Mentoring benefits all students. For some students who may be experiencing social isolation, mentoring can be a much-needed emotional and social support. For other students experiencing academic challenges, mentoring can be an effective strategy for building a new or renewed love of learning and literacy.
Key benefits of mentoring relationships include:
- building students’ sense of belonging within the school community
- enhancing attendance and motivation to learn
- helping individual students feel more connected and valued in their school community
- helping students learn about and value diversity
- encouraging individuals to get to know one another, identify common interests and concerns, recognize one another’s strengths and contributions
Mentoring also contributes to a positive school culture by:
- creating authentic and engaging opportunities
- modelling and teaching the skills essential to healthy relationships
- strengthening school bonds
- enhancing students’ feelings of safety and belonging
- decreasing bullying behaviours
Mentoring relationships are a natural and supported opportunity for both the mentor and mentee to enhance their social-emotional learning.
Mentoring shares a number of goals and attributes with both Peer Support Networks and Student Advisories and may be used as a targeted intervention in other school-wide approaches or be integrated into bullying prevention strategies.
For more information on mentorship, watch an introduction to mentoring and view the conversation guide.
Mentorship is based on the following foundational ideas:
- mentoring fosters caring and supportive relationships
- a mentoring relationship benefits both the mentee and the mentor
- mentoring encourages individuals to develop to their fullest potential and helps an individual to develop his or her own vision for the future
- spending as little as an hour a week with a young person can make a difference in their life
How to implement mentorship
Incorporating key components of mentoring can ensure successful implementation of your mentoring program.
The key components to mentoring are:
- planned and intentional strategy and process
- established goals and measurable outcomes (so mentors and mentees understand the types of activities they will be doing together)
- sustained period of time with regular cycles of interaction (typical mentoring relationships are one hour per week, over the course of the school year or semester)
- structured relationships with a matching and monitoring process
- screening, training and support are provided
- connectedness is developed through mentors and mentees identifying common interests and shared bonds
Types of programs
An in-school mentoring program can take many different forms. It may be:
- a formal program, such as those organized by the Big Brothers Big Sisters societies and other mentoring organizations
- adults from the community mentoring students
- older students mentoring younger students with the supervision and guidance of school staff
- a formalized program, where mentors are recruited, screened, trained and supported by a community agency
Mentoring can also be informal when it is part of other school culture-building activities such as:
- cross-age grouping for special events
- leadership projects
- transition strategies
- recreational activities
For some activities, it may be appropriate to use peer mentors, where the mentor and mentee are the same-age. For example, a peer mentor might welcome a new student to the school and check in with them regularly during the first 6 weeks. Even in these less formal situations, individuals taking on mentor roles will benefit from basic training, reflection and safety guidelines. Training materials are available through the Alberta Mentoring Partnership.
Teens are the fastest growing segment of mentors. Teen Mentoring often focuses on literacy or career planning with younger students. It can be part of a course requirement (for example, Career and Technologies Studies (CTS) or Work Experience) or as an extra- or co-curricular activity.
Mentoring will look different at different schools, depending on:
- the needs of the students
- the resources and priorities of the school community
The following fictional examples show what mentoring might look like in practice.
Each year, a rural elementary school matches classes for a cross-grade reading buddies program. Once a week, an older grade joins a younger grade in the library for 30 minutes of shared reading. Students work with assigned partners (a younger student and an older student) paired for the term.
The older students receive training in specific strategies for:
- engaging their buddies
- selecting books
- modelling read-aloud techniques
- supporting reading fluency and comprehension
- talking about what they are reading
Students also have time in class throughout the year to reflect on their reading buddy experience, learn new strategies and make suggestions for the program.
In addition, the school works with a local community agency to provide 10 students in the school with one-to-one adult mentors who focus on relationship building and promote literacy.
These mentors are recruited, screened and trained by the agency and work with individual students one hour per week.
Middle school/Junior high school
A school has an ongoing partnership with 3 local business associations to provide mentors. The focus of the mentoring relationships are to increase students’ awareness of:
- career possibilities
- links between school and post-school employment
- key skills for the workplace
A large urban high school offers a number of CTS courses to support mentoring. Students can earn credits for being a mentor. A core group of teachers work with 3 neighbouring junior high schools to coordinate mentoring relationships.
Sample implementation process
- Determining needs, goals and outcomes.
- Recruitment, screening and training of mentors: This process includes an application process, providing references and often an interview. Initial training includes child safety.
- Matching: Typically matches are one-to-one but occasionally one mentor might work with two or three students or two mentors may work with one student. Throughout the course or program duration mentors will meet with mentees at regularly arranged times.
- Ongoing support and monitoring: Regular check ins with a staff liaison or mentoring coordinator for mentors to reflect on experiences, share ideas, and plan for future sessions with mentees.
- Closure: Final reflections, data-gathering and opportunity for mentors and mentees to say goodbye to one another.
Evidence shows that children and youth who are matched with a mentor show many improvements.
According to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alberta, children and youth who are matched with mentors show the following improvements:
- 64% of students with an in-school mentor developed more positive attitudes toward school
- 58% achieved higher grades in social studies, language and math
- 60% improved relationships with adults
- 56% improved relationships with peers
Studies show that children matched with mentors are:
- 80% more likely to finish high school
- 46% less likely to use drugs
- 27% less likely to use alcohol
- 52% less likely to skip school
As well, 78% of former mentees who came from a social assistance background do not rely on social assistance as adults.