Students do not self-select to be in the mentor program. They are selected based on teacher and counselor recommendations and with parent permission -- for many reasons. Some students don’t believe in their ability to be successful, and some are making risky social choices. But most just need the support of an adult friend who is not their parent, teacher or counselor.
Unexpected things can interfere with normal plans. If you find out you will have to miss a mentoring session, let the campus mentor facilitator know so he or she can inform the child. If you want to try to reschedule that week’s meeting, simply speak to the campus mentor facilitator about another possible day/time you could meet with your mentee for that week.
Even if you can’t reschedule your missed meeting, it is essential that you let your mentee know your absence had nothing to do with him or her. The most important part of mentoring is dependability. Many children have been let down numerous times by adults who made promises and then broke them. This can be avoided by simply communicating with the school when you know you can’t make your scheduled time and then having a conversation about your absence with your mentee the next time you meet. If you find out you need to change your meeting time permanently, inform the campus mentor facilitator or the district mentor specialist.
The simple answer is no. There are two good reasons Pearland ISD insists this rule is followed:
1. Some students have a negative opinion about school, and meeting with their mentor may be the highlight of the week. Attendance has been shown to improve because students know the mentor will be at school on a certain day of the week. We want to continue to give them as many positive experiences at school as possible.
2. Meeting off school grounds creates liability issues. This rule is meant not only to protect the student but also to protect the mentor from ending up in a potentially vulnerable situation. There are other excellent mentoring programs that encourage and allow off-site mentoring if you’re interested in pursuing that.
To curb any potential fears or concerns of students and parents, the campus mentor facilitator or counselor will do the work up front to make sure parents know the goals and guidelines of RISE Mentoring. We want parents to understand we are not taking their place but coming alongside them to help move their child toward success.
Once the school has obtained parent permission, the campus mentor facilitator and/or counselor will meet with the student to share information about RISE Mentoring and the mentor. That way, it doesn’t feel as if the student is meeting a complete stranger during the first mentor/mentee session. You should anticipate some initial hesitation from the student and work to build trust and provide opportunities for both of you to get to know each other.
Our kids are growing up in a complex world, but in many cases, what they need is simply to connect to a positive, caring adult. Most kids are tired of adults trying to “fix” them and their problems, so the pressure is off!
You are not there to solve their problems. You are there to listen, laugh with them, role model for them and show them how many amazing things they can do with their life. You don’t need any kind of degree to do this. You have lived longer than they have and longer than their peers (where they get much of their advice), so use your own experience to guide you.
Although the generation gap creates plenty of differences between mentor and mentee, you have one thing in common: you’re both entering a new relationship. That can create awkwardness for both of you. In the beginning, discuss this with your mentee so he or she recognizes that similarity too. However, as the adult, you have the benefit of a few extra years of experience and confidence.
You and your mentee both have things to offer in this new relationship. Be curious, and you’ll learn from your mentee as much as he or she will learn from you. You don’t need to be an expert in today’s music, slang, fashion or popular apps to make a connection with a young person. On the other hand, you shouldn’t adopt a superior attitude, reminding your mentee how much he or she doesn’t know as a kid. Your student wants you to be a grown-up -- but one who seeks a connection and intentionally looks for common ground.
Most young people don’t expect you to be cool -- they just want you to be real. They would much rather you be yourself, complete with all your quirks and imperfections, than keep your distance for fear of being thought uncool.
If you genuinely show interest in your mentee as a unique human being who deserves to be respected, supported and listened to, that’s all it takes. You will be surprised at how quickly you will connect with your mentee when you take an interest in who he or she is without trying to hide who you are.
Shyness and awkwardness are common at the beginning of almost any relationship. These are not an indication that you are not connecting! In our young people’s world today, face-to-face conversation is diminishing, so communicating verbally and not via technology is another skill you will bring to your mentee through your time together, but it will take time.
If your mentee is just quiet, do not bombard him or her with lots of questions that require a yes or no response. Instead, use open-ended questions, ask him to teach you how to do something or ask her advice to help build trust. Naturally-quiet people would probably open up more if you engaged them in an activity while you talked, such as playing checkers or a card game.
Pearland ISD does not expect our mentors to be perfect. We just expect you to be present. You will make mistakes and say the wrong things, but this is a real-life opportunity to show your mentee how to handle making a mistake. What a great opportunity to model humility, offer a heartfelt apology and even admit you were wrong. You may be the first adult who has ever shown your young friend this type of respect by asking for forgiveness. Seeing adults handle problems and take responsibility can help youth develop their own positive conflict resolution skills. No one learns much from perfect people.
One of the possibilities of building a safe, trusting relationship with a young person is that he or she may begin to share intimate, unexpected or even shocking revelations. As a mentor, your job is to listen, to avoid being judgmental and to share this sensitive information with the campus mentor facilitator or the counselor. By law, any suspected neglect or abuse of any kind MUST be reported. Whether or not you know it to be true is not up to you. It must be reported to the campus mentor facilitator or the counselor immediately.
Setting confidentiality guidelines early with your mentee is critical. During one of your first meetings, you and your mentee can discuss what you expect from each other. Explain that you will be an open listener without bias or judgment, but you will always try to do what is best for your young friend. Talk generally about physical and emotional health and safety issues that might require help from other people. Assure your mentee you will always act with his or her best interests in mind. If you ever need to seek outside help for your mentee, you can refer back to the promises you made in this early conversation.