As vaccines become more available and the world takes a few shy steps towards normalcy, we can’t help but think: “where do we go from here?” What has this past year meant for our mentees? And how do we move forward? Below are thoughts to consider as you begin thinking of mentoring beyond COVID.
It will take time for the school system to recover
Studies have emerged showing some of the academic, social, and emotional effects on children during this time. In September 2020, the Economic Policy Institute released a report stating, “The shutdown of schools…poses major challenges to our students and their teachers. Our public education system was not built, nor prepared, to cope with a situation like this… children’s academic performance is deteriorating during the pandemic, along with their progress on other developmental skills.” As we slowly move towards normalcy, school districts will have the challenge of balancing public health guidelines with the educational needs of students. Supportive student services such as mentoring will continue to play an essential role for students as they adjust to any changes in school procedures and curriculum as a result.
Maintain the joy of mentoring
Visits with your mentees don’t have to be focused on the challenges of the past year – do something that brings out the joy of mentoring and allows your mentee to feel like a kid again. Over time you will likely process the impact of this event in history, but it’s also important to remember that for your mentees, the time you spend with them may be a welcomed escape from the stresses they are currently experiencing.
Introduce or re-establish routines and rituals
Do you and your mentee have a routine for your visits? Perhaps you begin each visit by sharing your “highs and lows” for the week or you talk about your “rose and thorn” of the day. Regardless of the specific routine or ritual, it’s important to maintain a sense of normalcy where you are able. Routines help establish a sense of consistency and stability – qualities that are especially important during uncertain times.
Accept that things will never be how they once were (and that’s okay)
Perhaps the most difficult concept to reconcile is facing the truth that we can never go back to the time before COVID. Over a year of life experiences and moments have passed. Instead of focusing on what your mentee may have lost as a result of the pandemic, place an emphasis on what your mentee may have gained during this time – perhaps they’ve developed a sense of independence and autonomy and have learned to be self-motivated. Maybe they’ve become more resilient and flexible to change. However your mentee may have matured, it’s important to mentor from a strengths-based perspective and build upon the ways your mentee may have experienced personal growth.