In years past, beginning a new school year meant reuniting with friends and teachers, as well as discovering new talents, desires, and skills. This year will be different in a lot of ways – new classroom arrangements, social distancing requirements, and personal protective equipment – but it does not mean that students will not have the same experiences. Students and teachers may feel more vulnerable during this time, so there needs to be a heightened awareness of everyone’s needs, including more education and awareness attention brought to the benefits of mentorship, mental health awareness, and classroom resources. As mentors we also will need to adapt to the times to continue to provide a solid support to all of our mentees.
Back-to-school is already an incredibly chaotic time, with students transitioning into a new grade with new teachers and peers as well as the general discomfort that comes with starting anything new. Taking all of that and adding “pandemic” into the mix sounds like a recipe for disaster. However, adaptation is an important skill to have, as it allows us to be flexible and continue to succeed when things don’t go as expected. Right now, we are all adapting to a new way of life, and starting school in this brave new world is simply one more adaptation we have to make. I encourage mentors to lean into this discomfort and brainstorm strategies for adaptation with their mentees. Have a discussion about what this school year will look like, which things will be the same and which will be different. Acknowledging the situation and making plans to overcome these difficulties can help mentees to feel empowered. Goal setting and scheduling are key parts to planning any school year, and they remain important despite the pandemic. In fact, having solid goals in place can help motivate students despite the circumstances!
We are two months into the school year and our mentees may be experiencing a lot of different emotions. These emotions are healthy and to be expected, as the looming question of “What does this entail for our mentoring relationship?” is in the back of both the mentors and mentees minds. The answers to these questions are becoming clearer with each passing day as agency’s work around the clock to best prepare themselves with the resources necessary to provide the best relationship experience for both the mentors and mentees. For mentors, prioritizing self-care routines and check-in with your little will greatly ease this process. Communication is beyond important, as well as transparency during it. Whether you meet your mentee online or in person, set goals that you and your mentee can collaboratively work towards together, keeping it light and fun. Try new things, embrace the unknown and keep innovating different ways to keep your relationship thriving.