2020 was quite a year – challenging in so many respects. With all of the changes brought on by COVID, our young people need support all the more; however, with the changes brought on by COVID, mentoring hasn’t been “normal” for nearly a year now. So, as with everything in life right now, we are learning to adjust and do what we can, when we can. As we look back on a year none of us will soon forget, we can say that we’ve learned some lessons that will also apply in this new year.
Here are the 5 things this unique season has taught is – and is continuing to teach us:
1. Flexibility & patience are key. For many, mentoring has had to move to an online format. It’s not the same – as anyone can attest who has sat through a Zoom meeting. But virtual connection is better than no connection; so, we do what we can, when we can.
2. Our mentees need us, so we encourage our mentors to take whatever options they have. If it’s virtual, or writing notes, or occasional gatherings, we invite them to do their best to be there for their mentees with whatever format the school provides. Likewise, not all mentees make it to each session; even so, our mentors can focus on who is in their group at any given time. If a student isn’t showing up, the mentor can show their concern by continuing to pursue them – while not letting the absence of one student keep them from the opportunity to connect with who is there.
3. With that in mind, this season provides an opportunity to go with smaller & simpler goals. Some mentees may need an extra dose of motivation to get online for their classes – or maybe just to get up in the morning. Perhaps they just need a safe place to share their anxiety and sadness, or their small joys and accomplishments. As we remind our mentors: small victories are still victories!
4. COVID affects everyone – and it’s likely to affect our mentees differently than it does our mentors. Being aware and open to how others are experiencing this strange season can go a long way toward helping them process their feelings in a healthy way.
5. Finally, a reminder: This, too, will end. This doesn’t mean that life will go back to “normal” (whatever that is), but it does mean that we will not always be where we are now. Of course, this is true not just of a virus or a cultural moment – it’s true of life itself. Nothing ever stays put. Life continues, changes – and we must continue, and change, and move forward. So, even if our mentors don’t think they are getting much “accomplished” with their mentees this school year, their consistency is making a difference. Even for those mentors who have had to “press pause” due to school guidelines, how powerful will it be for their mentees to have them be there for them whenever the school opens its doors to them? Their tenacity and commitment to their mentees won’t go unnoticed.
These are lessons our mentors are learning in this season. Perhaps these lessons aren’t just about mentoring – and in fact apply to life, as well. Maybe one speaks to you in the season you’re in?
Written by: Jeff Dye, In-School Program Coordinator