Mentor recruitment was the topic of our last Coordinators’ Community of Practice call on November 14. We discussed methods for recruitment, obstacles, and successful strategies. Since January is National Mentoring Month, this is perfect timing to summarize our discussion here.
Methods for Recruitment
Methods for mentor recruitment discussed on the conference call included a variety of digital means such as Twitter, Facebook, and school and community websites, as well as good old fashioned word of mouth. We also identified some resources for recruitment planning. The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring is a great source for mentor recruitment efforts. For example, the “program corner” of their January 13, 2013 issue includes the article Using Technology to Improve Mentor Recruitment. In addition, the Mentoring Resource Center published a mentor recruitment guide in 2006: Effective Mentor Recruitment: Getting Organized, Getting Results.
Obstacles to recruiting and retaining mentors that were discussed included conflicts with mentor roles. One coordinator shared that school counselors sometimes think that Check & Connect mentors may be stepping into their territory. This led to a discussion of the importance of role clarity for mentors. A 2013 study by Allen & Mueller described role clarity as one way to prevent volunteer burnout. This study, Two Ways to Prevent Burnout and Attrition, is summarized in the September 16, 2013 issue of the Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring. We also discussed that initial and ongoing training, which clarifies the role of the Check & Connect mentor within the broader school system, is imperative for retaining mentors.
Another conflict can arise when school staff are utilized as Check & Connect mentors in addition to their full-time position. In these cases, staff members such as teachers, special education providers, and counselors serve as Check & Connect mentors for one to five students. These licensed staff members are often very willing to take on this additional role, but time and contract issues can be obstacles. One coordinator offered this solution: Assign one person the task of data collection and completing the “check” part of the monitoring form on a weekly basis. This person compiling the data would likely be a clerical staff person or someone without mentor duties. Then the mentors could use their limited time in this role to share data with students, provide “connect” interventions, and engage with families.
Some general strategies were also shared as we concluded our conversation. These strategies primarily focused on retaining mentors by providing opportunities for ongoing professional development. Coordinators discussed the importance of keeping up with new information and strategies available through the Check & Connect website and the Attend-Engage-Invest blog; blog posts can be used as topics for review and discussion among mentors. One site has weekly professional learning communities (PLC) for its school staff who serve as Check & Connect mentors. These PLC meetings are held at the same time as other district PLC meetings. Technology was also shared as a way for Check & Connect mentors to meet – in a virtual space. Technology such as Google Documents and Wiki discussion boards can be used to share strategies for working with students. However, student names or other identifying information are never shared in these spaces, as they do not provide the security to ensure confidentiality.
In addition, the National Mentoring Month infographic, 5 Ways to Ensure Quality Mentoring, offers suggestions for ensuring quality mentoring (I thought I’d highlight a couple here):
I look forward to each quarterly Coordinators’ Community of Practice conference call (if you’re coordinating Check & Connect at your site and would like to join, request to join the Coordinators’ Community of Practice on our website – note that this group is only open to current C&C site coordinators). From novice to veteran coordinators, I love the knowledge and experiences that each of the members brings to the table. Let’s use this communal knowledge as we get ready for National Mentoring Month in January.
Additional Resources for Coordinators
We’ve compiled some resources for you as you prepare mentor recruitment efforts as well as thank your current Check & Connect mentors:
- National Mentoring Month website
- January 16 is Thank Your Mentor Day!
- Toolkits and Digital Materials for National Mentoring Month
- Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring
- Effective Mentor Recruitment: Getting Organized, Getting Results
- Using Technology to Improve Mentor Recruitment
- Two Ways to Prevent Burnout and Attrition
About the Author: Eileen Klemm, M.A. is the project coordinator for Check & Connect presenting training nationally, facilitating the Check & Connect Coordinators’ Community of Practice, and providing leadership in the overall training and support of the Check & Connect model.
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