Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How to Mentor a Kid

In my previous post, I suggested that mentoring a bright boy is a rarely considered but valuable sort of volunteerism. In that post, I also list ways to find a deserving kid.

Here I describe what I'd do if I was to mentor a bright kid, male or female.

1. I'd ask his parent(s) about the boy's strengths, weaknesses, interests, needs, and any issues I need to understand.

2. I'd meet the child with the parent(s) there. I'd, in a minute or so, tell a little about myself. Then I'd ask the child about those same things I asked the parent about.

In that meeting, I'd ask the kid, "What sorts of activities might you find fun to do with me?" If he couldn't come up with any, I'd suggest a few that seemed consonant with who he is that I too would find fun, for example: play with a chemistry set, play ball, visit the library, build a rocket, write a short story together, hike, go to a museum, amusement park, a movie, play, plant a garden, do a science experiment, read a book aloud (perhaps alternating pages--I read for two minutes; then he reads for two minutes.)

I'd ask if he'd appreciate being able to email or phone me if he had something he wanted to ask or tell me.

3. We'd meet either regularly or irregularly, in-person and/or by phone, email, or SkypeVideo.

When it felt right, I'd ask questions to help understand what he's dealing with, practically and psychologically. Yes, sometimes, I'd offer advice. Other times, I'd just play facilitator.

4. If I felt the relationship was insufficiently rewarding to him or me, I'd gently and tactfully sever it and find someone else to mentor. Mentoring is a great gift to a kid and I'd want to give it to someone who is really benefiting from it.


Anonymous said...

How many bright boys do you mentor?

Marty Nemko said...

That's a fair question that deserves an honest answer. I am at a stage in my life where I do not have time for volunteer work beyond writing this blog. I am fortunate to have 70 hours a week of work in which I believe I'm making an even bigger difference than mentoring a bright boy. If I didn't, I'd do it. It's certainly an activity I would pursue when I retire, but that, hopefully, is a long time away.


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