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8 Considerations: School-Based Mentorship

1. Relationships

Being a mentor means investing in and building a healthy relationship with your mentee. An atmosphere of trust and mutual respect must be the foundation. Effective mentorship relationships often result in positive change for the mentee, however this is usually an indirect result of the trusting relationship. Thus, it is important to focus your efforts on the relationship rather than setting goals/expectations narrowly focused on performance. Building relationships cannot be rushed and require some consistency. From the outset establish how often you will meet with your mentee and keep your word. Children want to see if this relationship is real.

Consider: How can I build a healthy relationship with my mentee(s)?

2. A Critical Mass of Teachers

Mentorship is not an easy task. It requires time, effort, patience, critical thought and energy. Consider having a few teachers, who have the ability to connect with children, to work with you in establishing a meaningful mentorship program.

Consider:What other staff can I work with to make our mentorship program effective?

3. Purpose and Staff

Mentorship programs require "buy-in" from staff and administration to be highly effective. Sharing the structure of the program, the intention, and which students are involved can go a long way in a school setting. Giving other staff members an opportunity to offer constructive input will build a sense of confidence in the program. Finally, through articulating the purpose of the program stereotypes about what you are doing and why can be reduced.

Consider: What is the purpose and structure? When can I share this information with staff and administration? What is the best way to get staff to believe in the validity of this program?

4. Involving Parents/Guardians

Mentorship is more likely to succeed when parents are well informed and involved (at appropriate times). Parents should receive a consent letter, explaining the goals of the program, once your mentees have been selected. Depending on your group and goals, you may want to give parents regular updates and include them as volunteers. However, always keep in mind that your number one priority is your relationship with the mentee and maintaining a level of trust.

Consider: How can I share information about the program with the parents? Are their ways that I can include parents in the program without compromising my relationship with the mentees?

Consider: Who will be part of your mentorship group to ensure that it is balanced? How will students be selected and how can the process be equitable?

6. Structured vs. Unstructured

Mentorship groups need to be an opportunity for multiple forms of interaction ie: sports, shopping, homework club, movie night, listening to music and critical conversations. A balance between structured and unstructured time is important. While taking students to a movie is a wonderful time to build relationships, spending time to work on academics and working through life issues is equally important.

Consider:What are some key activities that you can plan throughout the year and on a regular basis to support your mentee? Remember, that as you get to know the students, their needs and interests the activities and plans will evolve.

7. Positive Contributions

In all probability you will need to do some leadership training to set students up for success. Once this process has transpired, it is important to position your mentor group as leaders within the school setting. Having opportunities for students to participate in fundraisers, assemblies etc., is an invaluable opportunity.

Consider:What school activities could my mentees contribute to in a leadership capacity?

8. Social Consciousness

Research suggests that school driven,socially conscious activities result in student success. Therefore, mentorship programs should have a social action component where mentees can engage in personally meaningful social action projects. For example: mentees may want to lobby for a breakfast program, fundraise for a homeless shelter, or build a well in an impoverished village. While these are all noble and worthwhile endeavours, it is of utmost importance that alongside social action activities children simultaneously become socially conscious about the issue of focus. for example, while fundraising for a homeless shelter teachers must share with students what societal structures are in place, which may have lead to poverty in a privileged country such as Canada. Or when fundraising for an African Village (perpetuating a notion of "the poor Black") it is crucial for all children, particularly Black children, to understand why there is such poverty in Africa (ie: colonization).

Consider: What social issues are relevant to my mentees? How can we contribute? What critical information can I give students to better understand the issue?

A.Gaymes San Vicente©2010

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