adolescents and that’s probably a topic for another Blog. What this conversation did achieve was getting me to reflect on how much better we communicated when I was an adolescent and we didn’t have all the social media gadgets that don’t show body language, tone of voice and facial expressions, all key aspects of effective communication between two people. Constructive communication between a mentee and a mentor can radically improve their relationship, feedback being something that could become life-changing for some mentees. So, when communicating constructively, don’t forget the importance...
Listening to that inner voice – a true story!

Listening to that inner voice – a true story!

Do you ever have those moments when your inner voice seems to be strongly telling you to do something and you fail to act? These days, I tend to listen to my inner voice and act, even if there might be some risk involved. My day begins with a quiet, reflective time and then I head out for a 20 – 30 minute walk or jog, running along some well worn paths by the sea. Often the rising sun produces some spectacular sunrises, reminding me how privileged I am to live where I do. Today the inner voice was speaking and, when I went for my walk, it seemed to persist, so I decided to obey. Lucy (not her real name) is turning 17 later this year, in her final year of school and has been doing it tough for quite some time, mostly dealing with difficult family relationships. Yet, despite these difficulties, she produces better than average academic results, evidence of a resilient spirit. The one relationship that is so important to a young woman approaching adulthood is the relationship with their mother. I sense Lucy’s relationship with her mother is fragmented. As a result Lucy rides an emotional rollercoaster and that could result in antisocial behavior tendencies, significant mood swings and the possibility of inappropriate behavior. I have not had much to do with Lucy. I have never taught her and have only spoken to her because she was part of a conversation I was having with another student recently. I have watched her playing Sport on a Saturday and seen much enthusiasm, great participation and, clearly, an enjoyment...
11 tried and tested ways to assist a young person on the goal-getting journey

11 tried and tested ways to assist a young person on the goal-getting journey

What would you think are key ways you can help a young person on the goal-getting journey? That’s the question I asked myself the other day when Glen came to see me. He specifically wanted assistance with planning, organization and management of his time. Glen is fortunate, as he is highly motivated, works hard in and out of the classroom and has some career goals in place, but he has been feeling stressed lately and not sleeping well. I have learnt over the years that when I encourage a young person to set achievable goals, their lives take on new purpose and their energies are positively channeled in specific directions.Indeed, part of the goal-setting process during the mentoring journey is to assist your mentees to make sense of the confusion they may be experiencing (as is normal at this stage of their lives). Among the ways you can help them are in guiding them to: identify their strengths; identify their passions and interests; determine how they respond to challenges; take non-life-threatening risks in a safe and secure environment; plan, prioritize and develop strategies, using resources available to them; commit to something and see it through to a conclusion; identify and solve problems, seeing obstacles as opportunities; evaluate their progress; appreciate that usually they have control over their choices and goals; appreciate that a dream is an end in itself, while goals are normally a means to an end – when all the goals (pieces of a puzzle) come together, they realize the dream; visualize their goals as if they have already achieved them, thereby increasing their self-confidence and self-esteem. At this...
15 goal-getting results from mentoring partnerships

15 goal-getting results from mentoring partnerships

How do you feel when you achieve a goal? I feel like celebrating somehow, especially when I have had to stretch myself and move well out of my comfort zone. If we can remember how we became goal getters, we have a story to share with our mentees, many of whom will need plenty of support to wish to embark on a goal getting program.More ands more Neuroscience research that I am reading is pointing to the importance of setting goals as an important aspect of brain development. This all reminded me of some examples of goals achieved by a mentee during a mentoring relationship in programs I have been linked with. These examples might encourage mentors and help them to appreciate that there is such a variety of goals one can encourage in a mentoring relationship, some fairly straightforward. 1. A mentee’s grades in one academic subject improved from 28% to 50%. 2. A mentee worked on lifting weights at a gym, which the mentor used to teach goal setting. They had a great relationship. 3. A mentee obtained a part-time job with the help of a mentor. 4. A mentee and mentor visited shops in a shopping mall, picking up job applications as they went. The mentee gained a job that same day, thus achieving a goal without having written any goal-setting steps! The connection between mentor and mentee provided a foundation to build on for the remaining months of their mentoring journey together. 5. A mentee worked at aerobic fitness as she was going to be a bridesmaid later in the year. She lost weight and...
Short novel for anyone wanting to see Adolescents become the best they can be

Short novel for anyone wanting to see Adolescents become the best they can be

NOW AVAILABLE AS A PAPERBACK AS WELL – THE SPIRIT OF MENTORING The impact of social media on our young people concerns me greatly. Yes, we need to educate them on how to use social media responsibly, yet many parents of teenagers are not role-modelling this use themselves. Just check out comments from time to time on Facebook if you don’t believe me. The real challenge, as new inventions occur in the field of technology, is how to encourage our young people to build meaningful relationships with peer and adults, helping them appreciate that ‘instant gratification’ and ‘entitlement’ thinking will not enhance their relationship building skills. So, after eight or so years of writing, rewriting, rewriting, I finally produced a novel with the most powerful message of unconditional love and what it looks like that every honest human being hankers after and can attain, believe it or not – no, I am not saying or implying that it is easy, but, as the teenage characters in this story discover, anything is possible, particularly when it comes to contributing towards creating a more tolerant, loving global community. How do we cope, as teenagers, with the peer pressure that confronts us day in and day out, in our relationships, via social media etc.? How do we handle the daily challenges, as teenagers, that often leave us questioning who we are, why we have to deal with the ‘stuff’ life deals us, handle the times we feel lonely, different and even insecure? How do we, as educators, move alongside students who are at the most confusing time in their lives and speak...