Teacher Mentors for Students
By spending a little informal time each week with a student not from their class, a teacher mentor can play an important role in a young person's life.
By Amy Martin
My school has a Mentor Program that pairs up each participating teacher with a student from another classroom. We've found that by spending time with and listening to the student, the teacher-mentor is often able to discover how to best meet the child's needs.
For example, a few months ago, a second-grader was having trouble cooperating and playing with friends during lunch and recess. The boy's teacher suggested that his mentor meet up with the child during lunchtime. The mentor began eating lunch alongside this boy in the cafeteria.
"When I started to meet with him, he would quietly eat his lunch and answer my questions without looking up from his food," says the mentor. "Now, he makes eye contact and he volunteers many stories about games that he plays at recess. The lunch coordinator has told me that he rarely has any problems anymore with other children."
Another mentor has taken up teaching her fifth-grade student how to knit. The mentor has noticed that this student has become more communicative and they even instant-message each other outside of school. The child's teacher said, "Earlier in the year, this student was one who quickly shut down during disagreements. But now she is more willing and able to express how she feels and what she wants."
Sometimes mentors play an important role by attending school functions when the child's parent can't be present. One third-grade student's class has had several publishing parties that the child's parents could never attend because of work conflicts. The student's mentor makes sure to stop by and talk with the student about her writing and acknowledge her progress.
How It Works
The teacher-mentor typically spends ten to fifteen minutes per week with the child before, after, or during school. This time can be spent together all at once, or broken into five-minute bits. The pairs determine the time that works best for them and for the student's classroom teacher.
Some ideas for activities to do with the student:
- Take a walk to the deli to get juice or a snack
- Read together from the student's independent reading book
- Play a game (cards, tic-tac-toe, checkers)
- Find a quiet corner and just talk
- Play basketball for a few minutes before/after school
- Draw or paint
The first time you get together, you may want to interview each other. Use the interview as an opportunity to find out if the student has any special interests that you can pursue in future meetings. Below is an interview sheet that you and the student can use for interviewing.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
1. What is your full name (including your middle name)?
2. When is your birthday?
3. How old will you be?
4. What did you eat for dinner last night?
5. Where were you born?
6. What are some things you like to do with your free time?
7. What do you want to be when you grow up? (Or, what would you like to do for a living?)
8. Who is in your family?
9. Where would you like to visit or travel to someday?
10. What is something you'd like to do together?
11. Tell me a funny story about yourself.
Amy Martin is a teacher in the New York City public schools.
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