Mentoring is a powerful tool which we use to show young people how to maximise their potential through managing their learning and organisation themselves. The mentoring relationship is not about a mentor telling their mentee what to do. Instead it is about asking the right questions and providing an impartial sounding board; in this way a mentor should give their mentee opportunities to reach the ‘right’ conclusions themselves.
In this sense, the mentoring that we provide stands apart from our tutoring. Our students benefit from having a purely pastoral relationship with their mentor. We match students with mentors who we think will be able to build a trusting and positive working relationship with them, to help them maximise their potential at all sorts of different moments in their educational career. Often it helps to have an adult in place who has a grip on the overall picture but without the complexity of a student’s relationship with their parents or school teachers.
Of course, boundaries and expectations in terms of reporting back to the mentee’s parents are made clear from the start; we recommend that each mentoring conversation is followed by a written report of what is said, outlining what has been achieved since the last conversation and recording any targets set.
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If a student is working towards a long-term aspiration, then it can be useful to have a regular slot to check-in with their mentor. Perhaps they are determined to get an A* in a particular subject that they have previously struggled with, or submit an extensive research project with time to spare before the deadline. A goal does not have to be academic, it could also be personal; they may be keen to make more friends in their boarding house, or get onto the school swimming team. Regardless of their aim, a mentor can provide a helpful and reassuring sounding-board who will encourage the student to stay on track.
Mentoring is also a very powerful tool when a child is going through a social, emotional or academic transition. Starting at a new school or university is naturally a source of anxiety and we find that checking in with a mentor regularly – perhaps once a week at first, dropping down to once every half term and then every term – can ease a student’s nerves.
Mentoring through a transition may have a practical focus to start with, particularly when a student is in a new city or country. Students may want to talk about whether they have opted for the right courses or how many societies to commit to. Often, though, as time goes on mentors will ask about how well a student is mixing with their peers, what they can be doing to keep up their motivation and when they should be considering the next steps.
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