Why be a mentor?
The question in the headline is one of many posed by people who consider signing up for this weekly volunteer activity of mentoring.
Another way to ask the questions is, “How does mentoring help the student?”
It’s a good question, and most of the time, the outcomes — better social skills, fewer dropouts, better academic performance — are anecdotal.
Since the program began in Fredericksburg schools in 1992, with a history that includes mentors who began with very young students whom they saw through high school, maybe the best answer is to put the question another way: “Why not mentor?”
If a willing, interested adult can meet with a student for an hour or less once a week, and it benefits the student in some way, why not?
The question and answer list below is meant to address the concerns that mentors in the Fredericksburg Independent School District often hear.
Because the FAB board would like to encourage more adults to step in as mentors in the public schools, questions are answered as they come up.
But the board also hosts an orientation and celebration each year at the start of school.
And the public is invited.
This year’s lunch will begin at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6, at the Hill Country University Center.
The session and box lunch are free, but an RSVP to the FAB at 830-990-4595 is requested.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions mentors hear:
How much time does mentoring take? An hour or less each week school is in session.
The exact amount of time depends on which school the mentor goes to. There are four — Fredericksburg Elementary, Middle School and High School, and Stonewall Elementary.
The mentoring period occurs during students’ lunch periods, and times are different on each campus.
How are mentors paired with students? Each campus has a seasoned mentor coordinator who seeks a good match between mentor and student, depending on mentors’ interests/background and student needs.
Establishing a good relationship with the student is key to successful mentoring, and this takes time.
Patience is required.
How are students chosen for the mentoring program? Some are referred by teachers.
Others are requested by parents or guardians.
Why are students referred for mentoring? Reasons are as different as students, but usually because a parent or teacher believes the student would benefit from having a consistent, non-parental influence on an ongoing basis.
Am I expected to be a tutor? No. Mentors provide a consistent presence and are listeners and friends. While student needs vary and some may use the mentoring period to finish homework or ask a question, the mentoring period is normally a place for fun — like reading, discussion and playing age-appropriate games.
I travel during the school year. Is that a problem? No.
With advance notice to the mentoring coordinator, mentoring schedules can be changed.
What if my student brings up a topic that I am uncomfortable discussing? One of the best things that mentors can do is listen carefully and ask questions to make sure they understand what the student is saying.
Mentors are not required to solve problems, although sometimes problems are solved just by listening.
Also, mentor coordinators are on-site and available to answer questions or help with challenging situations.
Do you provide training? The once-a-year orientation and celebration is a good training session because questions always come up.
And some of the best training occurs on the job.
But the FAB board recognizes the need for additional training opportunities and is working on providing a schedule during the 2018-2019 school year for mentors who want more guidance.
Interested volunteers who have questions can bring them to the Sept. 6 orientation/celebration.
Veteran mentors, coordinators and others will be on hand to answer questions.
Thursday, Sept. 6, at 11 a.m. at the Hill Country University Center.
Sessions and box lunch free, but an RSVP to 830-990-4595 is requested.