I’m feeling rather sad and at a loose end! Mentoring provides you with a purpose, something different from your everyday routine and gives you an enormous boost of enthusiasm, self worth and happiness. The happiness comes from knowing that you are passing along helpful tips and advice, which will hopefully be of use to the mentees in the present and future.
The other side of the coin is that you are part of a process, which is looking to develop much needed skills, confidence and self worth in the student. It is all about fulfilling the aim of making the mentees aware of his/her strengths and how to cultivate them to ensure the best result in their young age and also in the future when they will be strong, confident and independent individuals.
These 6 weeks have been really amazing. You witness the mentees going from strength to strength and you take pleasure from their curiosity about life, the future, their learning environment and also their curiosity about why us mentors volunteer our time to go into schools to work with students.
Last week we worked on presentations and explored the makings of a good or bad presentation and what most people expected when listening to a presentation. The mentees then took the plunge by presenting their work to the rest of the group.
This week’s session would be following on from last weeks learning. The mentees would be developing their skills in debating and this protective and measured environment would provide an opportunity for the mentees to hone their methodical and logical thinking skills as well as planning skills.
In previous mentoring sessions the mentees engaged in informal debates by way of poor listening skills, hyperactivity, shouting over each other and strong opinions. The aim of this planned debating session, was to debate in a controlled environment with some unchangeable boundaries, with acceptable and non-acceptable conduct.
If you recall, back in session 1 and 2, we asked the mentees if there were any hot topics that really interested them or that they felt strongly about. We had a few suggestions relating to politics, religion and society. Over the 5 sessions, we assessed the topics, which elicited an opinion from even the most quietest and shy of mentees.
We split the group into two and gave them each a topic. Within their groups we asked them to form two opposing teams, whereby allowing each team to concentrate on formulating points designed to support the pros and/or the cons.
The reason I decided to split the group into teams was so that the mentees wouldn’t end up shouting over each other and get confused. I wanted them to coherently formulate ideas, which could be understood, appreciated and debated, without having long stretches of silence and confused inconsistent discussion within the groups.
Each group was allocated two mentors and they spent some time discussing the makings of a good debate as well as the art of listening, arguing your point without being violent, abusive or offensive:
- Do your research accurately, note down the points that you want to make and ensure that they make sense and follow on from each other, rather than jumping from one end of the spectrum to the other!
- Make regular eye contact with the opposition
- Look and sound confident and sure of what you are saying
- Don’t mumble when speaking
- Be succinct and precise
- Plan what you want to say but allow room for flexibility
- Stay positive 🙂
- Don’t shout over someone else who is speaking
- DO NOT BE OFFENDED IF SOMEONE DOESN’T SHARE YOUR VIEWS!!
The mentees understood what was required of them for this exercise, however more than once a couple of the boys said if they thought of something to say, they would just shout it out, rather than, remember what they wanted to say and waiting for a suitable entry point to make their comment.
The groups and the teams within those groups were mixed, so each team would at least have one girl. From previous sessions, I found that a girl in each team had a calming affect and it also ensured the completion of the task and accurately written notes.
The two topics were:
- Death Penalty
- Trying Juveniles as Adults
As we didn’t have much time for the debate session, so we split each group into two teams and requested that they not swap over into another team. The teams had 25 minutes to discuss their ideas, make notes and anticipate what types of things the opposing team might say to counteract their submission.
My co-mentors and I spent the next 25 minutes checking on the teams to ensure they were on the route to success!! The aim was to slow down their thought process so that they could state their point and respond appropriately to submissions and counter arguments from the opposing team.
The mentees were reminded of last weeks session and the discussion featuring the following:
- Formulate a plan/structure
- Delegate each task identified at the planning stage to a team member
- Confirm thetask each person will carry out
- Discuss what will be required from each team member before and during the debate
- Agree the final structure and draw up a rough cue sheet
- And the most important tool…COMMUNICATION!!
As expected, the planning stage was the most difficult part of this task for the mentees. The mentees found it difficult to do the groundwork before jumping in feet first! We asked the mentees to refer back to the presentation task of last week and try to utilize the techniques they learnt especially for the planning stage.
Finally the time came…to start the debates!
The first group took their place at the front of the class and the two teams sat facing each other…off to a good start then!!
Should juveniles be tried in court as adults for some offences?
The team presenting the arguments in support of this kicked off the debate. Within seconds, a member of the opposing team jumped in with, hey it’s not the juveniles fault he wasn’t taught the right things!!!! This just opened a can of worms…the debate then veered off onto who has that responsibility and what about if the juvenile has been taught but just does not want to listen or even how the environment and society is too blame as well as the government!
I stepped in and asked that the statement at hand be debated as we didn’t have much time and veering off onto a different track will only frustrate and confuse the situation more, especially for those members of your team who are following a prompt sheet!
We restarted the debate and asked the team members to take it in turns to say their points and if they wanted to make a comment on a submission just made, they should raise their hand, so that they could speak without having to shout over others.
The debate went rather smoothly, we had a couple of hiccups, but on the whole, the debate went along the lines of a team making a submission for and the opposing team putting forward a counter argument. It really was very entertaining and also rewarding to watch the mentees produce work of such quality. It just goes to show that no matter what, do not underestimate anyone without having given him or her a real chance with appropriate support to prove themselves :).
The evergreen topic of the death penalty
Having seen the structure and set up of the first group, the second group took heed and arranged themselves in a similar position. They opted to use the same format as group one and present one argument for the topic and then provide a counter argument so that the debate although freestyle, would still have some sort of cohesion to it.
The teams provided some excellent arguments for and against the death penalty. The main argument submitted against the death penalty was related to miscarriages of justice and how it is not possible in every death penalty case to be 100% sure that you have the correct guilty party. The main argument submitted for the death penalty was based on, why should a killer be allowed to live, whilst their victim is dead and the loved ones of the victim will forever suffer from this terrible act.
Today’s session really impressed upon my co-mentors and I, that the work we do with the mentees really does make a difference. They learn so much in such a short time and you are left wondering whether they have taken on board anything at all, but it is in session like last week and today, that you realize how much the mentees actually pick up and put away, to use at a later date!
I really hope that the skills we have enabled the mentees to gain and develop will not have been in vain and that they will be able to utilize these skills for years to come in any situation, whether it be education or the workplace or even in their personal lives.
The aspects that the mentees still need to work on are planning, structure and most importantly LISTENING! The mentees will require some guidance and support, but I know they definitely have the ability to grasp these concepts and use them effectively to better their educational and personal achievements! All it takes is a little push in the right direction and confidence and self awareness will do the rest!! 🙂