We have a science fair mentoring program at our school for students who have completed satisfactory projects in the past. These students are required to apply for the position and pass a test that proves they understand the scientific method, and if they meet the criteria, they mentor a younger student who is new to the school. I mention it because I have seen how wonderful mentoring is. It is wonderful for the student being mentored, and in many ways even more so for the mentor. If your child has an opportunity to be a mentor, encourage her to do it even if she isn’t sure she will be good at it.
Mentors need a little training before they begin. They must understand that the student they are mentoring has to do the project and the thinking. The mentor’s job is to provide support, but not to do the work for the younger student. I tell my students to ask leading questions, help them to read and spell if they need it, and even take dictation. But I tell them to never, ever do the work for them!
Here are some things students have said after they mentored a younger student.
- I thought being a mentor would be easier than doing my own project, but I wound up spending more time! It was fun, though.
- I learned that teaching other people is hard work! I am not cut out for teaching.
- I realize that I’m good at organization and time management, and my mentee is terrible at that. It felt good to be able to teach her how to do that.
- It was really hard to allow him to fail. I tried to ask questions and offer support, but he just didn’t want to do the work.
- It was great to be able to talk to their teacher and find out what kind of help my mentee needed. That way I could focus on what is important.
- I learned that I want to be a teacher. I loved helping my mentee and seeing him succeed with my help.
What amazes me about the mentoring program is the number of students who want to participate. Some serve as mentors for more than one year. The mentors learn how to give to others without expecting anything in return. They also learn more about their own talents. When everything is over, they have a younger student who will forever look up to them as the best person ever. The bond between mentor/mentee is special and something that cannot be formed in any other way. Mentoring builds self-confidence in both individuals—the mentor and the mentee. If there are no opportunities to mentor offered at your school, maybe there are opportunities to help through the local YMCA or at a church preschool. You might also want to read this article because it offers suggestions for important things to think about before becoming a mentor.