|I spent my high school and university years working as a mentor in an Emerging Technologies Program. When I work with kids, I use just one basic principle: I never do anything for them that they could do for themselves. I act as a resource and work to wake kids up to their passions. I cannot give them passion, and I do not give them any answers. They must find passion and answers themselves. |
When working with kids, we focus on answering these questions:
- What do you want?
- What do you have?
- What do you need?
- Where are you going to get it?
- What will you do with it?
What do you want? What someone wants is a good indicator of who they are as an individual. We work to get what we want. Where we work, what we study in order to do that work, who we work with, and what we think about, all create and change our personality.
This is where creating passion comes in. It is the passion to get what you want, and to learn and create that motivates people. By finding out what kids want to do, and then supporting them in every way possible, I facilitate their own learning process. I ask questions to help them find out what they want to do. I encourage them to explore for themselves ways to get what they want. I help them figure out what they want to learn. As I see it, a mentor should transfer responsibility for what has to be learned to the student, because when the student take on the responsibility, they will go beyond what anyone expects.
What do you have? Determining your strengths, talents and skills, whether you're working alone or in a group, is the launch pad for all discovery. Determine what you have within the group itself and work together to share those skills. Knowing what you have is key to knowing what you need.
What do you need? An important step in any project is determining the gap between the resources and information you already have and those that you need to complete the project.
A good mentor can accommodate different learning styles and abilities. The self-directed learners take off at their own pace, once they've been given a start. The ones that need a little or a lot of coaching get what they need because the mentor has time to give it. When I work with large groups, I just move from group to group as the students work, judging the emotional tone of the unit and giving encouragement or guidance as required.
Where are you going to get it? Once you know what you have and know what you need, the next task is to figure out how to access the resources that you need. If you're mentoring a group, often, the information is there in the group. By asking and learning from each other, kids develop trust and confidence. With this confidence, they find it easier to admit that they don't know all the answers, and easier to approach other sources outside the group for help. This gives them great self-assurance and leads them to try an even bigger project next time. Every time they take on a new challenge, they learn something about the world and about themselves.
What will you do with it? Now that you have all the skills and have worked to learn new ones, what will you do with your new found talents? I mentored around emerging technologies, helping kids become passionate about the internet and giving them the resources to learn how to design web pages. The kids I worked with, went on to do web design for real clients. They continued their learning on the job. They developed language and presentation skills, they learned how to interact with clients and meet deadlines, but most important they learned how to share expertise and how to find what they needed. They learned to be mentors and find mentors.
Every time the students met a client or made a presentation of a completed project, they were performing. Performance changes you. It is one of the milestones of life that I think everyone should experience. Practice is fine, but actually getting up and demonstrating what you have learned, be it a piano concerto or your own first Web site, is a life-changing experience. The more performance opportunities we create for kids, the more we help them find what they want, the more they will change, grow and take responsibility for their own lives.