Teammate Tips

How can I be a better mentor?

  • Put your mentee first. During the session, concentrate on his/her needs and problems. Leave yours at the door. Be flexible in your planning. If your mentee has something on his/her mind, drop your plans for the session and focus on the immediate needs.  
  • Be your mentee’s friend, but not a buddy. A “friend” is a person who looks out for your best interest. Therefore, a friend never allows you to do less that your best; a friend does not allow you to shirk responsibilities; a friend does not allow you to do things that will be harmful to you; a friend is not a “back-scratcher.”  
  • Approach your mentee on a basis of mutual respect. Your mentee has experienced many things you have not and has knowledge you have not. Show respect for these things and do not belittle them for things not known or skills not yet acquired.  
  • Take time to get to know your mentee. Some mentees will be very open; others will not. In order to be of the most help, you must gain an insight into behavior. Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer.  
  • Try to have a positive influence on your mentee. The way you feel about life and yourself influences the way you treat other people, and the way you treat other people influences the way they feel about themselves.  
  • Drop the authoritative role. Be an interested human being.  
  • Communicate by transmitting attitudes and feelings. Do this by being yourself; it is more effective than simply to use words.  
  • Use brief remarks. Do not confuse the student with long complicated questions or comments.  
  • Don’t give lectures on the ways to behave. Ask the mentee to suggest alternatives. But allow the mentee to make the decision. Together look at the consequences of the alternatives.  
  • Share common experiences with your mentee, focusing more on the mentee and the mentee’s problem.  
  • Clarify and interpret what the mentee is saying. Use such remarks as “What you are saying to me is…” at other times, make a summarizing remark. But be sure to make these brief interpretations only after the mentee has presented the idea.  
  • Do not be alarmed at remarks made by the mentee. Instead focus on the reason behind what was said or done.  
  • Do not make false promises or reassure the mentee that things will be all right. This will be recognized as superficial. Instead communicate a feeling for the mentee and a desire to see and understand the problem; do not appear to be overly concerned or to assume the mentee’s problem.  
  • Do not make moralistic judgments. Instead focus on what is behind the mentee’s behavior. Ask yourself: “What is there about this person that causes the behavior to occur?” As a mentor do not blame the mentee for failures; try to understand why there has been a failure, accept the failure, and go on from there.  
  • Listen, listen, listen!  
  • Let the student take the lead on what kinds of things you do together.  
  • Gently guide the student into positive habits: finishing what you start, only saying nice things about other people, looking at other perspectives, looking at the positive rather than the negative, etc.   
  • Help the student organize their activities by using an assignment book or daily planner.  
  • Teach the student good study habits, using your personal experiences as an example.  
  • Ask the student to teach you what they are learning by explaining rather than showing.  
  • Remember to praise and encourage your student often.  
  • Teach your student life skills like goal setting, resume writing, job applications and interview, etc. 

What kinds of activities could we do together?

  • Have lunch together
  • Go to recess with the mentee
  • Play outside (shoot hoops, play catch, hopscotch, etc.)
  • Help with a special project in the classroom
  • Attend a special program the child may be involved in
  • Tutoring if the child asks for your help (minimal time)
  • Play board games
  • Read a book
  • Do art (draw, paint, sculpt, etc.)
  • Write a story
  • Play a card game 
  • Write and perform a short skit
  • Keep a journal of your meetings
  • Make greeting, holiday, or get well cards to give to other people
  • Go to the library and research a country they would like to visit. Create a brochure of things you would do while you were there. 
  • Play sports in the gym 
  • Put together a puzzle
  • Plan an activity with another pair of Teammates
  • Create a holiday together
  • Complete a resume together
  • Create a new sport, write down the rules, and play your sport together
  • Bring in the ingredients and a recipe for no-bake treats and make them together
  • Visit a museum by going on the computer and viewing an online exhibit
  • Make and decorate a paper airplane and have a contest
  • Draw a self portrait
  • Learn something new together: how to tie a tie, how to change a tire, etc. 
  • Use graphic organizers when you meet together: use a word web to brainstorm fun things to do together, use a KWHL chart to figure out what the student already knows about something and what they would like to learn, use a Venn diagram to learn about how you and your student are similar and different. 

Meeting over the summer?

Meeting over the summer is optional and should be discussed with the school guidance counselor, or Dr. Austin, before you make plans with your mentee. If you do decide to stay in touch over the summer, here are some ideas to stay connected! 

  • Give your student a few self-addressed, stamped envelopes for him/her to write you a letter.
  • Send your student a postcard from somewhere you travel over the summer.
  • Give your student a disposable camera so they can document their summer fun and share it with you when school is back in session. Perhaps you can even create a scrapbook together when you get back together.
  • Attend an activity your student will be attending over the summer and attend as a spectator.
  • An occasional phone call or email may be appropriate, depending on your relationship.
  • Fill out “journal sheets” and share them when you get back together.
  • Agree on a book you will both read and discuss when you get together.  

 Things to remember...

  • Physical Contact Many of the children we work with have a strong need and desire for positive physical contact with caring adults. You are encouraged to be a positive role model, however, your physical contact should be limited to holding a hand, giving a soft pat on the back or the sharing of a hug in full view of other school officials. Remember that what you see as simple, friendly affection between the student and you may be viewed as something entirely different by someone else.  
  • Confidentiality All information you are told about your student is confidential and sharing that information with others may be a violation of the law. Do not allow yourself to make a promise to a student that you will keep confidential information a secret. Tell the student that they are free to share confidential information with you, however, there are certain things that you are required by law to tell the principal or counselor. There are exceptions to this requirement of confidentiality, and it is critical, not only for the welfare of the student but also to protect yourself from violating the law, that you adhere to these exceptions:
    • If a student confides that he or is the victim of sexual, emotional or physical abuse you MUST notify the principal or counselor immediately. Make a note on your calendar of when this information was reported and to whom it was given. Remember this information is extremely personal and capable of damaging lives, so DO NOT share it with anyone except the appropriate authorities. This includes your best friend.
    • If a student tells you of their involvement in any illegal activity you must tell the principal immediately. Again, make a note on your calendar of when this information was reported and to whom it was given.
  • Set healthy limits on the amount of time you are willing to spend with your mentee and the level of your personal involvement.  
  • Your role is not to “rescue” kids; rather, you are there to be a role model and help them develop skills for effective living.  
  • Mentees may “test” the relationship. They may be unusually rude or irresponsible. This testing behavior may reflect the mentee’s fear of abandonment by significant people. Continuity in the relationship is critical. Some mentees experience inordinate disruption in their lives and may move frequently.  
  • When a mentee does something inappropriate, confront it directly and with sensitivity. Be honest and model an appropriate way to confront your youngster respectfully.  
  • Your mentee may dress, act, talk and look very different from you. Different does not mean better or worse. Making a value judgment based on outward appearance or different styles is probably the most detrimental thing a mentor can do.  


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