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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Who Mentors Who?

This morning marked our fourth mentoring session (the school-wide mentoring program was first mentioned in the September 14th Blog entry entitled - (What is Staff Development Anyway?). I've been assisted in this activity by one of our high school learners. In fact, this individuals involvement has turned the experience into a very interesting opportunity. Not only has the help proved to be beneficial, but I believe the young man who generously volunteered his time is enjoying the sessions and learning from the engagement every bit as much as the seven children from Kindergarten, First, and Second grades who are the subjects of the mentoring program.

This interaction has provided the young man with a unique chance to supply help to others. I believe he has been a struggling learner himself and perhaps has not had an entirely positive perception of school. By supporting my effort to lead this mentoring group he has taken a step outside of the role he's played at school, maybe even a role where he has been typecast by classmates in a narrowly defined manner. Instead, the primary grade children in the session look up to him and extend their respect by listening to him and also seeking his attention.

It was easy to integrate him into the flow of the topic of today's mentoring session - healthy choices for the future - since he has been working hard to improve his physical conditioning by regularly jogging, watching what he eats, and rigorously exercising - all in preparation for pursuing a position in a very challenging branch of the armed services.

As he explained his eating habits and work-out routines, I noticed a glint in his eyes I hadn't seen whenever I've observed him walking in the hallways of the school. I suspect he's discovered a new and surprising purpose at school. I appreciated his initial presence at the second mentoring session and wondered whether his motive in originally volunteering was really an aversion to attending his own assigned mentoring program. But, he kept coming back. He was quiet then, but he's typically quiet in school anyway. His actions were at first infrequent, tentative and stiff. Yet each time he returned, he opened up a little more. And today, he was readily engaged and actively supportive.

I'm grateful for his contribution and proud of his genuine interest. It's been rewarding to witness this subtle transformation over the last two months, from a quiet young man not sure of himself, to someone who gives every impression of enjoying his role as an assistant helping seven young children grow. The youngsters see him as the person he wants to be seen now, not as the person who has spent thirteen years with the same classmates advancing from grade to grade and classroom to classroom (such is the weakness and the strength of a small school) to the point that the perceptions and beliefs of his peers have confined him - typecast as an actor who is limited to only playing one kind of role or genre, much like Clint Eastwood trying to act in a play by Shakespeare after so many years and roles as an action hero in Westerns.

I've learned a lot from this unique vantage point, maybe as much as the children being mentored. It's been a very rewarding part of the mentoring experience for me and I think we'll all grow from the sessions. I'm anxious to see how it continues to unfold and I'm sure it will be the subject of future Blogs.

Stay tuned.

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