A wonderful exchange

When we often hear the word ‘Mentor’, we may imagine a professional, a teacher, a leader perhaps or someone with experience of tackling problems and challenges that may be present for others. And before mentoring, I had imagined these loose ideas of what form mentoring could take, but with time, I began to question what I could bring as a mentor and within my journey I am learning how the mentoring experience can be explored purely as a wonderful exchange.

Before the journey begun with the TKN, I felt a sense of wonder during the depth of the pandemic last year. And I kept questioning and wondering to myself, how could I contribute to my community during a time of uncertainty and distance. How were families affected at home? How were children processing and understanding the circumstances of the pandemic? How could I, from where I’m seated, be of support to others? And while searching, (quite thankfully too!) I one day came across an opportunity with the TKN who are committed to the needs of young children and I felt not only would this opportunity as a mentor be beneficial for me but it would allow me to participate by supporting a young child with hope to make a positive impact during a crucial moment in their development.

And since then, I’ve been mentoring with the TKN for the last five months.” And how has your experience been so far?” I hear you ask.

I can wholeheartedly say, it’s been full of exploration, discovery, activities, expressive painting, laughter and some challenges too – which is not necessarily a bad thing but definitely something I’ve learnt lots from!

I have yet to meet my wonderful mentee in person and so far upon our journey, our sessions have been only via phone calls, in which we have formed a connection only from our voices and sparking conversations that explore and share the depth of our imagination.

It’s been fascinating to witness how we adapt in the ways we communicate with one another, especially when trying to describe something visual for the other to understand, speaking of colours or taking turns with each sentence to form a short story with characters we’ve created. However, there have also been moments of disappointment, miscommunication and slight confusion which caused our regular sessions to fall off course. And these things do happen, right?

Calling and not being able to get through, last-minute cancellations, phone delays, misunderstandings and that’s okay! It’s absolutely okay and I’ll admit, at the beginning, the presence of these persistent challenges concerned me and made me wonder if it was even possible to form a connection with these interruptions. In response to this, is to embrace it and all we can do is continue on or as Dory from Finding Nemo said “just keep swimming”. 

So, I kept swimming and saw these challenges as provided space for learning further to reapproach the situations differently with positivity and persistent actions. Ensuring my messages to caregivers were clear, remaining in contact, planning ahead of schedule if needed, remaining patient, being open to new ideas, understanding the importance of trust, viewing situations from all perspectives and remembering my mentee’s words. I asked her once why she enjoyed having a mentor and she replied (bless her) “it’s fun, it’s like we’re in our own world” and these special words made me realise the importance of the space and time I provide as a mentor to her and the benefits that can have on an individual especially a child.

Also, upon this journey, I have come to realise that mentoring is a wonderful exchange.

Someone once said that “a great conversation is like a game of tennis” and I believe it to be true! To ensure that the ball goes back and forth over the net, ensuring my responsibility by asking open-ended questions, providing a safe space for both of us to feel comfortable and to reassure her that I am here if she needs me.

And as a mentor, I’m not to be imagined or compared to a teacher at school. I don’t have all the answers nor am I here to be an authority but I am here to be present and supportive. Along with this, the small gestures of regular sessions, remembering her birthday or other personal dates, sharing ideas for new activities for us to try, supporting and congratulating her on her achievements, sending positive messages of luck when she’s awaiting news and cheering her on when hearing she got into her first choice for secondary school, actively listening and remembering the things she’s said, really do have an impact more than we know. And to be paired with such a bright, imaginative, funny mentee, with a similar personality to me, makes the whole experience worthwhile.

We’re hoping to meet in person very soon and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how different the dynamic might be, with the freedom of space and being able to run, laugh and explore the previous activities without the barrier of a phone.

It’s only been 5 months but I’m incredibly thankful for all I have learnt so far and I can’t wait to see where the next few months on this adventure will take us!

So, if you’ve ever considered mentoring but you’re uncertain if it’s for you, or experiencing some challenges on your mentoring journey, I hope my words ease you in knowing that it’s a wonderful experience and I’m certain you’ll be fab at it! With TKN, you’ll be entering such a diverse and wonderful community that will support you throughout and I ensure you, you’ll begin to wonder why you hadn’t found us sooner. 

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