Stories to share:
“One student did not respond to any of my emails or messages about connecting with his mentor, even though I know they had a good relationship. I was able to make contact with his mom. She was so grateful that I called. She was extremely worried about her son’s mental health and isolation. She felt the mentor connection was critical for him during this time and was very happy to help set up zoom. Her son called me within minutes, and we had the zoom meeting that very next day. He had a huge smile on his face when they saw each other on line and talked for an hour. They are meeting each week, and the student seems to be coping better!”
” A sophomore girl who struggles with school quite a bit normally anyway was basically just missing in action. She hadn’t engaged in learning since school was out in March. She signed up for a loaner laptop, but never picked it up. Staff were asking if anyone had talked with her I sent her a card, an email, and called home and left messages with no response whatsoever. Finally I asked a translator to call home and let her know that I was trying to connect her with her mentor. She contacted me the next day to find out what “zoom” was and wanted to do it. Yesterday morning she had her first zoom meeting with her mentor. In order for that to happen, I had to walk her through how to access her school email, where to find the invitation link, how to download zoom on her phone, and how to join the meeting. While waiting for her mentor to join, I found out she had no laptop, no internet, and very limited understanding of wi-fi—just having her cell phone to use. After they had some time to visit online, she asked again about getting a school laptop and how to get internet. She wants to be able to “talk better” with her mentor when they zoom next week. Can’t guarantee that she will actually learn or turn in work, but I told the mentor their relationship was the only thing that got her to engage with the school at all. I think that is pretty significant!”
Matches= 50; varying levels of contact since March
It’s been challenging since we closed school to help keep mentors and students connected. Despite my best efforts of trying to communicate through multiple sources, some students have simply been impossible to reach at all, having no internet, cell phone, or voice mail. Several students and mentors have expressed the desire to have zoom meetings and are doing that, but as time goes on and the weather is getting nicer, schedules are less predictable. Kids forget, lose track of time, and some are starting to work as well. I believe things will continue to taper down as we finish the last couple of weeks of school. Some students and mentors are emailing each other with some regularity, but that seems to be decreasing as well. I do believe this reflects the overall stress and trauma–people are feeling exhausted and students are tired of looking at the computer. There are also new relationships that just started this year and maybe didn’t have enough time to form a strong enough foundation before the extended separation and disruption. I fear that some of these relationships may be over and not resume in the fall.
Mentors as well are dealing with large amounts of stress themselves with health challenges, job losses, working from home, and suddenly home schooling their own kids as well. Many have less bandwidth to give to supporting their mentee.
As we move forward and face the potential of more unknowns and possible remote schooling in the future, we might need to think about allowing students and mentors more options and more flexibility in the ways they can communicate and see each other. Of course this would require discussions and permissions at district level to make any changes.