We just began a new initiative during our Common Planning Time (CPT). Every Friday we invite a group of students to come during their lunch period for extra help. The teachers and students gather in my classroom for pizza and conversation first, and then, the students work on Study Island. Yes, we started this initiative for test prep purposes, but I am not going to get too hung up on that because I think it really has become something more. It is a chance to connect with students in a relaxed setting. There is no pressure for the teachers or the students to perform. We are able to talk about things that really matter. We talk about family and friends, about things that are happening in school and out. Let me give you an example of why I think it could be very powerful. One of the students that came yesterday is in my class. She usually works hard in class, is not easily distracted, and is always friendly. In the past two weeks, I have noticed some real changes in her work habits and in her behavior. I pulled her aside after class and told her I was concerned, that I had noticed these changes. I asked her if everything was okay and she told me she was fine. During our mentoring session a little later that day, she shared some information about what was going on. Her mom is ill, and there are concerns about family income. I might never have known what was going on if we were not able to connect in a more relaxed setting. Would she have opened up or what I have to continue to wonder and worry about her? I have been thinking about this a lot.
With just 45 minute class periods and all the pressure to teach the content, we often lose sight of the children sitting in front of us. I am not sure how many of them even make it to school everyday. I would love to find a way to expand this once a week mentoring session, maybe build it into the schedule for next year. I just wonder if it is possible. I think the kids would like it, and I think it would help build school morale. I am not sure how the teachers would feel about being mandated to mentor, or if mandating it is the way to go. I would love your thoughts. Do you have mentoring sessions built into your school schedules? How do they work? Does it make a difference?