I have also experienced some that they don’t mention.
As we closed our mentoring relationship for the summer, I realized that Mena had taught me many things this year. I have written about some of them in past mentoring related blog posts, but here are a few more.
I learned the truth about education gaps for low socioeconomic students. It is one thing to read the theories, and another to see the reality.
These children start out with much the same potential as higher income students, but often quickly start falling behind due to lack of quality preschool and lack of reading material in the home. That gap may never, ever be overcome unless their school recognizes the problem and starts focusing on closing it with extra help. But this extra help may also be interpreted by the child, and even his or her family as “extra work,” “being different,” or worst of all, “being stupid.” These are self-labels, of course, but all the more powerful for that. It is a tricky tightrope to tread and I greatly admire our educators and administrators who do it well.
Mena told me she would have to attend summer school this year in order to pass, and because I had been trained by Seedling, I avoided my middle-class, knee-jerk reaction to possible failure, and instead chose a more constructive path.
I said nothing negative about it. Instead, I told her I knew she would do great in summer school and that it would make her next grade even better. I praised the improvement she has made in her reading this year. I told her I would love to get a note from her this summer (Seedling has a pen pal program with the Caregiver’s permission) telling me about all of the cool things she gets to do and her favorite thing about summer school.
I learned about the chaos that having an incarcerated parent can bring into the life of a child.
Again, it is one thing to read about it, and another to see the pain on a little face as they tell you they did not get to school often enough that year when everything was happening, to pass. That was tough to hear, and I controlled my expression and reaction with effort. I know this is the case for many kids, and often it is much more than just a single year disruption. Some children pass from family member to family member and some even land in the foster care system. Some of these children are so incredibly impacted that their odds become very low for academic success unless schools and individuals intervene in a major way.
I guess that is where you and I come in.
We can be part of the intervention. Research shows that a committed, well-supported mentor can be that “one caring adult” in a child’s life who can make a critical difference. Your encouragement, advocacy, sensitivity and genuine friendship fills so many needs, and it takes so little on our part to provide it.
A few hours of training and a lunch every week during the school year. There are optional support lunches offered through the year where you can come have a bite, hang out with other mentors. and learn something new about the great work you are doing. There is a lovely mentor appreciation event at the end of the school year where you are given the biggest thank you, ever. That’s it.
If this sounds good to you, check out Seedling Mentoring and become a friend to a young person who needs someone just like you.