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    Five Ways to be an Effective Mentor

    Posted March 7, 2023, 12:00 am by City Year
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    Progress requires two things—support systems and consistent change—which is why mentorship is such an important tool. It motivates mentors and mentees to be better.

    Two leaders who know firsthand how much mentoring empowers young people to confidently set new goals for themselves are City Year AmeriCorps members Darrionne Ellis and Chelsea Smith. As student success coaches, they serve as tutors, mentors and role models who help students to grow academically, socially and emotionally at schools in Baton Rouge. Darrionne and Chelsea have also benefitted from having mentors in their lives and share five ways to be an effective mentor in and out of the classroom:

    1. Show patience to your mentee and yourself.

    Darrionne Ellis (DE): Learn how to be okay with the process. Sometimes we want to have everything figured out at one moment and know exactly how to do this and that. I’ve been learning that there’s so much more freedom and beauty when we learn to be okay with enjoying growing and watching yourself. Even if it's just one little thing that you did differently, that's growth. It's not going to be perfect. You may never reach this high place, but the fact that you even attempted to get there is a beautiful thing.

    Chelsea Smith (CS): It's going to take time. Patience is learned. You're not going to automatically have it. Sometimes situations are frustrating, but that just means you care. You want the best for your student, but at the same time, it takes a lot of work. That’s okay.

    2. Celebrate and challenge your mentee.

    DE: My pastor has been such a huge mentor to me. It's truly amazing because the beauty of mentors is being able to see someone where they are right now and accept them but also still be able to say, “I want to see more in you.” That's what I appreciate about him—him being accepting to where I am in this moment but also say, “Hey, let's keep going.”

    CS: In my first year of service, I felt like professionally I had the skill to do what I wanted to do, but having a mentor really steered me in the direction of all the goals I wanted to achieve. My mentor was my manager. She really helped me out. She would help look over any documents, edit them, coach me, give me professional interviews and guidance. She's a very busy person, so I was really appreciative that she took time out of her day to help me out. At the time, she was also attending grad school, so she was able to help me with my grad school application.

    3. Remain consistent and willing to learn.

    DE: Lead in a sense of action and not just what you say. Your students see what you do. When you are intentional about how you show up in life, they pay attention to the small things that you do, even when you may not think they are. Sometimes they may not hear every word that you say, but they will pay attention to how you show up.

    CS: You have to know who your mentee is. The advice you give to one person isn’t necessarily applicable to everybody else. We're all going through different challenges and walks of life. Showing that you know your mentee allows for your relationship to bloom, and you can see what you'll get out of that relationship to help them achieve their goals. Every moment you have with them is a learning moment—not just for them but also for you—because mentoring is not easy.

    4. Imagine your mentee will remember each moment.

    DE: There was this one student in fourth grade. I struggled to get him to focus and do his work. When we built a relationship, he would do his work if I was sitting beside him. Still, I was questioning, “Is he really paying attention? Is he really hearing me? Is he really getting what I'm saying?” It wasn't until after the school year was over, he reached out to me. He told me that he appreciated me for taking the time to sit and be patient with him. It's just a reminder that when you plant a seed in the ground, it takes a while for you to see an actual plant develop. You may be watering, giving sunlight and doing everything else that goes into growing it. You may not see that actual plant in that moment, but the water, sun and seeds are effective. It was just like, “Yeah, okay, I'm actually doing something.”

    CS: Last year, with a fourth grade English class, I was doing one-on-one literacy tutoring with one of my students. I noticed that he needed a lot of help learning his ABCs, so I took the time to teach him. We created some songs about it. We did flash cards. At the end of the day, you want your kid to remember everything that you did and carry it on, but they have to take it upon themselves to practice. During a one-on-one later in the year, he was like, “Miss Chelsea, I still do my ABCs at home. I was singing the song and everything!” That's the moment that stuck with me because I didn't tell him to practice, but he took it upon himself to do it. I'm very proud of him.

    5. Support your mentee’s holistic growth.

    DE: The beauty of being a student success coach is you get to experience helping youth both academically and social-emotionally. A lot of the time, it's motivating students on a personal level, finding a way to connect emotions to academics. I have one student who's very intelligent, but his emotions sometimes affect his ability to be productive in class. It's always going back to motivating him, like, “Hey, don't quit on yourself because you think you can't do it. You already have the ability to do it. It’s just that you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, and it’s making you feel that you're not effective.” For a mentor, you might focus more on their success on a personal level, and a tutor might focus more on their success within an academic area. As student success coaches, it's both of them coming together as one because their academic, social, and emotional learning go hand-in-hand.

    CS: In all that we do when it comes to academics, behavior and building students up professionally, we keep social-emotional learning at the forefront. What people fail to realize is that it's an important factor that really affects their behavior. Making friends, playing outside at recess, how they conduct themselves in a classroom—it all stems from them learning how to be socially and emotionally intelligent. By putting that at the forefront, we see every single step that they take because we're in the classroom, lunchroom and afterschool space. We see every step that they take and then help them step by step. With a mentor, students have the freedom to choose what they want to do and the steps that they're going to take to get there.

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    City Year

    City Year helps students and schools succeed while preparing the next generation of civically engaged leaders who can work across lines of difference. In partnership with teachers and schools, City Year AmeriCorps members cultivate learning environments where all students can build on their strengths, fully engage in their learning and experience success—helping to create a more just and equitable future for all of us.