I have been mentoring at a school in Saskatoon for a few years now. It’s called In-School Mentoring. Big Brothers Big Sisters runs it with various schools in Saskatoon. The mentors go once a week for an hour during school hours to hang out with their assigned mentee. This program needs cooperation from both the schools, the mentor, and the employer of the mentor. The Mentor usually takes an hour off work to visit with their mentee which is why it needs to be worked out with any employers. The hour with the student can be spent playing games, doing crafts, talking, playing in the school yard, or really any other things that can be done in the school. I don’t know that I’m doing a very good job explaining this. I’ll add a link as well. The best way to actually talk about what I’ve been doing is to talk about my own experience. https://saskatoon.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/what-we-do/our-programs/
I first heard about this opportunity to volunteer through a co-worker, Steve Chisholm, at the radio station I worked at. He explained that he was already doing it, and wanted to set up a meeting between some of us and somebody from Big Brothers Big Sisters. Her name is Jennifer, and she is a fantastic person that works with many schools, and works with many students. If I recall, she was there, the principal of the school we’d be mentoring at was there, as well as the manager of the station, and Steve.
Before the meeting, I discussed the pros and cons with my coworkers. They were all super excited to do it. I wasn’t sure about volunteering for a couple of reasons.
First of all, I was a little bit unsure of how I would relate to a student, or be a mentor to a student. I’m always a bit unsure of kids. I am not a kid person. (Although, I’m getting closer.) I was worried I’d have no idea how to hang out with my mentee.
Second, I was pregnant. I knew I’d be on maternity leave in May, and was worried they wouldn’t want me to start if I couldn’t continue after I had my baby. I was barely into the second trimester, and had only just started telling people. There were not a lot of people who knew at work yet. Steve heard us talking about my fears, and found out I was pregnant that way. Or maybe I told him. It was a long time ago, and I had pregnancy brain. Now I have Mom brain, so I’ll never remember.
During the meeting, Steve asked them about it for me. It was pretty funny actually. He asked what would happen if one of the mentors was pregnant, and the station manager looked over at all of us, and said, “Who is pregnant?” He found out at that moment that I was having a baby. (He would have been told shortly after.) They said it was fine to volunteer while pregnant, and that I could still go with my baby during maternity leave. (Luckily, I was also able to go when I chose to stay home after the year maternity leave was over.)
I’ve actually had two mentees. My first changed school over summer. She was shy, but lovely, and had a great smile. We drew pictures and played games. I went with a co-worker a lot, so we brought crafts to do with them. I think her family situation became a little unstable, and it really is sad that some of these kids have to go through anything tough. They should be kids, and have no other worries. That’s why they have programs like this.
Anthony and I decided to continue going in the Fall. I was always quite sad that she couldn’t meet Anthony, but he still got to experience the fun in the school with my new mentee.
My new little mentee was in grade 3. She was younger than my first. I’ll call her Al. She’s talkative, caring, funny, and she loves my kid so much! We have been going to see her since Anthony was about four months old. It was A LOT easier when he was a baby. Al has her own younger sister, as well as nieces around Anthony’s age. She knows what it’s like to hang out with a baby, and now a toddler.
She held him and cuddled him, and helped me with from the first moment they met. She asked questions about how he was doing, and told me stories about her own family. We were able to play games and do crafts together, and she was patient when I had to direct my attention to my son.
Last year, Anthony was crawling and then walking. I remember her watching my face one day when I was feeling frustrated. She looked over, smiled, and said: “Being a Mom isn’t easy is it?” She had so much empathy and wisdom in that one statement. (It was a statement more than a question.) At that point, I was relieved to have a mentee that was so understanding and caring.
She is a lovely little girl, and it’s been so much fun watching her grow up. The entire school loves Anthony. The teachers and students get to see Anthony grow up as well. It’s kind of fun watching him make friends, and make people smile.
Al wants the hour to be longer all the time, and although she’s really well behaved, I can see her trying to figure out ways to stay longer and draw or do crafts with us. I try to bring craft ideas for her, but she’s usually done something and on to the next in no time at all until it’s time to go, then the craft lasts much longer.
Sometimes, I wonder if I’m getting more out of this in-school mentoring than Al is. We come out of that school usually so happy, and grateful that we get to spend an hour with this awesome kid. (There are rare times when I’m ready to go home, but that’s usually because my son had a tantrum.) Also, her name was one of the first that Anthony learned how to say.
It’s so hard to find time to go. In fact this year, we’ve been so unhealthy, and at times broken, that I haven’t been to see her. January until now in 2019 I mean. I was there in 2018. I feel incredibly guilty when I’m not able to get there. It’s also getting a lot harder going with a busy toddler who likes to do what he wants.
That being said, I will be there tomorrow. We’ve got the rest of the year to get back on track, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of the school year with her.
If anybody has some time, or wants to volunteer, I highly recommend doing In-School Mentoring. It’s an hour of your time once a week, and you get to spend time with an awesome kid who will love every second of it.
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