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Mentoring....It's Not Just Good for Kids

Samantha Whaley, MPA - Boys Town National Training

January is National Mentoring Month, well deserving of the celebration. The positive effect mentoring can have on young people is undeniable. Mentoring can have the same positive benefits with adults as it does with young adults.


I will always remember my first day working with adolescents at an in-patient drug treatment program. It was my first “real” job, fresh out of college with lots of classroom wisdom about addiction, mental illness, and working with youth. However, the knowledge I learned in school didn’t quite prepare me for the real work of helping these kids heal. It was in the first few hours that I was immensely grateful to my co-workers that quickly became my mentors.


I remember witnessing a physical fight between two young girls on my first day and thinking, What have I gotten myself into? As we worked to separate the girls, my co-worker Phil looked at me and asked me to go talk to one of the girls and he would work with the other. I must have had a look of pure terror on my face because he quickly smiled and gave me some tips. His advice was simple and something along the lines of, “Just go sit next to her on the couch and try to calm her down, maybe offer to play a game with her.” Still nervous, I remember approaching the young lady and sitting next to her on the couch where she was crocheting to relieve her nervous energy. I was surprised how quickly she calmed down and started talking to me once I showed interest in what she was doing.


As my work at the center continued, these relationships with my co-workers continued to be more and more important. Like our relationships with students, forming strong relationships with co-workers builds a sense of trust and respect that helps us improve on the work we do. Many times there is not time or budget to attend a seminar or formal training.

Mentoring or coaching can be a powerful tool we as educators can use. It costs very little and takes a short amount of time, but the benefits are endless. Whether formal or informal, how can mentoring improve your teaching habits and transform the culture of your school?


Ideas to Get your Learning Started


Informal Mentoring Ideas

  • Invite a new teacher to have lunch with you. You may be able to help him as he adjusts to his new job. Or he may have some great new ideas for you!
  • Talk with the teachers who have had your students previously or who currently have them for a different class. They may have some insight on how to motivate them or calm them down.
  • Exchange articles and books you have found helpful.
  • Introduce yourself to someone you might not know, see what she has to say.
  • Have lunch in the teachers’ lounge and talk about issues in the school. Remember to keep it positive! Though this is your break, it is more beneficial and relaxing to use this time to learn than to complain or gripe.


Formal Mentoring Ideas

  • Meet with your team or a group of teachers once a month to discuss ideas, concerns, or trends. As teachers you know what each other experiences every day, Use these similarities to your advantage to support each other, share ideas, and brainstorm.
  • Have fun together! There is nothing better for building relationships and camaraderie than laughing and having fun together. You don’t even need to talk about work for this one to be beneficial.
  • Assign senior teachers/staff to work with new staff members throughout the year.
  • Do a book study as a group.

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