Think back to your preteen and teenage years and the adults who influenced you most. If you’re lucky, you had one or multiple mentors in your life who encouraged you and cared about your success. We know that students with mentors have better outcomes in life than students without them, but many adults fear they’re ill-equipped to pour into the lives of young people. We sat with Smita Donthamsetty, On-site Program Manager of the Chattanooga Mentoring Collective, to learn the biggest misconceptions about mentoring.
MYTH 1. You need to be a certain age, wise, have all the answers and be perfect.
Just like all of us, children and youth in our city long for authentic relationships. Bringing your good, bad and ugly to a mentorship can allow a young person to know the real you. With that real relationship, a student can gain the understanding that no one is perfect or has all the answers. It’s important for young people to learn that it’s ok to make mistakes. And, more importantly, how to learn and bounce back from your mistakes.
MYTH 2. You’ll spend time trying to change someone who doesn’t want to change.
Your job isn’t to ‘change’ your mentee – but rather to be present and open with them. It’s easy to think of your mentoring relationship as primarily about the mentee, but I find mentors often gain as much from the relationship as the mentee. There’s a lot of mutual value in spending time with someone who is a different age, socioeconomic status and culture than you are.
MYTH 3. You’ll be expected to learn a lot of curriculum and drive the relationship.
Like any friendship, mentoring is two-way. The mentee should have a voice and the ability to choose what you work on together, just as much as the mentor should establish healthy boundaries to protect themselves. Many partners within the Chattanooga Mentoring Collective have goals, objectives and curriculum mentors can use, however these tools should serve as guardrails for developing a healthy relationship.
MYTH 4: You don’t have time to mentor.
Mentoring does take time, but there are a variety of ways you can add value to a student’s life by mentoring. We work with 21 partner agencies and other community groups where you can choose a mentoring option that works for you. Whether one-on-one or in a group, at a school or at a community center, during the day or in the early evenings, multiple times a week or once a month, tutoring or just hanging out – there are so many ways you can get involved. They’re all valuable as long as you’re consistent!
Ready to start making a difference? Sign up to be a mentor today.
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