A formal approach to school-based cross-age youth mentoring
Beneficial effects for the mentor Edit
It is difficult to aim to instill learning motivation and self motivation in others without reflecting on your own learning motivation and self motivation. A pupil in the role of a pedagogically trained mentor should consequently experience an increase in his or her own learning motivation and self motivation as a direct result.
Likewise it is difficult to help others to act according to higher-order volitions without reflecting on your own higher-order volitions.
Last but not least it is difficult to help others to find and to organize sensible leisure time activities without expanding your own horizon in this area.
Whatever a mentor does for his or her protégés is likely to increase the understanding and the horizon of the mentor in return, especially when the mentor is still a teenager him - or herself.
Assuming that mentoring is also a means to increase learning motivation and self motivation of a teenage mentor it follows that mentoring might be much more beneficial as a requirement of formal education instead of a voluntary effort of individual pupils or families, which appears to be the currently prevalent state of affairs.
A mentor finds him - or herself in a responsible position with potential consequences for his or her own school career and in an area of conflicting interests between protégés, parents, teachers and tutors. This situation could be seen as valuable training for social skills and especially for diplomatic skills.
Mentorships could begin earlier or later, as indicated by the arrows. A conceivable beneficial effect of changing mentors after one and a half years is that the relationship between current mentor and protégé is freed of potentially long-lasting prejudices (e.g. once a small child always a small child) and the protégé may receive new impulses from a mentor taking different views. Another effect is that protégés might have long-lasting relationships to young adults who had already left school long before them and might be able to give them good advice from the point of view of young adults. The schedule also allows to recruit mentors exclusively from grades with sufficient education to be able to succeed as mentors and the ability to take an adult outlook but which may still benefit from the motivation to take a more adult outlook as responsible educators.
Example for an alternative schedule:
An alternative schedule could allow to give two mentorships away to schools without sixth form grades and without direct relations to continuative schools that did have sixth form grades. A school parliament could be given the authority to decide how many mentorships had to be given to other schools and could have to negotiate with the student representatives of the (potential) recipient schools.
Training for mentorship Edit
- See also: Mentoring Handbook
Qualifying project Edit
A qualifying project for a mentor could, for instance, be a book project. A group of tutors could cooperate in a book project in order to qualify as mentors. A book project could encompass writing a supplementary school book for younger pupils. Book authors could be allowed to follow an author's guide to a topic or to give creativity full scope. The resulting work would of course not have to be used as a mandatory school book in any class to be a successful project, but it could be made available in the school library in a printed edition. A presentable print version is a reasonable goal and gives such a project more earnestness. For a qualifying project for mentors it may be of particular importance to decide on a didactic approach and to follow that didactic approach convincingly in the book.
Qualification phase Edit
A mentor could be required to go through a qualification phase following his or her admission as a mentor. During the qualification phase the mentor could receive grading for his or her qualification as a "head tutor" (a mentor supervising a group of tutors to prepare a lesson). An insufficient evaluation could either lead to losing mentor status altogether or just to a wasted semester as a mentor, depending on how bad the mentor performed.
While this may seem a bit strange at first, the rationale could be that the school community would gain a friendlier measure than forcing a mentor to qualify again or even to repeat a grade but which could, on repetition, ultimately lead to the repetition of a grade. A mentor would understand that he couldn't afford to lose more than (e.g.) three semesters this way without having to repeat a grade. While it seems inevitable to put some pressure on a mentor in his role as a head tutor it may be easier for the school community if no single decision led to the repetition of a grade. The school community would also gain another friendlier measure for mentors after the probation period if a mentor could be put back in probation as a first step, without revoking successfully completed semesters. A committee of pupils would have additional and friendlier measures to bring a rogue mentor back in line with the decisions of the community, thus protecting their process designed by pupils without directly infringing upon the interests of the colleague mentor.
Protégés' problems Edit
Meetings with parents Edit
Preparatory meeting Edit
In a preparatory meeting a mentor to-be could be required to gather vital information about his or her protégé's parents. A mentor could be expected to prepare a self-made questionnaire and begin his or her assignment like a scientific experiment. The parents could have to fill in the questionnaire independently and then the mentor could be given some time to evaluate the resuls. Later or on another meeting the mentor could engage in small talk about pegagogy and about anything else with the parents, which would give both sides opportunity to get to know each other. Finally the mentor could discuss with the parents what he or she saw as his or her findings.
Interesting questions for the mentor to resolve would be if the parents did have a prior agreement on their pedagogical style and methods and if they seemed prepared for the meeting or just seemed to let it happen. These questions could be implicit on the questionnaire but be asked explicitly before or during the presentation of the findings.
Interesting for the parents could be if the mentor did make an adequate effort to prepare a questionnaire and if he asked the right questions. Parents prepared for it could also manipulate the findings so that the mentor would have to comment on several issues. A failure to do so could then lead to an early disengagement. The mentor to-be could be encouraged that he or she obviously needed to practice his or her skills some more.
Guided mentorship Edit
A problem with this would be that parents prepared to reject a mentor during preparation would implicitly redirect the less good mentors to the protégés who would, on average, be more in need of good mentors. This problem would have to be addressed in communication between teachers and parents. A possible result could be that badly prepared mentors could on their first assignment be assigned to protégés who didn't really need mentorship at all because their parents were (e.g.) participating in mentor training or were certified instructors and that the parents of the protégés and mentoring advisors could contribute to the education of the mentors as on-the-job training during their first assignment.
The attitude that a badly qualified or misbehaving mentor can be trained on-the-job may appear like an anti-pattern but actually the responsibility of the office may be beneficial for previously unqualified teenagers and consequently one could also see it as a pedagogical pattern, if done right. Conceivable problems are that a trainee mentor might not respect an assignment with a protégé who "obviously" didn't need a mentor and a trainee mentor might not appreciate being confronted with artificial problems.
A school with a hierarchical structure of assistant teachers, tutors and mentors should be able to qualify pupils early and may be able to avoid the problem almost entirely. A mentor who was seen as barely qualified anyway would have passed through mentor training and would have learned to accept artificial problems, so tolerance for artificial problems could be a requirement to allow a barely qualified trainee mentor to receive an assignment. Arranged problems during a mentorship could also be subtle in nature (e.g. a protégé preferring a video game over homework could hardly be seen as an entirely unrealistic and arranged "artificial problem". The protégé could truthfully state his or her preference and merely fail to mention that self-motivation was not one of his or her problems anymore. Other "problems" could be arranged to look like problems on first sight but would be revealed as unproblematic on request.) One could also argue that people who have no need for a mentor whatsoever do not exist and that this was especially not true for teenagers, so the correct view would be to see a guided mentorship as an easy start but not as unnecessary.
Continuative meetings Edit
Continuative meetings could be regular meetings, at least once a semester, where the parents would invite the mentors of their children (e.g. for dinner) and discuss matters concerning the school education and extracurricular activities of their children, especially those activities supervised by mentors. The mentors coud be expected to prepare written reports for the occasion that were suitable for the parents, which means official school affairs and pedagogical recommendations would be adequate but some omissions, where the privacy of the protégé might have priority, could be in order. A mentor could be expected to show diplomacy and good judgement when deciding between the higher interests of teachers, parents and protégés and between what should be written in a report and what should better be discussed in a conversation.
Communication with tutors of protégés Edit
Assuming that tutors would hold courses for good pupils who had already become assistant teachers in a subject and for much less good pupils who had need for coaching lessons mentors would probably still have similar goals when dealing with tutors. For protégés taking coaching lessons a mentor could occasionally verify learning success and verify if the coaching lessons sufficiently addressed the actual problems of the protégé. Mentors might want to meet the tutors of protégés to address the specific problems of their protégés. For advanced pupils who had already become assistant teachers a mentor could consult with a tutor to make sure a course had an adequate level of difficulty and was suitable to reach the educational goals of a pupil. A mentor should probably also stay informed about learning motivation and participation of a protégé in an advanced course.
Communication with assistant teachers of protégés Edit
Assistant teachers may be useful for mentors to stay informed about the situation in a class. Usually parents are informed by teachers about any noteworthy developments concerning a pupil but that may often be a very narrowband information channel. Teachers are quite busy and parents are not easily reachable, so communication is restricted to the more important incidents and developments. A mentor who could consult with assistant teachers whenever he wanted would have a much better chance to stay informed about a protégé and to make recommendations without further motivation form a third party.
Assuming that the assignment of assistant teachers was not necessarily static over a semester but the assignments were made by a scheduling program according to personal preferences and with the goal to keep a certain amount of assignments of an assistant teacher within the same grade and class the resulting database could allow a mentor to find an expert group of assistant teachers with a high number of assignments in the class of a protégé and assignments to the exact group of a protégé.
Meetings with teachers Edit
While the primary value of professionally trained pedagogues in the proposed context appears to be to teach pedagogy to pupils and adults (e.g. in the form of parent education programs) school-based mentoring also offers the opportunity of mutual consultation. When school-based mentors are pupils who have frequent opportunity to consult with assistant teachers and to meet with parents mentors may also be able to advise teachers in some issues: The mentor is likely to know the pupil better than the teacher in several aspects.
Advisory teacher Edit
A mentor could have an assigned advisory teacher for all questions directly related to school affairs and have advisors for all other matters.
Advising teachers Edit
Mentors could advise teachers without grading their protégés themselves. Teachers could invite mentors to meetings where the grades or school matters concerning their protégés were discussed. A mentor could, for example, confirm or disagree with the view of tutors about learning habbits or learning success of his or her protégés or present more elaborate views on the social behavior of his or her protégés, which could help a group of teachers to rectify school marks for social behavior offered by a pupil's tutors and teachers.
Such meetings could be considered secret and any disclosure to another pupil, including the protégé, could lead to immediate discontinuation of a mentorship. This would give mentors a sensible code of conduct where they would have to show self-restraint in their own best interest.
Meetings with the protégé(s) Edit
Mentoring assistant teachers and tutors Edit
Assistant teachers and tutors would have special needs as protégés as they would also require a coach for their skills as teachers. This role could be shared between their class teachers, the subject teachers of the classes in which they taught and their mentors. Mentors could further rely on their own advisory teachers for consulting in matters concerning school activities.
A source for ideas on mentoring new teachers is The Mentoring Leadership and Resource Network MLRN.
Grading mentors Edit
The work of a mentor as a mentor may be difficult to assess and it seems undesirable to introduce a formal assessment into a mentor-protégé relationship. If mentors had the additional obligation to coordinate the work of assistant teachers that would allow a certain assessment of the work of a mentor by the subject teacher.
In a group of assistant teachers the mentor could guide the preparation of a lesson on a preparation day and later participate in the lesson as an assistant teacher him - or herself. Teachers could instruct mentors before the preparation of a lesson, participate and supervise the preparation (of one or several groups) and grade the work of the mentor afterwards. Mentors could receive grades for expertise, didactics and social skills.
To encourage earnestness teachers could occasionally introduce significant errors into preparation material, so one task for a mentor would be to verify the content prior to the preparation of a lesson. To train social skills another assistant teacher could also sometimes have a secret mission to show specific misbehaviour during preparation that would ask for a reaction of the mentor in charge of the group.
It could be school policy to allow a group of assistant teachers who hadn't found a prepared mistake to hold the lesson and to be corrected by the (possibly previously informed) class. The rationale is that assistant teachers who had this problem once probably would have learned to take their work more seriously and an official school policy would encourage assistant teachers to see it as a challenge and not as a matter at the teacher's sole discretion.
A prepared mistake that had found its way into a lesson could be registered as a possible argument against a process designed by pupils to keep unqualified tutors and mentors out of office; the teachers would have scored a "goal" (in German goal and fool are both "Tor"). A teacher could also award a small soft toy parrot to an assistant teacher who had successfully shown parrot skills.
Maximum teaching grades Edit
A possible variant is that mentors, tutors and assistant teachers could be assigned a maximum teaching grade at which they were allowed to teach. After allowing serveral consecutive prepared mistakes to reach a lesson a mentor, tutor or assistant teacher could lose one or two grades from his maximum teaching grade. In this case going below the minimum grade for tutors could disqualify a tutor. This system seems not sufficiently draconic for a process designed to irritate so it could be part of a process designed and implemented by pupils but should probably not be the default approach.
The threat of discontinuation seems to be a sensible and necessary way to make sure mentoring is taken seriously. Since mentorship should probably be a friendly and casual relationship the chances for significant misconduct on the side of the mentor may be few.
To make the threat of discontinuation sufficiently real in spite of this, and at the same time not the obligation of a specific person, any party involved could be allowed to request discontinuation: the protégé, a parent of the protégé, a teacher or a representative of the pupils' parliament on behalf of concerned mentors, tutors or other pupils.
Discontinuation should obviously not dictate the personal relationship of mentor and protégé but merely end the official assignment of the mentor and thereby, possibly, deny a required qualification.
Mentoring organizations could also have their own rules and negotiate with grade or school parliaments, especially where schools or school administrations were not interested or staffed to offer this service.
Mentoring advisory committee Edit
A mentoring advisory committee of a grade providing mentors could, like advisory committees concerning subjects, act as a first instance but in matters concerning mentoring.
A school board or school conference could be allowed to assign a mentor to a new mentorship with only the remaining duration of a discontinued mentorship so as not to deny a necessary qualification for the final exams. This procedure could be restricted to cases where the pupil would otherwise have to repeat a year. To make this procedure sufficiently unattractive a pupil could have to file a petition and could face a review of his or her reports about the discontinued mentorship and the reasons for discontinuation. It could also be a very real threat that the petition could be rejected. The rationale is that mentors should be encouraged to prefer diplomacy over a convenient exit.
Cooperation with other mentors Edit
Mutual advice Edit
Mentor conference Edit
A mentor conference could be an irregular event where mentors from different schools would host an event for mentors from neighboring schools. Teachers, advisors and parents could be invited as adequate. A mentor conference would allow mentors to meet, to exchange ideas, to present recent projects or to organize future projects. A meeting might not seem necessary if mentors had access to a school district wiki but meeting in person would allow a different quality of socializing and community, which is something mentors should have learned to appreciate, either for themselves or as a service to others.
School projects and other events Edit
Mentors could cooperate in working groups to plan and prepare school projects and other events for all other pupils.
Extracurricular activities Edit
- Individual curriculum
- Creativity, Action, Service (Wikipedia)
- Groups, programs and goals (Mentoring Handbook)
Certified instructor status Edit
To be officially allowed to act as an instructor for mentors a pupil might have to attend a voluntary seminar during the holidays before or immediately after the final exams of the sixth form. Participation in the seminar could be certified with an official document and allow the participant to act as an instructor for mentors, e.g. as a graduate or as a parent participating in training for mentorship. A minimum precondition for the certificate would obviously be the completion of the required number of mentorships.
The seminar would probably, after seven years of training in pedagogy and four mentorships, not necessarily be justified by its content but could invite pupils to envision their future participation in secondary education after their own final exams. Pupils with the foresight to want the certification at this point could be allowed to acquire the certification quickly, avoiding further mandatory training at a later time, and, possibly, to apply their skills during a voluntary educational year.
Instructors could retain responsibility for mentors they educated and remain available for the remaining school days of a mentor to offer help and advice in mentoring questions. The certificate of education of a new mentor could be signed by five or more instructors willing to act as advisors.
The advisors are also a form of designed community and mentors could, of course, be free to seek help and advice wherever they would choose to. In delicate issues the advisory teacher and the advisors might, however, offer a professional secrecy not necessarily found elsewhere. Advisors could also offer a retreat for undisturbed learning (e.g. an undisturbed wintergarden; a wintergarden has the added advantage that it can be left conveniently accessible even when the owners should be away from home occasionally and it can be a very calm and distraction-free environment or it could serve as housing space for visiting pupils occasionally).
Advisors as attachment figures Edit
Advisors could be attachment figures (psychological parents) for the protégés of their mentors. This would, of course, require that an advisor had sufficient time to participate in some of the activities organized by groups of mentors for their protégés, with homework supervision being the most prominent but not the only conceivable activity. An advisor could also acquaint protégés with his or her own mentors, as location permitted, and allow them to conduct some mentoring genealogy. Mentoring organizations could, where necessary, help to invite the younger pupils to embrace advisors and older members more easily as "one of them".
In German the term "Doktorvater"  is used for the advisor of a postgraduate student; in analogy one could use "Mentorvater" (mentor father) for an advisor, which seems nicer and more personal than just "Berater" (advisor). The term mentor father could be used by the protégés as well, as that would put the mentor in the role of an older brother or sister, which is what it is supposed to be (only with formal responsibility).
- See also: Lifelong teaching
Comparison to existing school mentoring programs Edit
Existing mentoring programs are mostly volunteer programs, more informal or both. In 2005 three million teenagers in the USA participated in mentoring programs with adult mentors.  Peer mentoring (or rather cross-age mentoring) programs that match older and younger pupils do exist. A mandatory and formal mentoring system could be expected to reach pupils that might not consider a volunteer program, which may be a group more in need of training social skills than the volunteers, and could be expected to make training of the required social skills a much more reliable part of education.
Specializations in topics, as found in the mentoring system of Baden-Württemberg , could be a sensible second step and voluntary extension to a mandatory and formal mentoring system. Specialized mentors may sometimes have specialized on aspects of mentorship and sometimes on subjects, the latter could also be seen as an additional qualification of the mentor as a tutor or assistant teacher. (e.g. sport mentoring in Baden-Württemberg qualifies mentors to assist teachers during sport events and to participate in the youth work of sports clubs)
- ↑ DuBois, David L.; Michael J. Karcher (2005). Handbook of Youth Mentoring. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications Ltd. ISBN 0761929770.
- ↑ for some reason the assumption crept in that advisors were bound to have sufficiently large houses. Advisors could, of course, have free space because some of their own children might have left their parents' house already.
In related news: A family could also grind down a spare room when the children leave home. [timesonline.co.uk]
- ↑ The earlier Doktorvater of a Doktorvater is considered a Doktorgroßvater and his earlier Doktorvater is the Doktorurgroßvater. In the faculty of mathematics there is a project that allows to find your scientific ancestors: http://genealogy.math.ndsu.nodak.edu/.
- ↑ Mentoring in America 2005: A Snapshot of the Current State of Mentoring
- ↑ http://bildung.wikia.com/wiki/Schülermentoren