Getting Started: Meeting your Mentee
Mentors may be a little nervous or unsure before meeting the mentee. Individual home situations, life experiences, and cultures may be very different, in addition to differences in age. The mentees are probably experiencing some jitters, too. Mentors should take the initiative to make the first meeting as comfortable as possible.
The following are suggested ideas for the first meeting:
- Greet the youth with a smile and a handshake. Ask the student if he has a nickname and by what name he would like to be called. Use the student’s name at every opportunity.
- Sit next to the student, not across a table from him. This provides a sense of friendship and support.
- Express the desire to be an encouragement, support, and friend.
- Explain that you will keep everything he says confidential, unless it is about something that might harm her/him in any way, as his safety and well-being come first.
- Do not ask the mentee many rapid-fire questions; even open-ended questions, as it can make the student feel as if she is being interrogated.
- Plan on telling things about yourself, your family, your work. As mentors are more open about themselves, their mentees feel more comfortable talking with them.
Sample conversation starters:
- My favorite time of day is . . . because . . .
- One of the things I hope to do next month is . . .
- My best friend is (was) . . . We’ve been best friends for (how long) . . .
- I like(d) him/her because . . .
- The best trip I ever went on was to . . .
- When I get home from school (work) I like to . . .
- End the first session on a positive and encouraging note. Make plans for meeting again the following week. First meetings can feel awkward and uncomfortable, but don’t get discouraged. Give the relationship time to grow.
Adapted with permission from: Handbook for Mentors, Sharyl W. Adams (Chesterfield, VA: Communities in Schools of Chesterfield, 1998).