Support Struggling Students with Powerful Mentor Meetings
Building personal connections is one of the most important components of being a successful teacher. When students know you care, they are more apt to listen to and learn from you. This is especially true for students who are struggling. Mentor Meetings is one classroom management strategy that really works. Partnering students with adults who care is a great way to encourage, build trust, and extend a student’s community.
BENEFITS OF MENTOR MEETINGS
In the past, I’ve used Mentor Meetings in several ways and for several purposes. I found them most beneficial when used as part of a behavior plan or as a way to encourage students. Three of the most successful examples of Mentor Meetings with my students were:
As part of a behavior plan. One year I had an especially difficult student who required a great deal of time and attention. Rather than me always being the one to give her attention or being the disciplinarian, I made a plan for her to meet daily with our guidance counselor.
At the end of the day, she would spend the last five minutes chatting with our counselor, talking about her day, and progress she made on her goals. This provided her with the extra attention she needed and allowed me the time to give other students personal attention as well.
Reconnecting with a former teacher. Several years ago, I had a male student who made incredible gains with his second grade teacher. Not just academically, but also socially. When he left that teacher and moved to third grade, he began showing some negative behaviors that plagued him in kindergarten and first grade.
I spoke to his second grade teacher and set up a weekly mentor meeting for him. After packing up on Fridays, he would head to her room. Because of the time spent together during the previous year, she was able to connect with him on a level I could not. Those meetings at the beginning of the year helped him open up and begin to build trust with me as well.
Providing a male role model. While teaching sixth grade, one of my boys lost his father. He and his dad were extremely close and the loss was devastating. Naturally, he began falling behind in his work and was struggling overall.
My student looked up to a male teacher on another team and I arranged for the teacher to be a mentor. Their meetings varied - sometimes they met for lunch, sometimes they met during recess, and other times they’d meet at the end of the week. While this teacher could never replace the boy’s father, the meetings went a long way in encouraging and supporting him during a difficult time.
WAYS TO MAKE MENTOR MEETINGS WORK
A few tips to making Mentor Meetings work for you:
Set expectations. As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Sending a child to meet with an adult without some sort of plan won’t really benefit the student. Before starting meetings, decide your goal - what do you want your student to get out of the meetings? Discuss your plan and its purpose with your student before meeting with a mentor.
Find a time that works for everyone. If you want the student to stop in at the end of each day, but their mentor always has car duty, the meetings won’t work. Spend some time talking with the mentor to find the exact time and days that will work best for everyone involved.
Find a compatible mentor. This seems obvious, but it’s foundational to making meetings successful. Don’t just pair a student with an adult who has a little extra time. Instead, spend time reflecting on what your student needs and the goals you have for the meetings. Then pair students with the adult who fits both.
Track it. Tracking meetings is a great way to build accountability and show progress. Using a simple form is enough. Before meeting, ask the student to write a sentence or two describing what they plan to discuss during the meeting, what they want to share, or how their week has been. During the meeting, ask the mentor to write a short sentence providing praise or feedback on a goal.
This documentation is also perfect for students going through a Response to Intervention process or those who have a 504. I’ve created an editable version for you to use and listed it in The Treasury.
Just like any other management strategy, Mentor Meetings aren’t a fix-all for every student. However, I’ve found great success using them with students who need a little extra encouragement and support.
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