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What Is A Mentor?
If you asked me to describe what a mentor is, my answer would be the following: A mentor is an adviser or a friend that is trusted and experienced. However, a mentor is so much more than what I have defined. In one of our mentoring meetings through Koochiching County Community Services, we were asked to give adjectives describing a mentor. Some of those adjectives consisted of a role model, trustworthy, honest, giving, humorous, consistency, warm and caring, and a friend.
I have been mentoring since June 1998 for the Wrap-A-Round Program through Koochiching County. One of the major reasons I decided to go into teaching was because I wanted to make a difference in the life of kids. On that same subject, I personally feel that teachers and mentors need the same qualities to try and make that difference in a childs life. I have noticed while working with kids, that I challenge myself on working with kids with special needs and at risk kids. In that case, I fell right in the hands of our schools social worker. I was handed two of the harder cases for the summer. I have to say that neither case worked out for me because the parents of the kids were not willing to assist in the responsibility of working with the social worker and the mentor. I was determined to work these cases out until the middle of August, but there was just no assistance from the families. I was disappointed but didnt quit on the mentoring.
In September 1998, my husband and I were asked to mentor two more children once a week after school throughout the school year. We jumped at the chance. I felt that our home was a structured and caring environment to mentor young children. I am an organized person so our homelife is consistent and structured. Both of the children we mentor come from a single-parent home. We thought it was important that they know how families operate in a traditional family home. I share with these youngsters how every person living in our home have jobs to do throughout the day in order for the household to run smoothly.
The kids we mentor come on separate days during the week. On a weekly visit, our after-school day would start with the child training the dogs. We have made this his responsibility when we first get home. After that, a snack is usually served. Sometimes he is so interested in playing he forgets about a snack. Many visits are spent with some time for hauling wood. Since we heat the basement with wood heat, that is a job necessary for the household to run smoothly. If there is any homework, we would then work on that. We do work with teachers about the kids we mentor making sure they are following along in the classroom. If they need work with something in particular, then we will work on that with the child. At one point, we were working on handwriting with one child. We always work on reading with both children. After homework, I will ask for help with supper. However, most of the time between homework and supper is spent at the bumper pool table, checker board, or on the computer. Both boys are very helpful in hanging their coats up when entering our home, putting their dishes away after eating, and using polite manners.
Through mentoring, I have realized a couple of things. All kids really want to be good kids. They dont always have the structure and consistency needed on a daily basis. One of the boys we mentor is not the same kid here as he is at home. In our home, he is very responsible and helpful. At his home, his mother has to beg for him to pick up after himself. I talk with him about this, because I think he can make positive choices at home, in the classroom, and on the playground. Our mentoring hours are filled with responsibilities and games as well as conversations on how to be a friend, how to treat others with respect, etc. We fill as much learning and listening in as we can within the four hours we mentor. Along with that, we have passing conversations with these kids at the school. Sometimes a simple comment will help for a better day at school. These children also know they have someone else at the school they can talk to if needed.
My husband and I have realized how much work raising kids is. We have two teenage sons of our own, but it has been awhile since they were young. They are involved with sports in school so they are home in time for supper. When they arrive home, supper is usually ready. We always eat as a family and have family conversation. If hauling wood was done after school that day, our sons are asked to thank the boys for hauling their wood. We would hope to send a message in this case. Usually after supper, our sons will immediately begin their homework. We would hope to send another message on the importance of education. This is the time when I would do some reading with the child we are mentoring.
Sometimes our after school hours dont run quite as smoothly. Since our sons are in sporting events, we are busy watching them, too. Even though time is hard to find, we try to make sure we do our mentoring the same night every day of the week. There are times when the kids will come to the basketball or football games with us. The last time I took one of the kids to a basketball game, he helped me work at the basketball table. That is where we sell raffle tickets, shirts, Bronco water, etc. He was in charge of the water and did a great job. He had a responsibility while doing some Math along the way. He could barely stay awake until the end of the game but didnt want to leave because he was really enjoying himself.
I really enjoy the mentoring we are doing at this time. Sometimes it is hard to find the time but I feel it is very satisfying and challenging. There are times that I feel guilty about all the material things we have in our family. I have been concerned to the point of talking to the social worker. I dont want the kids we are mentoring to look at our home and think it is better because we have snowmobiles or four wheelers. It was explained to me by the social worker that the kids we mentor need to have the opportunity to look out into the world at things to work for in their lives as they grow older. That explanation made me feel better. I want to be that honest, humorous, caring and giving friend to the kids we mentor.
-- Anonymous, January 03, 1999