You Can Make A Difference
Mentor #9 with mentee LX
Date of Meeting: 10/25/18
How did it go? It was great! LX was friendly and engaged and seems to be a bright student. We watched a video on balancing chemical equations, and it looked simple until we started on the practice questions. We worked together to figure out how to solve them. I didn’t immediately know either, but once I figured it out, I just offered general hints so that she’d learn how to solve them herself. We got pretty good at them once we did a few ~ actually, she solved one correctly that I’d made a mistake on.
I understand that not every day will leave me feeling this positive but it was a great way to start.
The class is only 1.5 hours and I’d like to honor the 3-hour commitment. Is there another student available? If so, I’d do that, or go to Chemistry with LX on Mondays as well, though I can’t on 10/29.
Date of meeting: 11/1/18
LX went to the restroom as soon as I got there, and was out for the first 15 minutes of class! She came back in with another girl, and seemed to be fine. If she does this again I’ll talk with her about it.
She was behind, of course, having missed the introduction, but I helped her catch up and she understood the material. The lesson ended long before the period did, so we chatted some about her family, other classes, etc. I gather she has a stable home life.
LX said that she signed up for a mentor because she was sitting in the back with her friends who just goof off. She’s realized that she needs to sit with the kids who are paying attention! I think she does want to succeed.
There is a group of 4-5 students who sit up front and do the class work. They talk a lot, but it’s mostly about the material and they get the practice problems done. At least half the students slept, chatted or watched videos on their phones for the duration of the class. I understand how a well-intentioned student could be distracted! There’s another girl, whom I mentioned last week, who has a lot of ability but little motivation. I’ll try to sit between her and LX next week and see if I can pry her eyes from her phone.
Date of Meeting:11/8/18
We continued to work together on Chemistry. They had a quiz and LX did well. Based on a conversation I overheard, I think she currently has a C in English, so I’ll try to create an opportunity to talk about that.
She was excited about their cheerleading trip to LA this weekend, and I was glad she shared this with me. I went with her briefly to the youth center at the start of lunch period, but I felt she wanted to enjoy her friends.
She’s a bright girl and I hope the quick success she’s seeing simply by paying attention in class will make an impression on her that carries over throughout her studies. She’s talked a bit about her mom and family activities, and my impression is that her situation is stable and loving.
Date of Meeting: 11/15/18
Another good session! LX continues to pay close attention and work hard in class. Today they had a lengthy worksheet practicing new concepts, and she worked diligently to the very end.
I gave Maya’s mentoring worksheets to LX. We talked about a few of the questions – goals – before the end of class. I like her goals! She not only wants to earn an A in Chemistry, she wants a 4.0. If she continues to apply herself, this goal is likely realistic for her.
Another of her goals is to be more assertive, to answer questions in class, and offer to help her peers more, when they’re having difficulty with a subject. She seems to get along well with all her classmates – the studious kids and the slackers. She has good leadership qualities; as she matures she’ll develop the self-confidence to see herself as a leader.
Date of Meeting: 11/29/18
LX seemed distracted and subdued today. I didn’t know if it was the gap since our last meeting, maybe the newness of having a mentor had worn off, but I thought there was something on her mind that didn’t have much to do with me. So I asked about Thanksgiving, to get her to talk to me. She speaks very softly, and the teacher was talking, but she said it was bad. Her “older buddy” XXX had been shot and killed. It was near her house. Her parents weren’t telling her much of anything about it (I couldn’t find anything online). She was clearly and rightly unsettled that someone she cared about was simply and senselessly gone. She said that XXX had been in trouble earlier, but had gotten his life together, left his gang, was getting a job. Everything seemed positive for him, and poof. I have little opportunity for conversation with her, but confirmed that she has counseling on Tuesdays. Does she, doing everything right, feel vulnerable now?
Is there yet space available to be with mentees outside the classroom? The chaos in this classroom is unrelenting some days.
Date of Meeting: 12/6/18
LX continues to do well in class. As usual, Mr. T abandoned teaching well before the end of the period, so we talked about the forms I’d given her. She’s so sweet – she thought that the ‘steps to achieve your goal’ was a test. I explained that the purpose was to prompt her to think about specific steps to achieve the goals most important to her. She had very sensible ideas, and I’ll reiterate my praise for this tool. This exercise was helpful to her and to us.
We also talked about her overall grades. She’s very positive, thinks she’ll have straight As! She said the classes are easy now that she’s paying attention, and thanked me for being part of that. This classroom is particularly loud and undisciplined and, even though she’s decided to pay better attention, I think it matters that I’m there to help her stay on task.
If there’s a meeting space the office doesn’t know about it, but they offered to let us into the counseling center. That would have taken too long for the time we had left.
Date of Meeting: 1/10/19
LX was surprised to see me, said she didn’t know I was coming back. It didn’t appear to be a welcome surprise. She said ‘it’s okay, I got this now’ then sat next to me, played on Instagram and talked to other students. She paid almost no attention to instruction for 15-20 minutes. I motioned to her several times about the phone and she continued.
So I asked her to come into the hallway with me. I told her that a month ago she’d described solid, achievable goals, but that she doesn’t seem interested in them now, and that she won’t reach them with this behavior, that when I take my time to come help her succeed she shouldn’t be talking to her friends and playing on Instagram instead of listening to the instructor, and that I don’t want to see the phone again. I know that she knew better and was just acting like the other students instead of the person she is. Of course, looking back I should have asked her to figure out what she was doing wrong, and find out if there was a reason other than being 15. Luckily it worked out okay anyway.
She apologized, we returned, she focused and did good work. She’d missed the introductory part entirely, and I let her struggle a bit to see the consequences of goofing off. Then we talked through the steps and rules and both worked through the problems. She understood the material, answered the questions correctly, and was clearly pleased that she’d mastered the material. She finished early, so I thanked her for putting away the phone and doing good work, said I’d go and let her enjoy her free time. From her smile that was the right call. She did what she needed to and still got to do what she wanted to!
I don’t think she wants a ‘mentor’ but may have realized today that she needs some support to develop good classroom habits. It can’t be easy. The chemistry teacher isn’t exactly inspiring, and the classroom is chaotic.
Date of Meeting: 1/17/19
Great! LX paid attention, the class presentation was challenging and we both figured it out. She’s bright, capable and engaged if you get her away from distractions. The instruction actually took the time allotted, so we didn’t have time for conversation, but it seemed positive.
Date of Meeting: 1/24/19
LX was absent, first time. A classmate said, first, that she’d been in a fight, then that she hadn’t been in a fight, that a boy had “pushed her down.” I stayed until the class disbanded for assembly. This gave me an opportunity to have a helpful conversation with the Aspire tutor who is often in the classroom when I am.
LX has told me that she has counseling every Tuesday morning. I hope this is meaningful counseling. She has changed dramatically and for the worse since just October. Naturally! Not only is she at a trying age, in a difficult environment, but her brother was murdered at Thanksgiving. She has spoken positively of her mother, but said after Christmas that they’d moved into a shared house arrangement, clearly a surprise move.
I will continue to show up for LX, but she needs intervention beyond my abilities. She’s smart, fully capable of being an A student, and she has common sense, but she’s 15 dealing with death of a sibling and god knows what else. Do you have inroads with the school counselors, plant a seed?
LX was absent again today. I emailed her to check in and was surprised to have a quick response. She said she's stressed out and needed space, will try to be there Monday. I'll try to find out what she's stressed about but doubt she'll say.
Date of Meeting: 1/31/19
LX was absent again. I emailed her that evening, and didn’t expect a response. To my surprise she replied instantly, and seems to appreciate my interest and concern. I hope she’s getting the support she needs. I reminded her (as I consistently do) to ask for the support she needs.
We ask all our mentors to submit a weekly mentoring report to track the progress of their mentee(s). Here are excerpts from a few of those reports.
All names have been anonymized and assigned to a number (i.e. Mentor #1) or random two letter initials.