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.

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...

How to carry a message of HOPE into the future

Do you think there is HOPE for the future? That’s a challenging question to ask a young person, though you’ll probably be surprised when most answer in the affirmative. Do you remember living in HOPE as a teenager? Why was this? Do you still hold those thoughts? Did anyone inspire you with positive and hopeful possibilities when you were young? So many questions … “What if _____?” I wonder how many times I have asked this question over the years? I have been an idealist chasing dreams throughout my life. Some of these dreams have been attained. Others – I HOPE I am still on that journey to achieve them, as most involve reaching out in some way to those less fortunate than I am or developing a new resource to encourage young people to reach their potential. Hope! I remembered Mike’s story.Mike (not his real name) contacted me over 20 years after I had coached and taught him. All he wanted to say was thank you for believing in him during a challenging time of his life. His parents had separated and he was struggling with the implications of that as a 14 or 15-year old. I had given him responsibility for opening and locking a meeting room. I had no idea at the time that this incredibly small task – in my eyes – had proved a life-changing moment for him. Someone had trusted him, given him a responsible task to undertake and he had been truly appreciative of the impact that had had on his self-belief. A message of HOPE! Retirement encourages a time for reflection...

7 Life Lessons from ‘fossils’ in the age of instant gratification

Can you remember a time when you worked hard for something and enjoyed success or victory? Or, you didn’t quite make it? How did you feel? What life lessons can you share with others as a result of those experiences? Or, do you sometimes feel like a ‘fossil’, passed your ‘use-by-date’? While enjoying my daily beach walk, I have been reflecting on questions like these. I have enjoyed a variety of successes over the years – many sporting achievements and awards, becoming a school principal, developing youth mentoring programs in New Zealand and Australia, author of a number of published books and lots more. And now, as I embrace retirement, I am wondering if I am becoming a fossil and am passed my use-by date or whether there is one more chapter of my life story to write prior to the Epilogue? This was until I reflected on some wonderful life lessons from the ‘fossils’ in the 2019 New Zealand Silver Ferns World Championship Netball team. Overcoming adversity The Silver Ferns, against all odds, defeated the defending champions, Australian Diamonds, in a cliffhanger world cup final earlier this week by the narrowest of margins, one goal! The Silver Ferns, once one of the powerhouses of women’s netball, had faded in recent years and, after a disastrous Commonwealth Games in 2017, a new coach was appointed and the captain, Katrina Rore, was stripped of the captaincy and then dropped. However, as I have often shared over the years, there is a solution to every problem or challenge. New coach – fresh thinking New Coach, Noeline Taurua, overlooked in the past...

12 ways you can be the best parent and mentor

Have you ever feared the unknown future? Have you ever been through a really tough and challenging situation? A relationship breakdown? Failed an important test or exam? A family crisis? A time you felt you were being unfairly treated? A financial loss? Just missing out on a dream goal? The recipient of an unfair decision? Bullying of any sort? It seems as though these are some of the issues that many of today’s young people are grappling with. They are seeking meaning and purpose for their lives, want to feel cared for and valued and are struggling with other questions like: What jobs will still be around when I finish school? What jobs will there be available to me when I graduate from University or Tertiary Study? How will robotics and Artificial Intelligence impact my career prospects? These are all legitimate questions and our young people need to be encouraged and supported as they journey through adolescence to fulfil their potential, so let’s consider 12 qualities you can nurture to develop resilient teenagers. Lou Thompson, who has worked extensively in New Zealand and Australia in the areas of education psychology, behavior management and Special Needs, has written books on developing self-esteem in young people, as well as mentoring youth. 12 qualities to nurture resilient teenagers The following 12 points include some of the ideas Lou has shared over the years to help anyone working with young people develop their resiliency and a healthy self-esteem and which I have taken the liberty to expand upon in places. On further reflection, most of these points could be adapted and applied to anyone...