When I think of the word "mentorship," I think of some ideal mentors. Professor Dumbledore and Gandalf are some of the first mentors that come to my mind. However, I should start putting my fellow teachers on that list. In the final installment of "Change the Behavior, Change the Class, " we focus on mentorships and its impact on the students.
In the other two articles, I have written about practices in changing behavior that could be used in a classroom alone. This still can be applicable in a classroom setting; however, it would be optimal schoolwide. If you feel comfortable, you can bring this idea to your principal or talk about it during an appropriate meeting. The first step is to get everyone you can involved in this idea. The more adults, the better. This includes librarians, custodians, secretaries, and anyone else at your school. Including all staff and faculty shows students that the whole school is working toward benefiting the students. Plus it would be best if you had all different kinds of people, with different personalities, because the students have all different types of personalities. For many students, when their teacher tells them something, the students will roll their eyes. Anyone else can tell that student the exact same thing (even a different teacher), and it will stick better. Even though it seems silly, it is just the way it works.
I would not give every student a mentor to start. Although this is the end goal, it will be too overwhelming for the staff to sort through and attempt to mentor at first. I would start with roughly 10-20% of your students to start out. The number of students depends on your school or classroom size. Depending on your student to faculty and staff ratio, you should only have to check in on a few students. The obvious suggestion is to pick the students whom you know could benefit from having a mentor. A different way would be to choose these students with the lowest scores or grades. Note that not all of these students might not need mentorships, and you will be missing other students who need mentoring, but it is an excellent place to start.
After you have found willing adults and narrowed down your students, it is time to start paring them together. Allow the staff and faculty to choose who they want to work with. They will hopefully find someone that they have a good rapport . The mentors will be able to mentor and guide a student that they get along with more easily than someone else. You can also do this the opposite way and allow the students to pick their mentor. This can cause issues because students may choose a teacher who might push or challenge them to their full potential.
Once you have these pairings, the adult should check in with this student at least once a week. At first, they can just find something to compliment them on or even say hi. Then it can evolve to asking them about their day. Slowly, a bond should form between the mentor and the mentee. The idea is that the mentor will become an adult that the student actually likes and feels comfortable to come to. Eventually, after the student feels comfortable, these mentorships can start to focus more on grades, assignments, or anything else that might be needed. Many teachers want to jump straight to the grades and try to become the ultimate mentor right away. This can put the student off quickly. It makes them not want to talk to the adult because they are only focused on school. The rapport has to be made first before you start giving advice and help. However, I am making sweeping generalizations. This type of system may not work for every mentor. Everyone mentors students differently. Find something that works best for you.
Sometimes these mentorships need to be changed. This usually happens because the two personalities do not mesh, or the mentoring style did not work for that student. Do not get frustrated when this happens, and do not take it personally. Instead, just assign them a new mentor and try again. However, do not give up on parings after one interaction. Give it a few weeks before thinking about switching. Students may act oddly when teachers try to go out of their way to talk to a student. Give it time for them to feel more comfortable and open up to you. They may just surprise you.
At a certain point, you can make rewards for the student you are mentoring. We have already talked about rewarding in a previous article. However, mentorship rewards can be completely different if you choose. When a student improves or hits a goal they have been working towards, they deserve a prize for their hard work. Because the mentor has taken time to talk to the student and build this rapport with the mentee, they should know what kind of reward would be beneficial. But what happens if the student is not making improvements? Then the mentor needs to find someone that can assist the student, or a different goal needs to be made. Maybe that goal is too difficult for that student to reach. Perhaps they need extra tutoring from another teacher (this does not mean their mentorship needs to change, though.)
There is no real negative side to trying a mentor program. If the mentor program fails epically, there is still a bright side. At a minimum, these mentorships allow students to feel cared about and recognized by an adult, which is something not all students get to feel. You may not get through to all of your students, but it was a success, even if this helps one student. Yes, it is extra work, but it is worth it. Next time you are watching a movie with a mentor, think of yourself like them. You, too, can be a mentor like Dumbledore and Gandalf. Just give it a try.