When last did you thank a mentor who journeyed alongside you at some point in your life? Especially a mentor who walked alongside you during the challenging and turbulent teenage years as your brain was still developing and you were trying to find meaning and purpose to your life?
I have personally thanked most of my mentors and they are always so surprised when I thank them. They had no idea they had had such an influence on my life?
These were the people who encouraged me when I was filled with self-doubt, the people who spoke to a vision of my future they could see that I could not at the time, the people who did their best to empathize and understand the journey I was on, the roller-coaster of emotions, the people who gave of themselves selflessly because they cared about my wellbeing.
Three key questions for the 21st Century
How do we motivate and inspire the millions of young people who are drifting aimlessly to become the best they can be?
How do we move alongside young people trying to find their way through the confusing adolescent years?
How do we galvanize communities to develop a global youth mentoring crusade or an education revolution which places the family at the heart of the holistic learning journey?
These are some of the questions I am regularly asking myself, though I have no clear answers, other than knowing that something has to happen to create a global movement that sees the skills, knowledge and life experience of millions of potential volunteer adult mentors being shared with young people often desperate to have a significant adult in their lives to guide them and be a non-judgmental Cheerleader and encourager. With the right structures teachers can play this significant role and should do so.
Reflecting on mentoring programs I have been involved with, I recall conversations with mentors who had expressed disappointment that their mentees might not have completed a relatively easy task they agreed to see completed when they last met.
The importance of mentor training
During the training of volunteer adolescent mentors, which I link to my user-friendly book, The Spirit of Mentoring – A manual for adult volunteers, which has hundreds of tips for mentors to consider during the mentoring journey, I suggest to mentors that they have no expectations of their mentees when they begin the mentoring journey. Then they will not be disappointed.
Most young people entering a mentoring program are lacking self-confidence and genuinely believe they can’t achieve much with their lives. This might be because of the messages they might be receiving from parents, peers and teachers. Perhaps it is because they might have a sibling who appears to do well at school, sport or in some other area and they spend time comparing themselves to this sibling. There are many reasons for these situations, the most common one that I have come across being a mentee living in an unstable, insecure environment – possibly in a high risk environment – in a home that is not functioning too well.
Such discussions during the training provide a good time to remind mentors not to have these unreal expectations and rather to use the mentoring sessions to do all the things they and their mentees want to do. While they might not achieve as much in the time available, they might decide to continue meeting one another at the end of the formal mentoring program. Thus they have some strong foundations on which to build the next leg of the journey.
If they quietly persevere, there is a strong chance the young person’s self-esteem will be on the rise and then anything becomes possible.
Create a ripple
Have you ever dropped a stone into a pond? You will see the ripple effect.
Great mentoring has a ripple effect beyond our imagination. It becomes a quiet relational movement handed down from one generation to another.
Mentors often underestimate the positive effect their weekly appearances for their mentoring sessions have on their mentees ie, a volunteer adult consistently turning up week after week to encourage their mentees to become the best they can be.
It can often be seen in the way the mentees, who might, for example, have a history of missing school, arrive each week for their mentoring time.
A couple of mentors in one program organised visits to local businesses or local tertiary training institutions and immediately saw positives from these excursions, probably because many mentees began to see a purpose for their lives!
The beauty of mentoring is that it is so unpredictable! Approach it like a long-distance race – pace yourself, get into a gentle rhythm and just keep on keeping on looking upward and forward 🙂 It’s an incredibly satisfying experience.
The 21st Century Education Revolution
Our challenge is to place the family at the heart of the holistic learning journey. This involves:
- building authentic, effective and meaningful relationships across all age groups;
- building caring and connected communities;
- creating the most effective conditions for learning and the support of teachers, students and the families of our young people, a collaborative journey.
Be a Revolutionary and a Rippler, investing time in our teenagers selflessly and joyfully.
Have you remembered to thank your mentors?
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 New Zealand 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 Facebook or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here. About 45 blogs have been converted to short video clips, all of which are linked to encouraging youth to reach their potential. These are available on YouTube https://www.youtube.