Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Mentoring has been an enormously helpful tool for many years now. There have been numerous youth mentoring programmes for decades. Peer mentoring, however, is still an under-utilized resource, both in and outside of schools.
Adult-to-youth mentoring can be very effective towards putting children on the right path and helping them navigate their adolescence. But when fellow pupils who are only slightly older mentor them, there’s more recency and more impact on the guidance they can provide.
Creating a successful mentoring strategy in schools is quite a challenge, though. Many programmes fail soon after creation because schools find it difficult to maintain them over time.
Miff Martinek, founder of This Is Me wants to help change that.
What is peer mentoring in schools?
How does peer mentoring work?
How can schools set up peer mentoring?
How can schools get involved?
What is Peer Mentoring in Schools?
Peer mentoring in schools is an approach that many schools have taken with a focus on improving the experience of pupils.
This practice increases wellness for both the mentor and mentee. Younger pupils will have the helping hand of an older pupil to guide them through their younger years. And older pupils will have an opportunity to take a little bit of responsibility in helping younger people in school find their place and their way, and it lets them be a role model.
How Does Peer Mentoring Work?
So, typically, your peer mentoring programme will be focused on an older pupil mentoring a younger pupil.
However, the details of that are where the devil is because some mentoring programmes work brilliantly, but others fall flat on their faces.
The difference lies in how the programme is set up at the start and how well the teachers and school support it.
How Can Schools Set Up Peer Mentoring?
When you're looking at setting up a peer mentoring scheme, there need to be three key ingredients.
The first key ingredient is Purpose
You need to make sure that there's a purpose behind what you're doing. It's not just a 'nice thing to have.'
I hear from a lot of mentors who say, “What am I supposed to talk about? I don't get it. My mentee seems to be fine, and I'm not really sure what to chat about with them.”
So there has got to be some purpose behind it. Your mentors have to understand what they're driving towards. And teachers need to be there to support it. Therefore, they need some purpose to get behind, as well.
The next key ingredient is Structure
Having some structure to the programme allows the opportunity to get the necessary meetings in regularly between your mentors and mentees.
There has to be a structure behind that for it to work.
What I found is that if you don't have any structure, you're going to struggle to build any momentum with these growing relationships.
The other thing that's really important about the structure is that your mentors have got some support behind them, as well. That could be through a layer of teachers who guide and encourage them in their mentoring skills. It could even be through older pupils than them.
But there needs to be some form of structure that safeguards older mentors as well as looking after the younger mentees.
The last vital ingredient of this is Training
There's a fantastic training organization that works on mentoring that said, “If you don't have any training for a mentor or a mentee, you're basically throwing two beginners out onto a dance floor and expecting them to be able to perfect a waltz.”
Well, that's not going to happen.
To actually get anything from your mentoring programme, there needs to be some training in place so that the mentors understand how to lead the conversation. There also needs to be expectations set for your mentees as to what they can get from these conversations.
So, thinking about how you structure that training and making sure that you've brought in an expert who can help you shape it will be your final key pieces to making a successful mentoring programme work in your school.
How can schools get involved?
If you are interested in setting up a peer mentoring programme that will succeed in your school, then I would love to hear from you.
If you want to explore how pupil mentoring can improve wellbeing in your school within the Hereford and Wiltshire area, I'd love to hear from you.