Hello! I’m Sam and I have been mentoring with The Kids Network since November. When I moved to London last year, I was on the lookout for ways to have a positive impact within my area. When I heard about TKN through my work it seemed like a great fit. I already had some experience working with children, however one-to-one mentoring sessions were a little outside of my comfort zone; nevertheless, I threw myself in, re-assured by the training and support networks that TKN provides.
I initially wanted to capture my mentoring experience in a single word, however I soon found myself struggling, with very few words capturing the range of experiences that I have had during my time (I thought “varied” was a bit boring). I was also hesitant to opt for a single overly positive word (“amazing”), as I would be lying if I said there haven’t been some difficult moments throughout. However, struggles with language barriers and waning mentee enthusiasm has come coupled with far more moments of personal development and absolute joy. So what I would say is that my experience has been brilliant, challenging, rewarding, tiring, hilarious, surprising, uplifting, eye-opening, dessert-filled, and one-of-a-kind!
On that excessively wordy note, I would like to leave you with some tips. Best of luck!
In the words of ABBA:
- Knowing me, knowing you: Be proactive in getting to know your mentee. This can take time; that’s okay! I found that it took several sessions for us both to settle in. Ask them questions, but also encourage them to ask lots themselves. I found that you learn the most about your mentee from understanding what it is that they find interesting and want to learn about.
- Take a chance on suggesting new things, you never know how they’re going to react. Mine really surprised me with his excitement at the idea of chess, which we proceeded to play in back-to-back sessions.
- Money, money, money: Try not to fixate on the budget. Having some spending money is a great asset, opening up opportunities for different sessions and teaching your mentee great skills about budgeting and responsibility. However, there’s a risk that it becomes the focal point of sessions. I found that finding cheap/free activities that my mentee enjoyed helped us to re-focus away from needing to have spent the whole budget by the end of the month.
- S.O.S: Mentoring can be hard, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Draw on your programme manager; mine always has great suggestions for how I should address tricky situations. Make the most of the networks and training. Some of the most valuable insights have come from chats with other mentors.
- Exploding Kittens: Not an ABBA song. Just a great card game which I would recommend as an icebreaker. There’s nothing quite like getting into a hilariously heart-pumping battle with an eleven year-old over who’s going to pick up the exploding card!
For those interested in getting involve, you can find details here: Become A Mentor – The Kids Network