Few bonds in life are more influential than those between a young person and an adult.
As you begin your journey toward becoming a mentor, you will need to thoroughly understand the role of mentoring. Look at a role you are already familiar with. Most of us have had a supervisor, a boss or coach who has made a positive difference in our lives. Those people wore many hats. They acted as, delegators, role models, cheerleaders, policy enforcers, advocates, and friends. As a mentor you will wear these same hats.
Mentors understand the need to assume a number of different roles during the course of a mentoring relationship, but successful mentors also share the same basic qualities:
- A sincere desire to be involved with a young person
- Respect for young people
- Active listener
- See solutions and opportunities
- Be flexible and open
As you and your mentee begin your relationship; exploring values, interests and goals, you will find yourself making a difference and having a positive effect on their life. What you may also be surprised to see is that you will be learning more about yourself, too. Mentoring doesn’t just affect the young person. Mentoring is a shared opportunity for learning and growth. Many mentors say that the rewards they gain are as substantial as those for their mentees. Being a mentor enables them to:
- Have fun
- Achieve personal growth, learn more about themselves
- Improve their self-esteem and feel they are making a difference
- Gain a better understanding of other cultures and develop a greater appreciation for diversity
- Feel more productive and have a better attitude at work
- Enhance their relationships with their own children
Good mentors are willing to take time to get to know their mentees, to learn new things that are important to the young person, and even to be changed by their relationship. Accept the challenges and rewards of mentoring a young person and experience the benefits that will last each of you a lifetime.
Throughout history, black men have played pivotal roles in the development of this nation.
Despite the legacies of these giants, according to “A Call For Change,” a 2010 study released by Council of Great City Schools, only 12 percent of black male students are proficient in reading by fourth grade, and by the eighth grade, their proficiency rate drops to nine percent. Black men make up only five percent of our nation’s college students (although this number has increased) , while they represent 36 percent of our prison population. We must change this grim reality — the stakes are too high and the consequences too dire.
Although many teachers across our country are working hard to ensure their students receive the academic tools necessary to reach their full potential we still need more talented educators doing this vital work. In particular, in our low-income communities where a majority of students are African-American or Latino, we need more outstanding teachers from diverse backgrounds to serve as role models and classroom leaders. This is especially true when it comes to our black boys. Today, only two percent of teachers in this country are black men.
As an African-American male working at Teach For America and committed to ensuring educational excellence for our kids growing up in poverty, I frequently think back on my classroom experience. It was during my time as a teacher in Houston’s fifth ward that I first understood the scope of the educational inequity that exists between black boys and their wealthier white peers. From the moment I stepped in front of my kids, it was obvious-the gap had nothing to do with their ability or desire to learn. Instead, it was rooted in the extra challenges poverty was throwing in their path, coupled by a tragic lack of educational opportunity.