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.

Your 13 Key Positive Qualities through COVID -19

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? Do you think more deeply about what meaningful relationships are all about? Will you place your relationships at the front and center of your journey through the COVID -19 pandemic? We are living in ‘unprecedented times’. I hear this phrase every day at the moment, We move into a time of lock down. It will be tough, but I am fortunate, as I can still do my beautiful daily beach walk, and am now forced to finish my new mentoring book to meet the publisher’s end of April deadline. I won’t be able to link up with my daughter and her family and the grandchildren to enjoy lots of laughs. And, while writing this book – converting my 260 free podcasts into 312 daily messages – I have reflected on all the people who have impacted my life through expressing the spirit of mentoring. I have written tributes to some of these people in the new book. As I played plenty of sport in my youth, I tended to hang out with some of my team members in the different teams in which I participated, which led to a wider circle of superficial friendships, though I had one or two closer friends who remained friends for many years. My experiences also reminded me of a conversation I had with 16-year-old Gabby who was working through relationship issues. Gabby was keen to do well at school and was genuinely striving to fulfill...

How you can inspire the rebellious teenager – a true story

Have you ever felt like quitting on your teenage child or a young person you have been working with? Do you ever feel like you are hitting your head against a brick wall? I certainly have had these thoughts, though my passion to encourage teenagers to reach their potential has led me to try ANYTHING to encourage them to make some positive choices. I hope that Emma’s true story will serve as an encouragement to you and you might be motivated by some of the secrets I am sharing in this journey I undertook with her.Seventeen-year-old Emma was a young girl I mentored a few years ago. She had a volatile temper, which students knew. There were many times her peers pushed that anger button to get a reaction.  And, when she reacted, the language was vile, a fairly sure sign of a young girl who lacked self-confidence. Underneath this angry and tough exterior though, I was quick to discover, was a wonderfully caring individual who would make sacrifices for others and expect nothing in return. An example of this was the way she purchased a snack for a peer she did not know well who had left their money at home, and was attending an event at the place where Emma did casual work. Not interested in counselling Emma refused point blank to see a counselor, was shocking at her management of time, a great procrastinator, and did not believe in setting goals because she had convinced herself she would never achieve any of them. I was approached by a colleague and asked if I would have a...

How my students taught me ten key mentoring skills – a true story

What is the greatest life lesson a young person has taught you? Can you remember the actual time and place where that occurred? I was thinking about this recently as I continued my research for my new mentoring book due out later this year: Mentoring Minutes: 320 Daily messages to inspire anyone working with youth. The book is an updated version of my short series of free podcast  episodes developed to encourage anyone mentoring youth, after a helpful challenge and suggestion from Patrick, one of my past students. As I paged through scrap books and files of letters and thank you cards over a cup of coffee on the deck, I began to appreciate how much my interactions with students I taught or coached over forty-three years had shaped my personality. Paolo and Iain probably have no idea how their brief conversations with me transformed my life and made my interactions with other students more meaningful. Are you teachable? These two young men sowed the seeds of the spirit of mentoring in my life early in my teaching career. Let me explain. The ten most important life lessons my students taught me There will be more than ten life lessons my students taught me over the years. However, these are the most important and, as I reflected on them, I came to appreciate how important these are for anyone who invests their time and energy to mentor youth. 1. Be authentic. Sixteen-year-old Paolo was my first team hockey captain in the late 1970’s. After a practice we stood on the side of the field chatting. I rested one foot...

How you can inspire teenagers – 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 when I looked at how youth mentoring programs helped young people coming from a high risk environment. I created 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 Nick, 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 Nick – an amazing young man who inspired me through the way he overcame adversity. Nick arrived at the School where I was teaching at the time and was placed in the boarding house of which I was the housemaster. Nick’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.” 10 proven tips to...

How to encourage youth to reach their potential – a true story of transformation

How many times, as a teenager, did you feel alone and battling the world? I remember times when I was alone and trying to puzzle what life was all about. I would be asking questions like: Why me? Why can’t I be like that person? Why? Why? Why? Sue (16) was battling with a serious personal issue. She was a boarder at the school. One afternoon she popped in to see me in my office. Students knew that, if my door was open, they could feel free to come in and chat. I was the school principal at the time. Sue started talking in fairly general ways about school, life, her favorite subjects, things she enjoyed doing and so on. I listened with interest. After a while she shared that she was not looking forward to returning home during the school holidays. Her father was disabled as a result of a work accident. He had been left crippled and was confined to a wheelchair. Sue said that he was abusive towards her and had a violent temper. From the way she talked, the abuse was verbal and nothing else – still, tough for a teenager, whose brain is still developing and prone to emotional outbursts, to contend with. We needed to think through possibilities. Explore options and be non-judgmental We explored the different options open to Sue. I sowed some seeds to encourage her to think outside of her comfort zone. Sue reflected and responded. One idea was for Sue to apply for a United World College Scholarship. This was a Scholarship that would cover her education and boarding...

12 ways to be the love you wish to feel in 2020

What positive memories will you store from your 2019 experiences? How have you expressed care and concern (love) to others? How have you received the love of others? While reading the newspaper this morning, I reflected on articles which highlighted key events of the past year, key achievements of individuals and others. I reflected on the awful bush fires that have been sweeping through Australia and parts of the USA in recent times, the floods that have hit other areas, the senseless killing of innocent people by politically motivated individuals or groups and (in my opinion) the lack of empathetic and strong leaders in our global community who genuinely want to bring about world peace, an end to poverty and the cessation of war. We reach the end of a difficult year. A time to reflect, store the good memories, learn lessons from poor choices and then move into 2020 with new goals and thoughts. Then I thought about how my grandparents would have thought about the current state of the world. Rumors of war My grandparents lived through two World Wars, a Great Depression and a couple of them lived through the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Middle East conflicts. They would have witnessed the birth of Communist Russia, Communist China and the oppression during the Cold War. My guess is that they would justifiably be asking if all these wars were fought in vain? Have we learnt anything from history? Why do we bring so much suffering upon ourselves? And, they would probably be wondering what has happened to traditional family values? They would probably...

How you can positively impact young lives – true examples

I often ask the question: when you were a teenager, who, other than your parents and friends, had a significant 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, most young people will talk about a teacher or a coach, a person who cared about them, believed in them. and was often a cheerleader during a confusing time of one’s life. A colleague died earlier this week. We taught together for eight years, shared many life and teaching experiences and enjoyed many laughs. Many of his former students have left tributes thanking him for the different ways he touched their lives. Words and phrases like, ‘inspiring’, ‘approachable’, ‘friendly’,’great teacher’, ‘caring’ and ‘great sense of humor’ are littered throughout the tributes. Clearly one dedicated teacher has impacted many more lives than he probably even realized. How often do we actually pause to hear from young people? What do they think? How are they feeling? Ways to encourage teenagers The world mourns the death of so many innocent lives and the injuries others have sustained as a result of bomb blasts and shootings in different parts of the world in recent times, though we must never forget the tens of thousands, maybe millions of young people living in poverty or traumatized by war or child abuse or some other traumatic event in their lives. For many years I have been thinking of a way to inspire and positively impact the lives of young people, encouraging...

How you can always be a seed sower in your relationships

Have you ever felt totally helpless when you have tried to assist someone struggling with personal issues to move into a better head space? What hope do I have in all reality working with sixteen-year-old Max (not his real name) when he comes from such a dysfunctional family? I know I cannot be a savior, nor a rescuer and my teaching, mentoring or coaching role is not about ‘fixing’ families or people. I have found over the years that working with adolescents is considerably more challenging when the family is not functioning well. Drone parents I have seen what I call ‘drone parents’ getting in the way, protecting their children because they have their own agendas for their children, thus contributing to the emergence of a ‘powderpuff’ generation of young people who will struggle in an increasingly entrepreneurial, innovative world where one might have to risk failure to achieve dreams. I have seen parents with their own mental health issues becoming a mixture of drone or helicopter parents. They hover and interfere, and much depends on their own mood swings with regard to how they react to situations involving their children. Wearing my education and mentoring hats, as well as reflecting on years of experience working with young people, I can see the potential damage the parent’s suffocating love will cause, but I have to pull back, as I am unable to save a child, fix, or rescue a family. Be a seed sower So, all I do is try and sow lots of positive seeds of HOPE, trusting that one day the young person will remember the discussions,...

“I am too busy!” Whose voice are you listening to?

“Be always willing to tell others about the One whom to know is life eternal.” (Michael Cassidy*) “I am too busy!” “[Name} does not respond to all emails as he or she is too busy.” “If you don’t hear from me or us during the next [time period] …” These are increasingly common responses I seem to bump into when I am trying to contact people of influence especially. Of course, they will have huge demands on their time. This is something I respect and accept. Michael Cassidy was never one of these people and for that I am truly grateful. However, when I look at the life of Jesus as my role model, He never seemed to turn people away. Indeed, he sat in the dirt with some of them – humble, selfless, totally focused on the person or people who approached Him – empathized and gave them His time. There were occasions when His disciples tried to protect Him from the crowds, yet somehow He always knew there was someone who needed His words of encouragement. He was the master of effectively managing His time. How do you encourage others? Do you set out to encourage just one person each day? This is what I am doing,as I learn how important it is to be available to others. 7 Key Qualities of Effective Teachers – Encouragement for Christian Educators 7  Key Qualities of Effective Teachers – Encouragement for Christian Educators aims to value, motivate, encourage, re-energize and inspire Christian teachers in their critically important role as transformative educators, in the hope that they will continue motivating and...

When last did you say: “Hey Teacher! You ARE Amazing?” – A true story

Do you ever wonder what you will do when you retire? Will I spend time babysitting my grandchildren? Or, will I look at ways of contributing to the education debate? Perhaps I can become involved in a program at church or in the community? I have this sense that, despite all the technology around us, positive human relationships are the key foundation to our future and must be championed, yet how do I champion that? Or, should I ….? And so the questions continued as I drove out of school for the last time as an employee, and entered the world called ‘retirement’ at the end of March 2017. What next? Little did I know what would unfold in the months ahead. Conflicting thoughts “You never retire. Always something to do.” “You will find that you will be even busier when you retire. Well, at least that’s what I have found out.” “It is easy to stagnate. I don’t want you getting bored.” “I’ll never be bored. I have always found something to keep me occupied.” Voices! Voices! Words of well-meaning advice, caution, encouragement, even concern about my future well-being. And, I am seeking words of wisdom and discernment beyond my years as I move away from a world that has embraced my life and about which I shall always be passionate. The call? Then, one morning, while on my daily walk along the seafront, March 16, 2018, a nudge, a voice in my head: “Write a book specifically to encourage Christian teachers. Short, easy to read with lots of tips and strategies to help teachers …” The journey...