School Mentors

It’s been a busy few days.  For a few weeks now I’ve been putting together a peer mentoring programme for use in my school.  The plan has been to recruit a group of Transition Year Students,  train them as mentors, and then match them up with first year students.

So far, we’ve gotten to step 2.  Yesterday was our training day, and we had 18 students who did a really good day’s work.  They were a bit shy starting, but by the end, they were doing brilliantly.  They participated in the games, they came up with ideas, and they asked some really insightful questions.  The type of questions that require a good sit-down to answer.

By the end of the day they were exhausted.  I don’t think they’ve been involved in this type of workshop before (Games, theory, small groups, role-play, feedback and evaluations) Personally I think they are amazed about how good they felt to have so much done in a short space of time.

And now to get ready for part three.   On Monday I will meet the group again, and begin the task of pairing them up with first years.

Which brings me to – Why do this at all?  What does anyone have to gain out of having a Peer Mentoring Programme in a school?  And, how did we persuade a group of students to take on an extra job in a school?

I believe that peer mentoring has the potential to be a hugely positive influence on a first year’s experience of secondary school.  If any of us cast our mind back to what the first days and months in school were like, then it was often scary, intimidating, confusing.  A first year with an older mentor will have someone who can help them through all of this.

Peer Mentoring, as I see it, is relational.  The older students build positive relationships with the younger ones, and in doing so allow the younger students expression of their fears in a safe manner.  The relationship builds the confidence of the first years, while the added responsibility builds the confidence and sense of well-being for the older student.

Of course there may be difficulties.  What if a first year is experiencing bullying?  Then the hope is that they can tell their mentor.  It may be that a solution can be found at student level, or it may be the case that the mentor will need to contact a staff member for more support.  The key thing here is that the first year now has a conduit, and avoids the risk of being called a ‘rat’.

This ongoing relationship may not be easy for our TY students, and for that reason in the programme they will have weekly meetings with me to ensure that:

  1. They are saying and doing the right things
  2. That they keep personally developing as mentors
  3. That they get the most possible out of the programme

Here’s hoping that the whole thing will work out.  I’m delighted with the group that worked with me yesterday, and very optimistic about how the whole thing will turn out!

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