While some mentors are fresh out of New Mentor Orientation this school year, many have been mentoring for years and have built up plenty of experience and skills. Regardless of how long it has been, it is good to revisit some of the important basics of being a Seedling mentor.
Seedling mentors only have permission to mentor their mentee. When your mentee asks if their friend or friends can come too; what do you say? In New Mentor Orientation, we provide you with some language. You can say “this time is only for us”, or “this is our special one on one time”, or you can blame it on the rules. Explain that “Seedling won’t allow me to have your friends meet with us. It’s a Seedling rule.” Kids understand rules at school. Regardless, we have to remember that we are mentoring other people’s children and respect the fact that only our mentee’s caregiver gave us permission to meet with their child.
Sometimes, especially when the relationship is still new, navigating conversations can be tricky. Sometimes our mentee doesn’t speak. Again, look back at your New Mentor Orientation experience. Remember the review of open-ended questions? Even that can be hard with a mentee who just isn’t interested in conversation, right? We have to find ways to also be comfortable sitting in silence. Maybe that means you each work on an art project together while lost in your own thoughts, just providing companionship for one another. Or maybe you play a game and revel in the time spent in thoughtful strategy. More often than not though, that activity can provide you with fodder for conversation that comes easy and naturally because you are talking about what you are doing in the moment.
Ensure that your mentoring time is mentee led. For some, that means that your mentee always takes the lead in deciding what you do and where you do it. For others it means arriving at your mentoring session with several options for your mentee to choose from. Whatever works for your match, making sure that your mentee decides how you spend your time and that each activity is their choice provides so much opportunity for growth and skill development.