Entrust older kids to teach younger children through student mentorship programs and everyone – including teachers – will benefit.
In the school social hierarchy, younger students always pinpoint the older kids whom they idolize. Whether first- and second-grade students look up to certain fifth graders, or eighth-grade students aspire to emulate high-school juniors, many younger students often hold more senior pupils in high regard. As children pursue extra-curricular activities to build a more well-rounded self, teachers and faculty should identify student mentorship opportunities that will help accomplish this goal and allow kids to give back to the community.
Forming a reading buddy program helps both the mentors and mentees in the student mentorship relationship. Choosing to pair a student who is not a reader with a mentor who once experienced difficulty learning to read – yet now enjoys sitting with a book – can help in many ways. The mentor and mentee will begin their relationship through sharing a common hurdle. Spending time with a student who is older, yet also a peer, allows the younger child to see themselves in the mentor and realize that they, too, can overcome the anxiety associated with this obstacle and one day excel in reading. This program also benefits the mentor by increasing their confidence and engagement. Even weaker readers can be considered as mentors because they still have something to offer the mentees – and they might even begin to see themselves as strong readers.
Study hall can be a lonely place, especially for students who flourish in groups. Mentors who serve as study buddies through student mentorship can offer insight regarding problem solving, guidance toward more effective study habits, and be a sounding board for lesson-related issues. When students who serve as mentors provide accountability for a mentee, the feedback is more likely to be viewed as advice coming from a peer or friend, rather than the authoritative role of a teacher.
When projects – such as those exhibited during the science fair – are assigned, students typically enlist the help of a parent or guardian. Though parents are excellent resources, tapping into the pool of older children who are experienced with the curriculum would prove valuable to everyone. After assigning science-fair projects, match younger children with students from older grades. Older children will showcase their own knowledge learned during previous grades, while younger students will learn to work with a peer who assumes a supervisor role, and teachers don’t have to wait for that alumni connection to come through via LinkedIn.
Always Ask the Administration
While these might be excellent ideas and implementing a student mentorship program tomorrow would be exciting, don’t forget that this type of action requires approval from other faculty, school administration, and parents. Approach the school principal to discuss how the program will be implemented and its benefits to students. After receiving approval from the administration, approach other teachers to discuss how the program will work and the requirements for older students to become mentors.
Entering a student mentorship as a mentor should be packaged as a reward for older students who excel academically or overcame hurdles in their own education. Once students who embody these preliminary traits are identified, reach out to student mentorship candidates and parents. Identify the students who would greatly benefit as mentees and contact the parents of those children. Once the student mentorship program is in place, teachers can reach out to mentors as a resource to uncover ways to help mentees in class. Through building these relationships, students will retain information and teachers can gain insight into how to best help students.