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Education, Jobs, and Life Skills

Posted by on February 19, 2013

As a mentor, you can have a positive, lasting impact on your mentee’s attitude toward school and the workplace.

To explore mentoring scenarios that have to do with education, jobs, and life skills, read the scenario below that is most relevant to your mentoring relationship:

  • Middle Childhood (ages 7-10): Trouble in school
  • Early Adolescence (ages 11-13): Talking back
  • Adolescence (ages 14-18): Job search frustration

Middle Childhood (ages 7-10): Trouble in School

  • Challenge: Your mentoring program coordinator tells you that despite her best efforts, your nine-year-old mentee’s mother can’t figure out why your mentee’s grades have fallen so low. With the mother’s consent, the program coordinator asks you to talk with your mentee about this issue.
  • Response: The role of a mentor in this situation is to help the mentee talk about what’s happening at school, support her, and work with her to determine how she might get back on track. Help your mentee think about the problem and determine next steps by working through the problem-solving process. Click on the icon below to listen to a response that uses problem solving and active listening.
  • A Note about Your Mentee’s Development (ages 7–10):
    At this age, a mentee’s apparent lack of interest in school could be the result of many factors. As you will see in the dialogue example, children at this age are developing a sense of fairness and can take others’ actions very personally. Your mentee may need support learning how to manage and communicate intense feelings related to justice and injustice. As demonstrated in this scenario, you don’t need to solve the problem for your mentee; rather, you should help her work through the problem by making careful observations and asking appropriate questions.

Remember, it is not a mentor’s role to diagnose learning disabilities or to discipline a mentee. If you have questions about what’s going on with your mentee in school, talk to her caregiver and/or your program coordinator. If you are working in a school-based mentoring program, you’ll discuss these topics with your mentee’s teacher, but you’ll still need to keep the program coordinator in the loop. When in doubt, make sure that you are following your program’s guidelines.


Early Adolescence (ages 11-13): Talking Back


  • Challenge: Your 11-year-old mentee talked back to his teacher and was sent to the principal’s office. He tells you about it during one of your outings.
  • Response: Drawing on the six-step problem-solving process, listed below are some possible questions to ask and things to say to your mentee.
    • “That must have been a frustrating day for you—thanks for telling me about it.”
    • “What do you think happened that caused you to talk back to your teacher? And what do you think might happen next with your teacher?”
    • “How did you feel when it happened? And how did you feel when you were in the principal’s office? I wonder how your teacher and your classmates felt. What do you think will happen when you see your teacher tomorrow?”
    • “I can see that you don’t want this to happen again. Let’s think of some ways that you could respond next time.”
    • “Those are good ideas. Which one do you think will work best to set things right again with your teacher?”
    • “I’m really proud of you for figuring out what to do to avoid another day like this!”
  • A Note about Your Mentee’s Development (ages 11–13)
    Early adolescence can be a turbulent time. Young people this age often experience frequent mood swings and can have a hard time managing and expressing intense feelings. Your mentee could become angry at you for asking questions about what happened at school and for urging him to talk about it. Or he could have had the same experience again the next day with the same teacher. If your mentee has persistently disruptive behavior that leads to trouble with peers or at home or problems in school, it may be a sign that something more serious is going on. Mentors who observe this type of behavior should contact their program coordinator.

Adolescence (ages 14-18): Job Search Frustration

  • Challenge: Your 17-year-old mentee wants to get a job to have more spending money. You and he have discussed what kind of job he’d like to do and what he’d be qualified to do. Since then, he has applied for ten jobs and had a couple of interviews, but wasn’t offered any of the positions. The next time you see him, he’s visibly frustrated and angry.
  • Response: Click the icon underneath the Note below to complete a drag-and-drop activity on how to respond to your mentee’s situation.
  • A Note about Your Mentee’s Development (ages 14–18) 
    At this age, your mentee is developing more defined work habits and thinking more about future schooling and/or work.  A situation like this may be particularly upsetting to your mentee if he senses that there is an underlying injustice. Youth in many communities are having difficulty finding jobs. In low-income communities in particular, work opportunities may be scarce, and jobs that have traditionally been held by teenagers (such as retail or restaurant work) may now be filled by adults. Your mentee knows that earning money and learning to be independent are critical life skills. He may be anxious and angry. In this situation, the most helpful thing you can do is to pay careful attention to your mentee’s feelings and provide encouragement and support.

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