The Basics of Mentoring

Regardless of your role (tutor or mentor) you will be a mentor to the K-12 student with whom you work. We share here some characteristics of a good mentor and some ideas for mentoring.

What is a Mentor?

There are many definitions for a mentor. Mentors are often thoughts of as “sponsors” and “role models” or “guides.” RWS uses a definition put forth by Laurent Daloz:

Mentors are guides. They lead us along the journey of our lives. We trust them because they have been there before. They embody our hopes, cast light on the way ahead, interpret arcane signs, warn us of lurking dangers, and point out unexpected delights along the way.

Here are additional thoughts on mentoring that we share:

  • Student mentoring is defined as a one-to-one relationship between a youth and an adult that occurs over a prolonged period of time.
  • The mentor provides consistent support, guidance, and concrete help to a student who is in need of a positive role model.
  • Students involved in the mentoring program may be going through a difficult and/or challenging situation, a period of life in which they need extra support, or they may simply need to have another significant adult present in their life.
  • The goal of student mentoring is to help students involved in the mentoring program to gain the skills and confidence to be responsible for their own futures.

Characteristics of a Good Mentor

A good mentor:

  • Engages in a positive relationship with the child.
  • Gives attention to the child.
  • Has a positive self-esteem about himself/herself.
  • Reacts well to stressful situations.
  • Listens well.
  • Communicates on a level that the child can understand.
  • Is a stable, positive role model.
  • Meets on weekly basis with the mentee when possible
  • Shows up on time for sessions.
  • Guards his or her judgments.
  • Is committed.
  • Nurtures a relationship that respects the child’s dignity.
  • Reinforces the student’s success.

Mentors are NOT expected to:

  • Replace the role of a parent/guardian.
  • Expect dramatic changes in attitude, self-esteem or attendance quickly. Mentoring is a process that takes time!
  • Provide solutions to all the issues facing student.
  • Break the trust they have established, unless it is life threatening to the student.

Below are some ideas for working with mentees:

  • Set your mentoring goals together
  • Help with some homework
  • Eat lunch together
  • Read an article or short text together
  • Make popcorn and talk
  • Play computer games
  • Talk about planning a career
  • Partner read a book together
  • Do a pretend job interview
  • Listen to your favorite music together
  • Talk about how to get a job and find a part-time job
  • Go to a school sports game
  • Talk about managing finances
  • Talk about budgeting
  • Talk about relationships
  • Talk about personal values
  • Talk about the future
  • Watch a video and then discuss it
  • Play board games or cards
  • Build, create, design something
  • Get involved in a community environmental project