The role of the Check & Connect mentor is to support students in their engagement and re-engagement with school so that they can be successful in their education and prepared for success in their post-secondary lives. While this can be very rewarding, it can also lead to emotional burnout and stress.
The most crucial role of the Check & Connect coordinator is to provide support for these mentors so that they do not get to the point of being overwhelmed or burning out.
I recently interviewed Check & Connect coordinators Jaime David and Lisa Bailey of Polk County, Florida to gain insight into how they support their mentors. Below are tips they provided on how to support their Check & Connect Mentors—and their program—to achieve optimal success:
- Meet one-on-one with mentors monthly. This gives mentors a chance to candidly share what their concerns are, where they are having difficulty, and what support they need (they may not share as candidly in a group meeting).
- Mentors may not always share when they are overwhelmed. Pay attention to mentors in their day-to-day lives. If they are feeling stressed, it will show in all areas of their work.
- Work with mentors to figure out the cause of their stress and then make a plan on how you, as coordinator, can support them in alleviating this stress.
- Be available to listen. We all need to vent!
- Work with administration to address other sources of stress for mentors as well as concerns with other staff members. Administrative support is key!
- Conduct monthly fidelity checks of the Check & Connect monitoring form. This will help you see what your mentors are not clear on how to do and in what areas they need additional professional development.
- Provide additional training and support on how to complete and use the monitoring form. Use a completed form to show mentors how we can catch patterns and concerns with students before it is too late!
- Ask other staff members and experts to conduct professional development with your mentors, such as a social worker, psychologist, or administrator. You do not have to do it all alone!
- Reassure mentors that they have done a great job supporting students even if the student makes a poor choice. It is not a failure on the mentor’s part; students ultimately have to make their own decisions.
- Continue to point out and celebrate the small successes. Major changes are not going to happen overnight, but we can see small changes over time and rejoice in those small gains!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from other coordinators, administration, state level coordinators or Check & Connect trainers in how to support your mentors.
- Never give up!
- And be organized!
As we remind our mentors to always approach students and families in a supportive manner, so too must we as coordinators approach our mentors.
In your work as a Check & Connect Coordinator, how do you support your mentors?
About the Author: Jana Hallas, M.Ed., is a project coordinator and member of the Check & Connect training team at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota.
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