Initial Stages of the Match
School liaison staff works with school staff to decide which children would profit from mentoring, determines appropriate match (in consultation with program coordinator), contacts parent for permission, contacts teacher regarding availability of child during school day, talks with child about working with a mentor and gets child’s permission. Since all school staff provides these liaison services in addition to their regular and very busy jobs, sometimes this part of the matching process takes longer than we expect. However, once the match is made usually scheduling mentoring moves ahead quickly. Patience and flexibility is a necessary hallmark of mentor’s functioning, since we work in a system whose main goal is academic performance and competency. While school staff understand the value and importance of mentoring to students, our mentoring model which schedules mentoring DURING the school day provides extra challenges to staff. Mentors therefore function as independently as possible putting as little excess pressure as possible on the staff role. This means consulting other mentors in the same school or the program coordinator with questions/concerns unless directly related to scheduling appointments with the child. Social workers / principals / guidance counselors are of course always available for crisis counseling.
School staff who make first introduction of mentor/child will usually make arrangement with teacher & mentor for best time for child to be out of classroom.
After the first meeting, mentors usually work with teacher or guidance/office staff to set up regular schedule for meetings…MAY NOT BE AN HOUR BUT WHATEVER CLASSROOM TIME CAN BE SPARED. Time spent together each session is less important than the consistent meetings over time between mentor and child – it is this consistency and regular meetings that build a significant relationship. In some instances it is only the lunch period that works for a particular child / teacher; if this is the only time, it is best to find a place where you can eat lunch together in private, rather than in the cafeteria.
SPACE IS EXTREMELY LIMITED at every elementary school and especially those with a large contingent of mentors so once again mentors must be patient at finding private locations. Staff will suggest meeting place in your initial meeting time & hopefully that space will be available to you on other occasions. But if not, flexibility is necessary; staff will suggest alternatives. Most mentors end up figuring out which spaces are usually available during their mentoring time. In nice weather, children often like to go outside to the playground with their mentor.
SCHEDULING AND ONGOING MONITORING OF MENTORS IS CHALLENGING FOR BUSY STAFF MEMBERS. Inevitably there will be a time when you arrive for your mentoring session only to find that your student is not in school. Mentors need to be flexible in these situations since there is no extra available staff to check attendance of students in the program each day and call mentors. Mentors may, however, call the school to determine whether their child is in school before coming over.
DESPITE ALL THESE CHALLENGES THE REWARDS ARE INCOMPARABLE!