Its the end of the week once again and I find myself wondering where the week runs off too? Having successfully completed the first session last Friday, I thought I had enough time to relax and plan activities for the next few weeks. Alas, that was not to be! The week just ran away and here I am, filled with nerves and armed with my basic but appropriate session plan, hoping our mentees would enjoy the activities. It is this planning malarkey which makes me think about the amount of work teachers and their assistants have to put into planning each session, throughout the whole academic year. Definitely some sympathy sent the way of teachers!
I had called a planning meeting with my co-mentors during the week, so that we could discuss the session plans for the next 5 sessions. Luckily for my co-mentors, I had mentored last academic year and had had a great lead mentor who had given me lots of handy tips. I also had my mentor resource pack, which gave lots of ideas for activities suitable for mentees from years 7 to 11.
The meeting was very productive and we discussed ideas for session’s two, three and four. The advantage of having mentees from year 9 meant that we could concentrate on self-awareness, confidence, public speaking and consequences of choice. Included in this would be handling expectations, learner type, using trigger words/phrases and planning. Session 5 and 6 required very little pre planning as the resource pack gave a plan for session 5 and I had set the wheels in motion for session 6 by asking the mentees to pick 3 hot topics relevant to them. The two most popular ones could be used for session 6 if suitable.
Once at home, I spent a few hours drawing up a session plan for the next 5 weeks. However I knew these plans could change at the last minute depending on how each session progressed and depending on what areas the mentees required more assistance on. I also knew that each activity was not going to be for the duration I had noted down; therefore I had to accept that some activities may not be completed or may spill over into the next session.
It was great to see the mentees ready and waiting before session started, but it took quite a while to actually get them in the right frame of mind for the mentoring session. According to my calculations, each session we would lose a minimum of 10 minutes in trying to settle the mentees down at the start and after each activity. I would have to amend the session plans later on and work on the basis that each session would be 50 minutes instead!
This session’s aim was to introduce team working, verbal communication and planning, to the mentees. Although this session was dedicated to these skills, this would be a recurring theme throughout all the sessions. The rapport building session and session 1 indicated that this was an area of concern and the mentees lacked the appropriate technique and confidence.
The good news was that the homework set last week was completed by 12 out of 20 mentees (Hooray)!! The 8 mentees, who had not done the homework, were grouped together on 2 tables and asked to complete the homework. I assigned a co-mentor to the 8 mentees who would ensure that the homework was being completed and that they were not just having a gossip! Once the mentees completed the short homework task, they then started on the activity the remaining 12 mentees were working on.
I split the remaining mentees into groups, assigned them a mentor and started them off on a group activity – building a tower made of spaghetti, blue tack and a maximum of 6 rulers if required. I asked my co-mentors to look out for signals that the mentees understood the concept of group work, communication and planning. Lo and behold… Each mentee took a supply for themselves and proceeded to build their own spaghetti tower alone… So instead of producing one spaghetti tower per group, it looked as if by the end of the activity we would have 20 spaghetti towers!! Hmmmm mentor invention was needed! My co-mentors took a group each and sat with them. They listened to the mentees discussions and then joined in with some suggestion intended to shift their track of thought to team working!
I had been rather optimistic about this activity being a success. By the looks of it, it wasn’t going to plan and it was looking somewhat unlikely that we would get through all the activities planned for this session. Team work, planning and communication were skills the mentees seemed to lack and no matter how much they were being prompted in that direction, they just weren’t willing to budge!
Finally I had to stop them and explain the activity again and emphasise the importance of team work, planning and communication. I reiterated that each group could only have one spaghetti tower between them and that this could only be built successfully by drawing up/discussing a plan on how the tower should be built and also if each member of the group contributed to the making of the tower. The key to this was communication. If they didn’t speak to each other and discuss ideas then each person was going to do a different thing and there would be no coordination therefore no spaghetti tower.
With 20 minutes to go, I bought the activity to an end, inspected the towers and asked the groups for feedback. The mentee feedback highlighted that they found it difficult to work together, agree on a plan or direction and get tasks completed. The other issue was that the girls did not want to work in mixed groups. They would have preferred to work in a girls only group and if put into a group with boys, they sulked and did not participate fully in the activity.
We had about 15 minutes left before the end of the session, so we could only do one more activity. Instead of asking the mentees to move around, I asked to them to pair up with the person sitting next to them and discuss the questions that I was about to give them. Using an activity from the mentor resource pack, I selected ‘Clean approach to motivation’. The purpose of this activity was to enable mentees to connect with their motivating energy. This activity would allow us to find out what motivated the mentees and what would enhance their learning in future mentoring sessions. If we could identify the motivating factors than maybe the future mentoring sessions could be tailored to achieve maximum mentee involvement and output.
As was expected the mentees discussed most things other than the questions set! It was down to me and my co-mentors to go around to each pair and find out some answers to the questions. Most of the mentees were unable to identify what it was exactly that motivated them. However a few mentees did say they were motivated by money and realised that to make money they would have to work hard at school to ensure they secured good jobs in the future – RESULT!
Before I released the mentees from the session, I asked for some quick feedback. Having done the learner type activity during last session, it was to be expected and was the case, that all the mentees enjoyed building the spaghetti tower, as it was an interactive activity which involved creativity and produced tangible results. The mentees also assured us that they would work harder in the sessions and in their classes at school to improve their ability to work as a team and communicate more effectively.