Although I’ve been an educator for 22 years, my teaching style has shifted in a positive way over the past two years. The reason for this shift is my new focus on being a mentor to my students.
While building positive relationships with students has always been important to me, it was not until Prairie Heights Middle School implemented the Summit Learning Program that I’ve had a designated time for developing meaningful partnerships with students through mentoring. Mentoring is a major element of the Summit Learning approach to teaching and learning.
As mentors, teachers have weekly dedicated time to work 1:1 with student mentees. During mentor time, we work closely with our mentees by supporting them in meeting their personal goals. When I first started mentoring our students, I was shocked at how much I had yet to learn and understand about the kids I taught.
For example, I had heard from other teachers that one young man in particular was a handful. During mentoring time, however, he bonded with me through talking about his pet fish. I then asked him about his “highs and lows” throughout the week; through this simple action, I learned that his dad travels a lot. He looks up to his dad, who works long hours for his family. I mentioned that he could honor his dad by doing his best in school and since then, this young man has showed perseverance and an improved attitude. He has kept up his grades and he is truly mastering the curriculum. This is just one of many examples of how mentoring empowers my students.
Through mentoring students, I’ve found that kids want to connect with trusted adults. They want to share their favorite movies, video games, and foods. Students also want to share their academic struggles and what’s happening in their relationships with friends and family members. They want to be heard and reassured that they’re not alone in their fears and experiences. I feel like they are hungry for connections!
My students are also eager to share their successes and experiences with their mentors – and this motivates them to achieve more. More and more, I have kids asking me if it’s “their day for mentoring.” Students request if they can be “bumped up” to share something with me that they are excited about, especially when it comes to completed projects or grades. My favorite moments are when students get a sparkle in their eye, grinning ear to ear while letting me know that they’ve passed or finished a challenging project or test. We give each other high fives, fist bumps, and pats on the backs.
Because of our mentoring sessions, I’ve seen kids with low self esteem evolve into learners who are confident, self directed, and on their way to becoming successful young adults. Introducing mentoring into the classroom has allowed me to reach my students like never before, and I hope other schools use mentorship to help improve and evolve the role of educators across grades.