Mentoring Handbook/Part IV
Groups, programs and goals
Citizenship education should belong to the educational goals of a mentor by default. What can be done or should be done in the area of civic education depends on what a school or school system already provides with a certain reliability or what the personal needs of a protégé in this area are. Education for democracy can, for instance, be part of group events: The mentors can leave out essential parts of the organization and leave it to the protégés to invent democratic procedures. A comment like "That still needs to be addressed." should be enough to make the protégés invent democratic procedures without guidance and if they fail to do so it may be a useful experience to allow them to try without democratic procedures. The mentors could even "help" along with comments like "Who decided that? Let's do it our way." An event could even be more fun without democracy but the mentors could still explain afterwards that the planning was a failure. A next step could be to install democratic procedures that needed to be replaced, which could require decision by consensus.
A mentoring organization should have a documented view and concepts for civic education, possibly taking into consideration the circumstances at local schools.
A mentor should identify a protégé's need to learn about time management. If the protégé doesn't appear to have an obvious need to learn time management it doesn't hurt to give some advice in the area, even if already known. Reminding a protégé about things he already knows is an area where a mentor can perform significantly better than many parents because parents often feel obliged to remind about too many things, so the interest of the teenager to heed the advice may be reduced through the amount of advice given. A mentor has more time to consider what advice seems important and what would just make the protégé lose interest.
A mentor could, for instance, pay attention to trends in the behavior of the protégé and alert him to increasing or decreasing time consumption of activities considered relevant and put the developments into relation to the declared higher-order volitions of the protégé.
Preparing protégés to become mentors
What qualifications a mentor needs depends on the mentoring organization. In any case the work of a mentor can have more than one beneficial effect for the mentor. Seeking to actively qualify protégés to become mentors, notwithstanding the fact if a protégé is likely to make that choice, seems a worthwhile goal. A mentor can offer to a protégé to leave the question whether to become a mentor or not open and to qualify just for the merit of the qualification. Consequently a protégé should be guided to get some education in pedagogy, psychology and whatever else was seen as lacking for the protégé to qualify as a mentor.
From fun to serious work
Fun can be very useful to motivate children and teenagers to learn or to participate in something that may otherwise not be sufficiently interesting. A sense of achievement can also contribute to the fun of an activity and is especially valuable in learning activities. If fun is a predominant motivation, however, a protégé may learn to rely on the entertainment value of an activity for motivation. A mentor could see it as an obligation to counter that effect, especially if the protégé relied too much on entertainment value. An activity can, for instance, be modified on occasion to avoid fun and entertainment. A mentor can work with the protégé to isolate what is funny or entertaining about an activity and then try to structure a "serious work" task to avoid fun and entertainment. From analyzing the entertainment value of an activity mentor and protégé can also learn something about the psychological effects involved.
Teenagers who like to program, for instance, enjoy their work because it is creative, challenging and can provide a frequent sense of achievement. Once a protégé had identified programming as a hobby a mentor could aim to present the protégé with some programming tasks that were carefully arranged to spoil the fun in order to allow the protégé to learn a more serious approach.
In Germany 16% of all children are overweight and 6% of the children are obese. 85% of the affected children still suffer from excess weight as adults. (Source: see sidebox).
Individual fitness program
A mentor wanting to help with sportive goals, which may, depending on the protégé, be an obligation, could try out a health club together with the protégé. A mentor could, of course, also devise an individual fitness program inside school or outside school and motivate the protégé to follow through with it.
A mentor could also organize a morning run before breakfast for a group of protégés and friends, which would allow the mentor to observe the protégés' dependability, discipline and sportiness. Mentors living close by can run with their own protégés, mentors living farther away can swap with other mentors.
Intermittent fasting may be a good health advice. At the same time it could present a recurring opportunity for a mentor to encourage a protégé to follow a sensible higher-order volition and to measure the protégé's ability to follow the higher-order volition, once identified as a desirable goal. (A goal could be not to eat anything on a specific day of the week)
In a summer camp or on a day trip mentors would occasionally have the chance to actually observe the protégé's behavior; otherwise a mentor could offer advice and motivation but should probably better avoid any pressure towards an unenforceable goal. Obviously mentors could aim to be good examples even when some or all protégés decided against their advice.
A joint breakfast or brunch on a Sunday could complement a fasting day on Saturday.
An age recommendation for protégés is avoided intentionally; a responsible mentor should consult with a health professional in this matter.
A continual goal for a mentor could be to find and organize leisure offers for his or her protégés according to the personal preferences of the protégés and according to what the mentor saw as sensible and the protégés could be interested in.
Mentors as holiday entertainers
A mentor can offer his service as a tutor at his own discretion and likewise a mentor can offer his service as an entertainer. The primary goal of a mentor should be that of a beneficial adviser but a mentor should be willing to at least help occasionally with what may not otherwise be possible for a protégé or what may benefit from the presence of the mentor. The protégé should of course not be brought to believe that his mentor is always his personal entertainer, football coach or whatever else the protégé may wish for.
In order to lead a protégé to respect the difference a mentor might want to maintain an attitude of listening to what the protégé wants and then telling him what he really wants. Of course that could easily be taken too far if the mentor passed the protégé over and decided what the protégé should do without taking his wishes into account. In order to find the right balance a mentor might want to consider requests of the protégé for a while. The right answer for a new request would consequently always be "I will think about it." (and making a note). Just from observing the mentor acting prudently the protégé can learn to follow the observed example. A mentor could make it a principle to construct a connection to either the individual curriculum or other educational goals whenever possible. That shouldn't rule out just for fun activities entirely, of course.
What kind of events a group of mentors could organize for their protégés depends significantly on your country and culture.
- Fiction writers convention
- Meet in a sufficiently large house (e.g. a school on a weekend or during the holidays or in a community center) and organize workshops for radio dramas. To make it more interesting the plays could be interactive multi-user fiction but only with the elements of music, speech and text. Text and sound could conveniently be organized in a wiki and the software of the play could be written by mentors and qualified protégés to access the media from the wiki. Obviously the wiki should not be open before the convention to discourage disproportionate prior organization and planning for the plays.
- Rationale: The planning and writing of a play and the recording of the sounds effects can create a lot of fun but requires an extra effort and motivates the meeting, which might seem superfluous to just write some text. An interactive multi-user radio play would appeal more to the imagination than an interactive movie and create a different atmosphere than a multi-user text adventure. The creation of appealing graphics and videos might also be too difficult for the protégés.
- Video documentary competition
- Form teams and agree on topics for documentaries. Watch some professional documentaries and discuss how you could create similar effects. Send the teams to make their documentaries and show the documentaries on an evening event, preferably with parents. Form a jury and elect the best documentaries in different groups. Make enough categories so every documentary can win at least in one category.
- Day trip
- Mentors could offer day trips during the holidays.
A book project can be an interesting and entertaining project. The creative group work is good for community building and can inspire new thought processes in the participants. A book could be developed in a wiki and could be printed as book-on-demand when finished. Participants should probably be at least 14-15 years old (ninth grade). As a mentoring organization you could, for example, write your own mentoring handbook. If the resulting work was good enough it could be distributed to interested parties outside your organization. A part of your own book, with regional applicability only and thereby adding to the motivation to write your own book, could be a section with leisure offers for teenagers in your region with a special view on the concerns of mentors.
Fiction books do have the advantage that you can allow your imagination full scope. There may still be a lot of planning and researching to do if your book is set in the real world. To coordinate the work of the independent authors you have to agree on a schedule of events and on the personalities, activities and knowledge of the characters at any given time in your book. You may also have to research actual conditions at places you describe in the book. It may be a good idea to put a certain emphasis on getting the facts right, so that the book project has a connection to the real world and interests the participants in researching facts.
Writing non-fiction books can also allow creative and entertaining group work, although a non-fiction book imposes more restrictions. What may be quite challenging is to write a book that is both educational and interesting for younger pupils or even for teenagers of the same age. A good example is the above mentioned mentoring handbook. If you think your school books are not interesting enough you can also write your own supplementary literature to school books.