Mentoring Handbook/Part III
Intellectual development of the protégé
A mentor should be aware of the intellectual development of his protégé. A mentor may have to help to recognize a need for coaching lessons and a mentor might want to maintain an individual curriculum together with the protégé, both requires an understanding for the developing education and intellectual development of the protégé.
Interesting math problems
The intellectual development of a protégé may benefit significantly from interesting mathematical problems. This may sometimes be quite a challenge for the mentor, especially when a protégé is frequently confronted with uninteresting mathematical exercises and may not easily associate mathematics with interesting topics. The goal of the mentor could be to find problems in the sphere of interest of the protégé that connected to mathematical problems that could present the protégé with challenges that matched his mathematical skills. This could be seen as a continual challenge throughout secondary education as long as the protégé could be seen to benefit from the additional motivation. A source of interesting math problems can, for example, be hard science fiction (only for a protégé interested in science fiction, of course).
- See also: Individual curriculum: Logic (Assistant teacher course, Wikiversity)
- The protégé is uninterested in a topic
- Find something that is interesting to the protégé and proceed from there. This can either be something new or something that has been sufficiently interesting in the past. If there's no connection to what you intended to do or intended to talk about then you may have to accept that for the moment. A mentor should aim primarily to be an adviser to his protégé in topics relevant to the protégé and only secondarily provide further motivation for topics seen as relevant for the protégé by the mentor. A mentor could make it a habit to delay replies frequently with the comment that he needed to think about the matter. This could also be used as an opportunity to combine topics relevant to the protégé with important issues the protégé wasn't prepared to accept as relevant.
Community building as a mentor means you want to introduce your protégé to people who are interesting or relevant to him or her. If the community your protégé would like does not exist you can help to build it. If you are member of an organization that can make this task much easier. The organization may have other members who have similar problems and can join you, it may be able to provide contacts outside the organization or it may just provide a name so people can contact you with more confidence; the organization may have a reputation your mobile phone number hasn't. Community building can be eased if you have access to a local area wiki or you can organize one. In this case you could see it as an obligation to be available as a mediator or administrator in the wiki, especially if it is mostly frequented by younger pupils.
A mentor can offer coaching lessons but more importantly a mentor should recognize the need for coaching lessons early and private tutors. There is actually a drawback if a mentor joins or provides coaching lessons him - or herself. A pupil who needs coaching lessons may not like to learn the subject matter. If the mentor has no near-perfect solution for the problem he may strain the relationship towards his protégé unnecessarily. To recognize the need for coaching lessons a mentor may have to talk to the teachers of his protégé once in a while; this is where a mentoring organization may become useful. Without an organization behind him the mentor could be seen as just another pupil.
A mentor can try to provide an individual curriculum to his or her protégés. An advantage of writing down an individual curriculum for a protégé is that parents, protégé and mentor can agree on at least one goal of the mentorship. A more formal approach can help to make sure a mentorship doesn't disappoint expectations. To agree on an individual curriculum the mentor could discuss with the protégé what he or she would like to learn and then try to refine the wishes of the protégé so that the curriculum gets sensible connections to either school education, vocational education or other areas of general education. If a protégé could choose topics for school projects (e.g. qualifying projects) that may, for instance, be a good connection between the goals of an individual curriculum and school education. Of course, a mentor could also interview parents and try to include some of their wishes into an individual curriculum.
Examples for interdisciplinary subjects or subjects that may easily connect with the curriculum but which may not be commonly available are astronomy, electronics, nutritional science, human biology / medicine, microscopy, robotics, technology, psychology, philosophy, agricultural science, citizenship education and uncommon languages.
- See also: Individual curriculum (Assistant teacher course, Wikiversity)
A mentor may not be particularly qualified to give parenting advice but he may have attended a parent education course and may be able to give useful advice as an outside observer who may be able to notice, for instance, the force of habit in a family.
Of course one could see parents in need of parent education, in a way, as protégés but it is probably undiplomatic to use the actual term; a mentor may nevertheless recognize a similar moral obligation. The obligation can be better addressed by an organization in the form of parent education courses and, where necessary, withdrawing a parenting driver's license.
Intercultural competence in the family
Intercultural competence in the family is the idea to give the world views and views in a family a name and to reveal the inherent problems on the way. To make this more funny one can look for long, amusing names with a lot of dashes to describe all of the relevant world views and views of somebody's "personal culture". Names should contain some components that give them the appearance of philosophies, which should, of course, try to approximate the established meaning where possible. This way discrepancies and disagreements can be revealed as a side-effect and a mentor can help the family members to mediate on a more formal level between the individual "cultural backgrounds" of the family members. This isn't restricted to families that actually have an intercultural background. Teenagers can have quite different views than adults but teenagers may also easily disagree with other teenagers or adults may disagree with other adults in their world views and views.
What can also be interesting for a mentor is to collect the views of family members about other family members. Disagreements between the self-description of family members and descriptions given by others can also be very revealing. Mentors can try this out within the mentoring organization with other mentors they know well enough or within their own families. To allow mentors to learn about the potential of this method a mentoring organization should offer advice and the chance for experimentation. A mentor also needs a certain knowledge of advisable terms to be able to help phrasing names for "personal cultures".
An individual questionnaire for protégé and parents, written by the mentor, may be a good way for the mentor to assess the situation of a protégé and, by the way, for the parents to notice what the mentor had thought of or was prepared to notice. This may be quite interesting for parents with curiosity about the thinking of the mentor.
One step further the mentor could use this again to provoke the parents into asking questions or inquiring about blatantly missing questions in the questionnaire. A mentor could, for example, begin with an inferior questionnaire and on request remark "Ah, so you want to see the other one?" and present a serious effort. An inferior questionnaire should not try to be too funny but could fail to address interesting issues or fail to address the interesting issues in a sensible way. Parents may, of course, politely fill in a silly questionnaire, thinking the mentor may not be able to do better, so there is nothing wrong if the mentor has a second sheet after the first questionnaire, possibly with the comment: "Well, actually you were meant to throw that away"
A good mode for filling out the questionnaires may be to have both parents (and, possibly, the protégé) fill out the questionnaires at the same time without mutual consultation, except where they insisted on consultation or on answering verbally and not in writing. The offer to answer some questions verbally should probably be an explicit option of the questionnaire. A mentor would have to show diplomacy and tact in deciding what belonged on a questionnaire and what should be discussed instead, when in doubt the offer to answer some questions verbally may be helpful.
Should a mentor take an interest in the family situation of a protégé at all? Is the family situation sufficiently important for the upbringing and education of a protégé? What else is?
A mentor discovering a scarcity of natural mentors in the social environment of a protégé should educate the protégé to become an autodidact?
A sufficiently large and well-organized mentoring organization could organize their own summer camps, a smaller group could evaluate interesting summer camps, join the organizers of choice and recommend the summer camps to their protégés and the friends of their protégés.
As with summer camps a mentoring organization could either offer a summer school or join the organizers of choice in their efforts, both for remedial instruction and for advanced topics (e.g. in relation to the individual curricula of their protégés).
Computer games can be an important topic for mentors. The reason is that computer games may consume a lot of time and can have a significant influence on the protégé. Adults may also often not be able to stay sufficiently informed about recent computer games so a teenage mentor may be the only adviser for a protégé, concerning computer games, who has a much different focus than other game players.
While violent games do not make children violent, at least not in general, computer games can make people nervous and hectic through stimulus satiation, can provide people with a frequent feeling of success and can have an influence on a person's attention span. A sense of achievement can be used for beneficial goals or it can be used for plain entertainment. The attention span can be influenced in a positive or in a negative way. Computer games can also train many different skills and can provide intellectual challenges. Whether positive effects or negative effects prevail depends on the selection of games a child or teenager plays. Many teenagers make choices about games themselves and without any advice, except from other gamers who enjoy the same or similar games.
A mentor may not have any authority to influence the choice of games and probably shouldn't aim to gain that authority but a mentor could explain to the protégé what positive effects computer games, edutainment software and other programs can have and what negative effects are conceivable. A mentor could also keep informed about the favorite games of his protégé and advise the parents about the games and alternatives. This can, of course, easily be taken too far. If the protégé would get the impression that the mentor was using his parents to exert indirect pressure that could unnecessarily strain the relationship between protégé and mentor. The primary goal of the mentor should be to give advice, not to attain goals of his own.
Many games may remain interesting for a player after the intellectual challenge has gone. A mentor could try to keep an eye on the current games of his protégé and actively recommend new games or different activities (if gaming had become too prevalent).
A protégé with a strong interest in computer games probably needs a mentor with a similar interest, otherwise a mentor may just be unable to give sufficiently informed advice. The mentor should, of course, put mentoring over gaming or the protégé may just have met another gamer, which is not to say that the mentor shouldn't play some computer games with the protégé on occasion.
A portal with an emphasis on the educational aspects of computer games is available in the education wiki at wikia.
- See also: Game psychology (wiki.laptop.org)