Robin's Mentoring Matters Blog

Tips, ideas, thoughts and opinions to motivate and inspire all who guide young people as they journey through adolescence to adulthood.

Patience and Perseverance the way to achieve!

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.” (anonymous) I love this quote, as it resonates with me and my life journey to date, as I think about all those who have coached, mentored and encouraged me along the different paths I have travelled. There have been times when I have been impatient at the lack of progress with an idea or because other people simply can’t catch the vision, while at other times I have wondered what would have happened had I persevered. How many times can you remember quitting and, as you reflected at a later date, regretted doing so? Three stories from the past week have shown what perseverance, even patience can mean as individuals strive to achieve different goals. The picture that heads my blog today is of Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm, aged 25, winning the World 200 meters Backstroke at the World Championships in Budapest. From the high standards she had set for herself, she failed abysmally at the Rio Olympic Games and came close to quitting the sport. She was suffering from health issues and, once these were sorted, decided to persevere. Having been swimming for Australia for 11 years, few would have begrudged her deciding to retire, as she had won so many medals already. However, she clearly felt she had more to achieve and  so began the long, lonely slog of training and training and training! Her patience with herself and her perseverance, together with the critical support of key people in her...

Mentoring Billy

“I’m  ….. uh ….. in trouble again!” That unmistakably negative 15 year old voice in my ear as I drove across the Auckland Harbour Bridge to my North Shore home. Monday evening. Could the day really get any worse?  I had lost two potentially major business deals and now Billy. “What’s the trouble, Billy?” I asked, desperately trying to remember some mentor training tips. Disapprove of the behaviour, but love the child. “It’s that peach-head Mr Squires. Says I cheated in the Maths test, but I didn’t, Tony, I swear …….” “I believe you, Billy.” “No-one else does!” A hint of anxiety in his voice. A short silence. “My dad’s going to murder me when he hears I’m internally suspended.” I pictured a terrified Billy, shoulders drooped, looking up to his dad, a brute of a man, owner of a building construction company,  hesitatingly breaking this news. Would this be the last straw in an already fragile relationship? “Where are you, Billy?” “The Mall.” “Okay, meet me at the Food Court in 15 minutes.” “What’s the point? This whole program sucks. My friends were right …… I’ll always be a loser! Stuff school!” “Hey, Billy, meet me …….. please?!” Did he detect my concern or the feeling of irritability, the result of a tough day in the office? Both probably. Billy didn’t miss much. “Uh … huh.” Negotiating the traffic, telephoning Nicky to tell her I’d be late home, brain racing with thoughts of how to salvage the situation ……. mentor training tips competing for traffic focus. Get the facts. Don’t jump to any conclusions or assumptions. Believe in...

Boys will be Boys! – let’s not label them

Can you remember the teacher who brought out the best work or kept you most interested and motivated in school and schoolwork? This is a great question to ask your mentee or any adolescent you are working with and the response will provide you with insights into how this young person is developing as a unique individual. When I was 8 years old my class teacher had a significant impact on my life. Miss Wolfe was tough, thorough, kind and compassionate and set clear boundaries. She was not interested in a second-rate effort and expected all her students to do their best. I did well academically in those days and learnt, at this young age, how to study and prepare for Tests, whilst also having plenty of fun in the classroom. Miss Wolfe had a beautiful Alsatian dog, Alannah, which she occasionally brought to School – yes, this was allowed in those days! We all loved Alannah. There were other teachers during my Primary or Junior School years that kept me interested in school work, but Miss Wolfe was special. When I underwent Cancer operations, even though I had moved up the School, Miss Wolfe monitored my progress, wrote me a letter wishing me a speedy recovery and kindly gave me a book of animals which I kept for about 50 years! Miss Wolfe’s attitude, care and compassion, had a significant impact on my decision to become a teacher myself.During my last couple of years of schooling Dave Hiscock, my History teacher, had a significant impact on my education journey. Dave’s teaching methods were far ahead of his time. We...

A Cherokee Legend and the Spirit of Mentoring

How well do you value the experiences of others? I recall, as an adolescent, sitting with a variety of significant adults in my life and listening to them sharing their words of wisdom, though it was listening to their true stories of the highs and lows of their lives that had the most impact on me. Recently I read a wonderful book by Neal C Lemery  J.D., Mentoring Boys to Men – Climbing Their Own Mountains, which I would highly recommend to anyone working with young boys especially. Neal captures stories of young people he has worked with and, through his experiential life journey, we gain further insights into the meaning of the Spirit of Mentoring. He shared a well-known Cherokee Legend.“An old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. “The other is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you and inside every person, too.” The grandson thought about his words for a minute, then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” How important it is for the mentor to role model all those qualities of the good wolf in his or her relationship with their mentee and that’s why it is equally important for mentors to live a balanced...

NEVER Quit on Your Mentee!

How many times have you been in a formal or informal mentoring relationship with a younger person and wanted to give up on them? Have you actually walked away from a mentoring relationship, as you felt you had given your all? It would be a very normal and human thing to do. However, if you are mentoring an adolescent, who is journeying through the most confusing time of his or her life, the Golden Rule should be: NEVER Quit!I think back over the years to the many, many students I have either formally  or informally mentored, the multiple times I have wanted to quit and never did. I recall deliberately putting some distance between myself and Graeme (not his real name) and him coming to find me to speak to me. I had thought he was not interested in communicating with me any longer, so tested the waters without saying anything. And that experience reminded me that these young people are listening to everything we say and, even if they are unable to verbally express it, they know that they have a non-judgmental Cheerleader in their lives. I made a similar decision with Sandy (not her real name), thinking that she was in a good headspace and I could quietly slip further into the background. She, too, approached me and said it had been a while since we had chatted and could we make a time to catch up? If I thought hard enough, there would probably be more similar stories. So, I never quit on these students, simply eased back and waited to see what would happen. If nothing...

Aged 9 – 2 years to live: 10 Life Lessons from my Cancer journey

Do you know anyone who has been struck down with Cancer? Anyone who might be on that journey at the moment? A young person needing encouragement? I was struck down with cancer at the age of nine and underwent some radiation treatment (2.5 times the adult dose), followed by significant major surgery during the next couple of years and then again when I was 18. My parents were told that I probably had two years to live and, during these two years, my mother died suddenly. Thankfully, I survived the Cancer and now, 50 years later, reflecting on my life journey to date, I happily share 10 Life Tips that I have learnt, through trial and error, highs and lows, over the years and which helped me through challenging adolescent years as I came to terms with my disfigurement and responded to it. I share these experiences with teenagers I mentor, encouraging them to keep on keeping on through the confusing adolescent years, especially when the odds are stacked against them. Following these key tips has taught me the importance of living a positive life journey filled with HOPE, experiencing unconditional love and care from those closest to me, whilst also feeling valued and, ultimately, leading a life of meaning and purpose with a strong sense of serving others. Anyone who has suffered from Cancer will know the challenges one experiences overcoming times of adversity and enjoying success. Here’s what my life experiences have taught me: Attitude – never forget that you choose your attitude and how you respond to all that life throws at you. The choices you...

Life can be like a Cross Country run for adolescents – guide them!

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” (Epictetus) “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, they make them.”  (George Bernard Shaw) Read through those two quotes a couple of times and think about your response to them. There is a strong message here about the way we choose our future pathways. In many discussions I have had with teenagers over the years, there have always been students who will make excuses for not reaching their potential, especially when they do something wrong and are found out. Some of the more popular comments would be: • “It’s my parents’ fault. they’re always fighting. Life at home sucks!” • Or maybe a parent has an addiction of some sort which makes life at home tough to cope with. • Or they want to keep their circle of friends. These friends keep breaking rules, but being with those friends is more important than reaching their potential? Negative peer pressure tends to lead to negative behavior. We drag ourselves down. Why? • “It’s the teacher’s fault. He/she doesn’t like me!” • Or, one of the classic comments: “I didn’t think about the consequences of my actions.” (Brain research tells us that this can be a genuine situation, as the Pre-Frontal Cortex, the Chief Executive area of the brain, where decision-making is taking place, is still developing until the mid-20s) Do...

10 Ways Youth Mentoring Can Inspire Young People – a true story

Can you remember times during your adolescent years when life seemed to be particularly hard; you jumped one hurdle and then something else occurred and knocked you down; up you got again and something else happened? Small rocks to stumble over, bigger rocks to obstruct your pathway.  How did you respond? Thinking about this led me to some work I did a while ago looking at how youth mentoring programs help young people coming from a high risk environment, reminding me of a check-list, if you like, that would be invaluable to anyone mentoring such a young person. As I thought some more, I was reminded of the years I spent informally mentoring Walter (not his real name), a teenager from a high risk, volatile environment in South Africa during the dark days of apartheid. I learnt so much about life from many interactions with Walter – an amazing young man. Walter arrived at the School where I was teaching at the time and was placed in the Boarding House of which I was the Housemaster. Walter’s mother was a domestic servant and he was, in his own words: “.. a young man from the townships who could not even speak English. I was scared but excited. I had to prove myself. Here were the white boys who had privileged positions all their lives. Their primary education was preparing them to be the bosses, whilst mine was to serve their interests. Here I had to compete with them on the same footing. I can tell you it was not easy.” There were approximately 60 to 70 boys, aged between 12 and 18 in each...

16 of the best Mentoring quotes

“If you really want to give your children [mentees] a few worthwhile gifts in this life, leave them with a sense of curiosity, good manners and a considerate nature. You will have made a bequest of inestimable value.” (Clive Simpkins) If you were asked to describe in 100 or so words the mentor who has most impacted your life to date and why you have chosen that person, what would you write? While going through my mentoring resources, I highlighted 16 possible responses to that question.The quotes come from a variety of resources and further details for the majority of them can be found in the extensive Bibliography on my website. I have given a short heading to each quote to further reinforce important aspects of mentoring: The Mentor’s Spirit “We seem to need mentors – wise and faithful guides, advisers or teachers – the wisdom keepers of an entire family, a sprawling corporation or a community. Much more, we need the mentor’s spirit, an unseen affirming influence and positive energy. The mentor’s spirit is the heart’s posture pervading healthy relationships in every family, classroom, organization and town … When the mentor’s spirit is absent, we find dependency, an erosion of optimism and impaired problem solving.” (Marsha Sinetar) This is Mentoring “Mentoring is a lifelong relationship, in which a mentor helps a protégé reach her or his God-given potential. Mentoring is like having an ideal aunt or uncle whom you respect deeply, who loves you at a family level, cares for you at a close friend level, supports you at a sacrificial level, and offers wisdom at a modern...

Adolescents share truths about the impact mentors had on their lives

I often ask adults the question: when you were a teenager, who, other than your parents and friends, had a significant or POSITIVE influence on your life? Sometimes, sadly, people were living in homes that were not functioning too well for a variety of reasons, so positive parental influence might have been lacking. No matter what the situation, so many young people will talk about a teacher or a Coach, a person who cared about them and believed in them. The world mourns the death of many innocent lives and the injuries others have sustained as a result of the bomb blast in Manchester earlier this week, though we must never forget the tens of thousands, maybe millions of young people living in poverty or traumatized by war or some other traumatic event in their lives.  It has spurred me to action. For many years I have been thinking of a way to inspire young people to become the best they can be, the quiet ones who retreat into their shell, who perhaps lack confidence, who need to be reminded that they can take charge of their lives and being shown how to do this. I am working on developing an App, which will have to be free, with an inspiring message each day; not a well known quote, but something more personal, which links to common themes linked to adolescent development and resiliency and which I have written from my experiences working with young people for over 40 years – can’t hide my age! I actually began this project about 15 years ago and there have been a number of rewrites! I have...