How do I know if I would make a good mentor?
January is National Mentoring Month
How do I know if I would make a good mentor?
by Angie St. Clair
Program Manager for the Lead4Life, Inc., Washington County Diversion Program Mentoring Initiative
Making holiday gifts
People enter into relationships everyday. Some are voluntary, like friendships, and some are involuntary, like in-laws. How do you know if you are ready to engage in any voluntary relationship? If you know yourself, all your quirks, your passions, your strengths and challenges then you'll know if you would make a good mentor.
I cannot make a Cosmopolitan multiple-choice test to determine: A) You're Super-Mentor material B) You'll do fine or C) Run for the hills, this isn't for you. Instead, I'll give you a list of qualities that an effective mentor possesses. First things first: Do you have the time to be a mentor? I could list 10 useless things I do weekly that take more than an hour; I bet you could too. The Lead4Life, Inc. Mentoring Program requires mentors and mentees to spend an hour a week together for one year. The frequency of meeting weekly is the key to relationship development. We encourage non-monetary activities with mentees like going to a museum, playing a game, sports, fishing, craft making, making a scrapbook, going to the library or exploring a state park. So many of our kids do not have the resources to engage in these activities; mentors help them discover new ideas, talents and interests.
There is no magical number of qualities you MUST have on this list to make a good mentor. If you're reading this blog then you're halfway there!
Top 10 list of qualities that make a good mentor:
Genuine interest in others, caring: Kids are experts at sensing when the people in their lives don't care about them. Our kids are especially keen to this because adults have disappointed them their whole lives.
Be a giver; not a taker: If you are willing to give more than you'll receive from this voluntary relationship, then you'll make a great mentor.
Be loyal; committed: Results from a survey, conducted by the Maryland Mentoring Partnership, of 6th graders in a Baltimore City middle school indicated that kids said the three qualities of a mentor that were most important to them are: cool, fun and do what they say they're going to do. Pretty simple, huh? We all want someone we can depend on.
Getting their craft on
Be a positive person: Pretty self-explanatory - no one wants to be around a Gloomy Gus.
Non-judgmental: Kids are judged by their peers every minute of every day. If you do not subscribe to stereotypical images of at-risk youth, then you'll make a great mentor.
Open Minded: This quality goes hand-in-hand with passing judgment, but also applies to engaging in new activities and learning about things kids are doing now. I recently learned the "Cooking Dance" from one of our kids, a skill I'm sure will pay off at wedding receptions in the future.
Be honest, keep it real: Don't we all appreciate honesty? A young man I worked with once told me, "Ms. Angie I don't care if it's good or bad just be real with me." Our kids can handle a lot, but they don't handle deception well.
Humorous (or at least not dull): The ultimate icebreaker is humor. This doesn't mean you have to be a comedian, but leave the seriousness at work. Conjure your inner child; prepare to look foolish sometimes.
Forgiving: I added this quality because mentors have to understand our kids and their families are not always consistent, they don't always follow the rules, and they may cross boundaries. Our mentors have to be very forgiving of these factors when engaging in a mentoring relationship.
Respectful: In generations past, young people were expected to respect their elders. The youth of today don't totally engage in this philosophy. Respect is earned regardless of age, position or relationship. Mentors must not only give respect to their mentee but their families as well.
Cooking up a storm
If you've got what it takes and would like help make a difference in the life of a young person, please contact me to set up an appointment and get started: Angie St. Clair, Program Manager, 301-791-7314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Angie St. Clair: I am the Program Manager for the Lead4Life, Inc., Washington County Diversion Program Mentoring Initiative. I have been working in the social work field, specifically with teens, for over a decade. I enjoy music, especially the live kind where people actually play instruments, sports, laughing and being outdoors. My most recent accomplishment of earning a spot in this year's fantasy football super bowl is something I'm extremely proud of. I love being a mama and wife and live by the philosophy that you get back what you give in. St. Clair's blog website: http://teenshavechoices.org/2012/01/10/how-do-i-know-if-i-would-make-a-good-mentor/