All of us at some point in our lives could benefit from having a mentor to guide us through tricky times and KS3 & 4 pupils, in particular, can really benefit from working with someone to help guide them through these challenging school years.
In this article, we look at ways in which we as educators can use our life experience, knowledge and skills to mentor young people within our school environment.
Do you recall the teacher who made a difference in your school life? Would you say they were a mentor? The likelihood is you thought they were ‘just’ a teacher who simply understood you, were able to motivate you and helped you to achieve success. We don’t always realise that in our role as teachers we fulfil the role of a mentor, but we do.
A mentor is someone who we respect and look up to. A role model, someone who listens, someone who doesn’t judge, someone who has ‘been there’ and come out the other side. As we progress through our own lives as educators we face numerous challenges in both our careers and personal lives and it is these experiences that shape us.
But pupils will often just see us as a subject teacher, they don’t necessarily view us as individuals with a life outside of the classroom.
So how can we use our life experience to mentor pupils?
Step 1: Identify a pupil you feel would benefit from 1-2-1 mentoring
Look at the wider school community as there may be pupils you don’t teach, but you know them through extra-curricular, or someone in your tutor group, or maybe a pupil who one of your colleagues struggles with. Recognise that pupils will behave in different ways with different people, and you could be the key to unlock their potential.
Step 2: Seek permission from the Head of Year or the Head
Discuss how you feel you could help the pupil. Gather relevant data, thoughts and opinions from fellow members of staff and identify the areas where you feel you could make a difference.
Step 3: Once the preparation is complete arrange to meet with the pupil and explain why you would like to mentor them
This meeting is really important. It needs to be a positive experience for the young person and it is essential they are not made to feel like they ‘need’ help as this could create barriers. In this meeting agree on some goals which you will you both agree to, tasks for both of you to work on before your next meeting. This will create a ‘we are in this together’ mentality.
Step 4: Be prepared for some obstacles and roadblocks
Patience may be required, however, as educators, we are generally pretty patient individuals and understand the frustrations young people can cause us. Maintain regular meetings for a set period, maybe across a half term and at the end of that period sit down and assess how they are feeling about the mentoring process.
Step 5: Evaluate your impact
Reflect and plan for the next stage or next pupils, depending on the success of this first experience of Mentoring.
Good luck. We have the ability to make a huge difference and there is quite like helping a young person achieve their potential.
About our Community Expert
Head of Careers at The Windsor Boys' School
Over 8 years of experience in educational settings including FE colleges and secondary schools. Prior to entering education she worked at the Financial Times in a sales and marketing role before deciding to embark on a career change.
Teaching business whilst completing her part-time PGCE at Greenwich University, she transferred her business skills into the classroom and these skills resulted in her providing students with a range of vocational learning experiences linked to the curriculum, including setting up businesses and creating a youth music festival for local performers.
Building on her experience of working in The City, she has established excellent links with local and national employers who provide valuable career opportunities for her pupils, including work experience, employability sessions and apprenticeships. She is motivated to provide pupils or all abilities with the opportunity to be successful in school and helping them secure the right path for their future career.