Mentor: “One Who Thinks & Shares Thoughts with Others?”

January is National Mentoring Month. We will be posting articles of interest through out the month. This article from The Chronicle of Evidence Based Mentoring, published November 11, 2014, explores the meaning of the words “mentor” and “mentee.”

By  November 11, 20140 Comments

Why a syndicated columnist struggles with the terms “mentor” and “mentee”

Editor’s note: Here’s some thoughts for those of us who have struggled somewhat with using “mentor” as a verb, and replacing protege with “mentee,”

From the Christian Science Monitor

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 10.41.11 AMThe Monitor’s language columnist has made peace with ‘mentor’ as a verb; ‘mentee’ as the term for the one being mentored, not so much.

By Ruth Walker OCTOBER 23, 2014

A professional organization to which I belong has long struggled to establish a mentoring program for its members.

I suspect we’re not alone. It can be hard to find people of a certain breadth and depth of experience willing to commit to working long term to help someone more junior find the right professional path.

But beyond that, there are those – found disproportionately within the “breadth and depth” crowd, I suspect – who have trouble with mentor as a verb.

Lucy Ferriss, at the Lingua Franca blog, commented recently that a new writing project has taken her “deep into the fields of business and finance” where “at every turn” she has been encountering mentor and – gasp! – mentee. “I confess publicly here, and with no small amount of shame, that these terms irritate me, as if someone’s placing a guiding hand on the back of my neck every time either of them comes up.”

Those whose breadth and depth extend to the Greek classics, as Ms. Ferriss’s clearly do, recall that Mentor was the friend whom Odysseus asked to keep an eye on his son, Telemachus, while Odysseus was off fighting the Trojan War. And sometimes Athena disguised herself as Mentor to counsel Telemachus and keep an eye on the suitors trying to make moves on Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, in his absence. (Maybe my professional group would have less trouble if we could promise prospective mentors they could pass off some of the heavy lifting to the Greek goddess of wisdom.)

Mentor certainly makes for an apt figurative usage – after all, Mentor actually did mentor Telemachus. And I accept that nouns, even proper nouns, can become verbs.

My own quibble with the mentor thing is that there’s no perfect term for the junior partner in the relationship.

Mentee is the word that’s often used; it has made it into at least some dictionaries. But it sounds like the name of those sea creatures that fooled love-starved sailors into thinking they were seeing mermaids, doesn’t it? And it comes close enough to the French word meaning “to lie,” in the mendacious sense (mentir), that mentee suggests “someone who has been sold a bill of goods.”

My real gripe with mentee, though, has been that it suggests that those who use it think mentoris an “agent noun,” referring to a “doer” of some imagined action, “menting.” A “mentor” is one who “ments,” in other words. (Compare lessor and lessee, for instance.)

The Online Etymology Dictionary has this to say in its entry for mentor, which came into English as a noun around 1750: “the name appears to be an agent noun of mentos,” meaning “intent, purpose, spirit, passion.” Mentor is related to a Sanskrit word meaning “one who thinks,” and to the Latin monitor, “one who admonishes.”

So maybe a mentor is “one who thinks,” and by extension, shares thoughts with others. I’m still not sold, though, on mentee.

Categories: Academic, Commentary, National Mentoring Month | Leave a comment

How to Create a Strong Relationship

January is National Mentoring Month. We will be posting articles of interest through out the month. This article from The Chronicle of Evidence Based Mentoring, published December 12, 2014, tells why a strong working alliance makes a difference in mentoring relationships.

By  December 12, 20140 Comments

Findings highlight importance of quality mentor-mentee relationships

Larose, S., Chaloux, N., Monaghan, D., & Tarabulsy, G. M. (2010). Working Alliance as a Moderator of the Impact of Mentoring Relationships Among Academically At‐Risk Students. Journal of Applied Social Psychology40 (10), 2656-2686.


In this study, Simon Larose and his colleagues explored the role of the working alliance in mentoring relationships—predicting that more positive working alliances between mentees and mentors would be associated with improved academic adjustment and achievement. Working alliance is a technical term for the quality of the relationship  Researchers have found that (1) a friendly, respectful bond; (2) agreement on goals; and (3) agreement on tasks designed to achieve these goals can lead to strong alliances.


High-risk students at a Canadian public college were randomly assigned to either an educational program with a mentoring component or a no-treatment control group. The program consisted of a community volunteering component, as well as bi-weekly individual mentoring.


Students and mentors who had strong agreement on goals and felt that there was positive bonding were more likely than other mentored students and non-mentored students to improve in:

  • participation in class
  • disposition to seek help from teachers
  • school persistence.

Conclusion and Implications

Developing a strong working alliance in a mentoring relationship is critically important for effective mentoring. Mentored students with a strong working alliance benefitted more from mentoring than other mentored students and the control group.
The authors suggested that agreement on goals is especially important because it establishes trust, mentees’ sense of ownership in the process, and their feelings of efficacy when mutual, reasonable goals are reached. This may give mentees a sense of ownership in the mentoring process.

summarized by UMass Boston clinical psychology student Max Wu.

Categories: Academic, Mentoring Ideas, National Mentoring Month, Support | Leave a comment

Boys: Disclosing Feelings a Waste of Time

January is National Mentoring Month. We will be posting articles of interest through out the month. This article from The Chronicle of Evidence Based Mentoring, published December 16, 2014, tells why girls disclose more than boys and the implications for those who mentor boys.

By  December 16, 20141 Comments

Why are boys less likely to disclose their problems: Implications for mentoring

0319061237Rose, A. J., Schwartz‐Mette, R. A., Smith, R. L., Asher, S. R., Swenson, L. P., Carlson, W., & Waller, E. M. (2012). How Girls and Boys Expect Disclosure About Problems Will Make Them Feel: Implications for Friendships. Child Development83(3), 844-863.


One of the strongest findings in the sex differences of friendships is that girls tend to disclose more than boys (Rose & Adolphs, 2006). Although these findings have been consistently replicated in many studies, less work has been done in understanding and explaining this difference. One might predict that girls expect relief from receiving validation and support when disclosing emotional problems, whereas boys may fear embarrassment to a greater extent than girls.

These hypotheses were tested by Rose et al. (2012) in middle childhood and mid-adolescent boys and girls (ranging from 8 to 17 years old). Participants read vignettes in which they encountered stressful situations, such as being bullied. They then reported on their expectations if they disclosed the problem to friends, and whether they would disclose at all.  The major findings in the study were:

1) Girls endorsed positive expectations (feeling cared for, being understood) more strongly than boys did. Girls were more likely to feel that disclosure will lead to feeling better about themselves, strengthen their connections to others, and help resolve the problem itself. These positive expectations lead to girls’ greater amount of disclosure to friends.

2)  Boys did not endorse negative expectations of being embarrassed or worried about being teased more strongly than girls did. However, boys were more likely to feel “weird” and that they were wasting time.

These differences in expectations helped to explain girls’ greater disclosure to friends.


Why boys feel it’s “weird” to disclose (and what they mean by that term) should be explored in future research, but  gender roles may be coming into play.  Boys may be value toughness more than girls, even as early as middle childhood.

Future studies may consider why boys feel that they are “wasting time” in disclosing problems to friends. The authors raised the possibilities that boys may feel that sharing ambiguous problems with friends who cannot help the situation instrumentally, or even that talking about the problems takes away from other possible stress relief, such as leisure activities.

Mentors working with boys should provide safe, non-stigmatizing contexts for boys’ to discuss their problems, providing reassurance that problems are a normal part of life and that sharing them can be a constructive way of resolving them.

Summarized by UMass Boston graduate student Max Wu

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Using Best Practices to Ensure a Quality Youth Mentoring Program

January is National Mentoring Month. We will be posting articles of interest through out the month. This article from The Chronicle of Evidence Based Mentoring, published January 7,  2015, summarizes why evidence-based mentoring programs (like Best Friends Mentoring Program) are successful.

Separating the wheat from the chaff in youth mentoring

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 4.30.45 PMby Jean Rhodes

Ron Haskins, the co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution recently wrote a New York Times OpEd in which he made a strong case for the use of evaluation and evidence in social programs. As he notes, “Despite decades of efforts and trillions of dollars in spending, rigorous evaluations typically find that around 75 percent of programs or practices that are intended to help people do better at school or at work have little or no effect….[yet] A growing body of evidence shows that a few model social programs — home visits to vulnerable families, K-12 education, pregnancy prevention, community college and employment training — produce solid impacts that can last for many years.”

As Haskins notes the evidence-based movement that is currently being championed by the Obama administration has the potential to “separate the wheat from the chaff. If this movement spreads to more federal programs, especially the big education, employment and health programs supported by formula-based grants, we can expect consternation and flailing as many program operators discover that their programs are part of the chaff.”

The need for evidence-based practice

How can youth mentoring, as a field, ensure that its programs remains part of the wheat? An important step will be for important for programs to adhere to the best practices that have emerged from the growing body of mentoring program research and evaluation. To facilitate this, MENTOR will soon release the 4th edition of the Elements of Effective Practice (EEPM4). With its long history and bright red cover, EEP has taken an almost iconic place in the field, easily the most recognizable resource that MENTOR provides. As with the EEPM3, the development and writing of the EEPM4 was led by myself along with Janis Kupersmidt, and Rebecca Stelter of iRT. Our core group also included the expert assistance of Michael Garringer and Stella Kanchewa, along with the collective wisdom of a core set of research and practices leaders in the field.

There are four major components of the EEPM4: Standards, Benchmarks, Enhancements, and the Research Justifications for each of the standards. In contrast to previous versions, EEPM3and EEPM4 are grounded entirely in research from the fields of mentoring and child development and beyond. For example, the EEPM4 includes an extensive new section on mentor recruitment, drawn from the fields of volunteerism and marketing. Practitioners have thus far responded quite positively to the clear, parsimonious, and well-justified set of guidelines, and the EEPM4 will continue to move the field toward more evidence-based practice. In the years ahead, there will be many opportunities for practitioners and researchers to extend the Elements with specific tools that help programs adhere to evidence-based standards that, when rigorously applied, will yield much larger effects.

Along these lines, the Mentoring Resource Center has a vital role to play in ensuring program’s identification and adherence to best practice. Likewise, the EEP3/4 team has developed and evaluated a dynamic set of web-based tools that correspond with the EEPM3 (and will incorporate EEPM4). The training, hosted on Mentoring Central, contains two, five-lesson courses that cover prematch topics that align with research on effective mentoring relationships including “Building the Foundation” (e.g., mentor’s motivations/expectations, roles, behaviors) and “Building and Maintaining the Relationship” (e.g., ethics and safety, boundaries, closure). Results of experimental evaluation of the training have been extremely promising and, as far as we know, it represents the only evidence-based training for youth mentoring currently available. Additional program derivatives and post-match specialized training lessons are underway and a companion in person training protocol focusing on behavioral skills training has  been developed to complement the pre-match web-based training course.

For investments in mentoring to be grow, these and other resources will play a vital role. They will ensure more consistent adherence to the practices outlined in the EEPM4 and facilitate the use of research to guide program improvement and innovation.

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What Matters Most in Mentoring Relationships

January is National Mentoring Month. We will be posting articles of interest through out the month. This article from The Chronicle of Evidence Based Mentoring talks about what matters most.
By  January 1, 20150 Comments

Time and trust trump all: An examination of social capital, race and class in mentoring relationships

What’s in a relationship? An examination of social capital, race and class in mentoring relationships

Gaddis, S. (2012). What’s in a relationship? An examination of social capital, race and class in mentoring relationships. Social Forces, 90 (4), 1237-1269.

Summarized by UMB doctoral student Laura Yoviene


The concept of social capital has been widely identified as an important aspect of mentoring relationships. A mentor can provide valuable connections to young people, as well as knowledge and information that can open doors and lead to positive youth outcomes. In this paper, Gaddis investigates the factors that could lead to the kinds of mentoring relationships that open doors for young people. These factors included:

1) Amount of time spent together in a relationship

2) Racial similarity in a match

3) Youth’s level of trust for their mentor

4) Social class difference in a match

5) Closure/communication between parent and  mentor


Gaddis analyzed a random sample of 355 youth – mentor matches in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America Program (BBBSA) to determine how characteristics of relationships contributed to both academic success (grade point average (GPA), time spent on homework) and deviant behavior (self-reported alcohol and drug use).


The amount of time that mentors and youth spent together in a relationship (as measured through frequency of meetings and duration of relationships) was related to increases in students’ GPA.Trust in the mentor  was related to decreased deviant behaviors. In particular if a mentor made and kept promises teens showed decreased alcohol use.  Racial similarity in a mentor-mentee match and communication between parents and mentors showed very limited positive effects for the youth, whereas social class differences did not appear to have any influence.


In conceptualizing social capital, Gaddis suggests that the amount of time spent in a mentoring relationship and the level of trust placed in the mentor are the most important facets of a relationship to foster when aiming to create social capital.

Although social class differences was not associated with outcomes, Gaddis suggests that it may still be important aspect of social capital that warrants future research as mentors of higher social class may provide information about college or employment to which the youth  may not otherwise have access.

Categories: Academic, National Mentoring Month, Support, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to Succeed with your New Year’s Resolutions:

From Pamela, our Development Coordinator:


I have a great deal of personal experience with self-help, self-improvement and motivational media.  I have an extensive library of books, audio-books, CDs and workshop hand-outs which I’ve collected over the years—and, at this point, I feel you can trust my wisdom on resolutions as much as you can trust anyone’s.  (Though I have low self-esteem, which probably explains my interest in the field.)  As a personal aside, one of my resolutions for some future year is to write my own motivational book.

But, too much exposition.

I will compose this in an outline style, since most self-help books are written that way.  (Coherent paragraphs are harder to write and take longer to read.)

There are two basic types of resolutions:

  1.  To Stop Doing Bad Things
  2. To Start Doing Good Things

Whether you’re going with “A” or “B”, (the Content) there are two steps to succeeding in keeping your New Year’s resolutions (the Process):

Step I = Brainstorming/Sober Reflection, Planning, Strategizing, and Writing Them Down.

Step II = Moving Forward, Overcoming Obstacles, Recovering from Slips From The Plan, and, finally, Achieving Your Outcomes, i.e., Succeeding With Your Resolutions.

And On To Step I!

This is the Time!  The end is coming!  Every day after December 15 is an increment in the Death March to the tragic End of the Year.  But, if you’re like me, you’re filled with new hopes and aspirations from December 15 to January 3, or whatever January day you have to go back to work (depending on the calendar.)

So, Step I.

Brainstorming:  I don’t have the hubris (or the self-esteem) to try to influence the content of your resolutions—merely the process.  But making the RIGHT resolutions is a critical concern.  They must be exciting, inspiring and do-able, with a realistic deadline attached to each one.

NOTE:  One of the most important phrases you will ever see (you will never hear it, because it’s in Latin) is homo faber.  Usually translated as “man makes” or (“homo sapiens makes”).  It’s important to mention this here, because as far as your initial consideration of resolutions, you’re probably looking at one of three types of “making”:

1)      Creating

2)      Building

3)      Achieving/accomplishing or increasing some positive aspirational intention

As far as the Planning and Strategy stages of Step I, I say to each his/her own, and that’s entirely up to you.  Whatever floats your boat and gets you to the dockage of a succinct, clear set of resolutions, whether they’re “stopping” or “starting” ones.

Writing Them Down—with deadlines for each, and including benchmarks and milestones, if that’s encouraging for you–is the only fun part of the whole making-resolutions field of endeavor, so set aside a whole day for that—take a vacation day if you have to!  You have a ton of really hard work ahead of you.


NEXT, And Coming Soon To This Blog:  Moving Forward With Your Resolutions All The Way To Success!

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Talk to Kids about the News

January is National Mentoring Month. We will be posting articles of interest through out the month. This article from The Chronicle of Evidence Based Mentoring talks about the importance of talking with kids about the news: it improves their reasoning skills!

By  January 2, 20150 Comments

Conversation about news improves children’s reasoning: Implications for mentors

Happy Mixed Race Father and Son Playing with Paper Airplanes in

Posted by  on 

U. BUFFALO (US)—Taking the time to talk to children about current events like the Gulf Oil spill—and using mathematical terms to do so—can help them develop better reasoning and math skills and perform better in school, especially in more affluent households.

“When families chat about societal issues, they often create simple mathematical models of the events,” says Ming Ming Chiu, professor of learning and instruction at the University at Buffalo.

“Unlike casual chats, these chats about societal issues can both show the real-life value of mathematics to motivate students and improve their number sense.”

The findings are based on data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which collected almost 110,000 science test scores and questionnaires from 15-year-olds from 41 countries, including 3,846 from the U.S.

The research, published in the current issue of Social Forces, is the first international study to show how conversations among family members affect students’ mathematical aptitude and performance in school.

Family chats about society and current events are uncommon, regardless of ethnic background or level of affluence, Chiu says.

“They occur less than once a month for 58 percent of the children in the 41 countries. Students in richer countries, richer families, or with two parents do not have more family chats about societal issues than other students do.”

However, Chiu’s findings conclude that the impact of chats and other family involvement is much greater in more affluent countries than those in developing countries. So these discussions often do more good in families within richer countries.

“In rich countries, most students have rulers, books, calculators and other physical resources, but they do not spend much time with their parents (family involvement),” he says, “So family involvement becomes more important to student learning in richer countries.”

Parents [and mentors] can enhance family chats in a several ways:

  • When chatting about current social and political events, create simple mathematical models to allow children to use their basic math skills in a concrete way that not only gets them to practice their math faculties, but also shows how math can help put the world in a more understandable context.
  • Use familiar terms to describe quantities. For example, ask children to estimate how many gallons of oil it would take to fill up their house, apartment, or swimming pool.
  • Ask for and listen to children’s ideas about current events to improve reasoning skills.
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Holiday Volunteering Helps Everyone

Marena and Nellie enjoyed volunteering with Santa.

From Kris, our executive director:

Your Best Friends Mentoring Program depends on more than 200 volunteers each year to ensure the success of this mentoring program that serves at-risk youth in our community of southwest North Dakota. Volunteering helps not only the youth and families we serve; volunteering also brings health benefits to the volunteers!

Read more at Hands Up Holidays (, then give Best Friends Mentoring a call at 701-483-8615 or email

Have you ever felt good after doing something positive for someone? You are not alone! Studies show that not only is volunteering beneficial to those you help, but you can be healthier too!

Studies carried out over the past twenty years have reached some remarkable conclusions:

  • Volunteering and physical well-being are part of a positive reinforcing cycle
  • Individuals who volunteer live longer
  • The best way to prevent poor health in the future, may be to volunteer
  • Volunteering leads to greater life satisfaction and lower rates of depression
  • Older volunteers tend to receive greater health benefits from volunteering

The study does not speculate why these benefits arise, but we are willing to hazard some guesses:

  • Perhaps it is being part of a cause that is important to us
  • Perhaps it is through the meaningful interaction with new people, that we as social creatures crave
  • Perhaps it is through the sense of purpose and fulfilment that volunteering brings
  • Or perhaps it is simply the warm glow from a person who has also benefited from our time, skills and care

In the end, the reason is less important than the outcome. Find a cause, help others and lead a richer, longer and healthier life!

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What do you REALLY remember about Christmas?


From Pamela, our Development & Volunteer Coordinator:


If you’ve managed to get older than 30, you may sometimes doubt if your childhood memories of Christmas are entirely genuine.  (Possibly distorted by the media or rose-and-green tinted glasses?)

But if you sit in a quiet place, squint your eyes and focus your mind, I guarantee that a few vivid Christmas memories—or sensations and feelings—will show up.  Ones that really do belong to you, ones that authentically happened when you were much shorter and weighed less than 60 pounds.  Here are a few of mine:

FLAVORS—Oyster dressing, gingerbread boys, peppermint hard candy, gravy with white lumps, jello molds with cottage cheese and nuts, sweet potatoes with syrup sauce, peas with little onions, spritz cookies, deep chocolate fudge, applesauce spice cake with cherries on top.

SMELLS—Evergreen resin, wood and smoke from the fireplace, things baking at the wrong time of the day, bayberry candles, and especially, the gust of new-plastic smell you get when you open the boxes with your name tag under the tree.

SIGHTS—Broken ornaments on the floor, round little jingle bells, distracted and frenzied cats racing around, poinsettias in the dining room, brass angel candlesticks, the scary, creepy thing screwed into the trunk of the Christmas tree to hold it up, the nasty fabric with fake snow and glitter on the floor around the tree, watching Christmas specials on TV with other people.

FEELINGS—Getting my hair curled and ribbons put on it, wearing special outfits made of strange fabrics, tight shoes, not recognizing myself in the mirror, dizziness looking at hundreds of bright, blinking lights, being kissed by a lot of old people.

SHEER JOYS—Writing a list of presents I want, five feet of new snow outside, just loving the thick ice on our driveway, laughing when I slip and fall on it, feeling slightly dizzy and faint with happiness when I first see all the presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

I know if I just allow these recollected memories to shimmer through my mind for a few minutes, I’ll feel oddly happy.  (It’s the side effect of children’s “innocent happiness” hormones–exclusively enjoyed by those under 10–which forever affect everyone’s childhood memories, mine included.)  These hormones help children’s minds fasten on the most pleasing parts of annual traditions.  They’ve probably enhanced my childhood Christmas memories, which I hope to keep stored safely in my memory bank for a very long time.

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Giving Thanks: ideas for mentors and mentees

Thanksgiving is just a day away and it’s never too late to practice expressing thanks. Try these ideas from our friends at G0-Mentor ( in Durham, N.C.

Take advantage of this opportunity to talk about what you & your mentee are thankful for. On our Pinterest page, we have different activities centered around gratitude for all age levels. You can make Thankful Turkeys, create a gratitude journal for the month, take the 30-day gratitude photo challenge, or even talk about these things while playing a game or sport.

Here’s the link for Thanksgiving activities:


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