Growth takes Help

Welcome to the third week of our focus on “growth” words for the month of October! So far, we have highlighted the importance of time and care in our mentoring relationships. As mentors, when we are intentional with our time, we build up relational equity with our students. And, when we communicate that we care, our students are more likely to feel seen, heard, and valued. As we understand the need for time and care in mentoring, it puts us in a better position to help our students grow into healthy adults.

The ways we help our students through mentoring will look different depending on their individual needs and support systems. As a mentor, you may need to take on different roles for your student in order to give them the help that they need.

For example, you may need to be an advocate for your student, and go with them to talk to the Mentor Coordinator, a teacher or other school staff. This role may be one way that you can help your student learn valuable inter-personal relationship skills that are vital in adulthood.

Or, you may need to be a facilitator for you student, helping them see their strengths and areas of interest and then walking alongside them as they explore where those lead (vocationally, etc.).

Finally, you may find that one of the best ways you can help your student is to be a cheerleader for them. Some of our students have a negative mindset on auto-pilot. As mentors, we can help change that mindset by being encouragers, bringing hope, and helping our students see that they are valued.

As you spend time with your student and communicate to them that you care, it might be helpful to think back to when you were a teenager and remember how your mentors helped you.

—Jason Matthews, Mentor Coach

Nooksack Valley High School and BTO

Excited see Be The One launch at Nooksack Valley!

NV Media Sep 17 2019 7:50 AM
The Connect Mentors program at Nooksack Valley high and middle schools has offered proven success. The addition of the Be the One program will open up possibilities for even more students, as it launches this fall.

Nooksack Valley Schools began the Connect Mentors program about five years ago as a direct response to students who were struggling, usually with a combination of grades, attendance and behavior.

“We were identifying students with specific needs and believed that providing mentoring support was a strong way to help them,” says Jim Schmotzer, mentor coordinator. Schmotzer met with the students showing the highest need and about 10 community members met with other students, generally once per week for an hour, who showed less intense needs. Some of those relationships have lasted multiple years and bridged from the middle school to high school.

Read full article at:

My parents don’t listen. They just nag or try to fix me.

Resiliency: A tool to help overcome difficult times.

We have discussed the concept of resiliency as an ability to bounce back from difficult times/experiences. Last week we discussed the characteristic of being genuine. This week we will focus on Listening and giving minimal advice.

The main way to develop trust and relationship with teens is to actively listen. The main complaint I hear from teens about their parents is: “my parents don’t listen. They just nag or try to fix me”.

Active listening is as easy as asking good questions and responding with interest and without judgmental statements.

Questions of an active listener:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What do you do for fun?
  • Tell me about your friends/family.
  • How was your week?
  • What went well this week?
  • What didn’t go so well? How did that impact your week?
  • What is one thing you did to help you cope with that situation?
  • What’s one thing you could have done differently? (only ask this if you have established trust)
  • When was a time in your past you were able to overcome a difficult time? What did you do to help yourself? (This is a good one to ask after you have met at least four times and developed trust. Ask when they have shared a present difficult time)
  • How can people you trust help you during this difficult time?

Responses and follow-up questions of an active listener:

  • Wow that’s really great that this happened!
  • Sounds like that was really difficult/challenging.
  • So your friend was really rude to you in that situation?
  • You dealt with that situation really well. How did you feel like you did with that situation?
  • How did that situation go? How do you feel you handled the situation?

Asking good questions and listening fosters trust and encourages them to share more. Often when we give advice (especially too early) it tends to shut them down:

“One more adult nagging at me!”

Active listening communicates that he/she is a priority to you and what they say really matters.

– Mike Black, Ferndale School Counselor & Mentor Coach

Not counterfeit

Resiliency: A tool to help students overcome “hurricanes” in life

Psychologists/counselors have noted several “Protective Factors” that help students overcome and/or prevent trauma in their lives:

Healthy and supportive family/good parenting skills
Education/healthy school system that supports “social-emotional” and not just the academic dynamic of school
Extra-curricular activities (sports/clubs etc.)
Good peer choices
Having an adult to support him/her 1-1 on a regular basis: “Be the One”

We defined “resiliency” last week as an ability to bounce back from adversity/difficult times.

What dynamics/components help a student be resilient while you mentor him/her?

The first component/characteristic we bring to a student within ourselves is an ability to be “Genuine”

In Webster’s, GENUINE means: “not counterfeit: but to be authentic. Real, sincere”.

As a school counselor, I often ask students 1-1 who their favorite teachers are and why. Overwhelmingly they name teachers who are primarily about relationship with students then focus on curriculum rather than the other way around. I’ve worked with teens for over 25 years and most of them know when we are being “fake”. Finding that balance between having healthy boundaries (where you would not share too much about yourself or your personal life) and yet being authentic is a skill that comes over time.

As a middle school counselor, my biggest tool with teens is being “myself”. My humor and my ability to ask good questions with genuine care (not so much my role as a counselor) are the skills most useful when supporting students. Finding something that I might have in common with the teen: love for music, sports and/or gaming I have done or aware of etc.

Students need to see that we are human/real otherwise, they might feel that they are “a project to change”. It’s then that they would resist the process. They first of all need to be accepted by us before they will move forward to change.

– Mike Black, Ferndale School Counselor & Mentor Coach

It’s hard to play chess in a hurricane

Resiliency: Bouncing back with more power and grit

As an educator (School Counselor) I heard a saying at a “Compassionate Schools” conference several years ago that so paralleled my experience of working with many students over the years: “It’s hard to play chess in a hurricane”. What does that mean? Data indicates to us that about 25 to 33 % of students in a given classroom have experienced “Trauma” in their life that effects the way they learn. In fact, a study (Called “Acute Childhood Experience: A.C.E.’s”) indicates that about 50% of adults have experienced a fairly high percentage of trauma in their life. Many of these adults who have high “A.C.E scores” have health and/or addiction problems. To find out more about the A.C.E’s study you can check out this website.

Even if a student or adult does not score very high on the A.C.E.’s (meaning no or little trauma in his or her life), it’s fair to say that most everyone has had some sort of “hurricane” in their life. Most anything that triggers anxiety that effects someone for a week or more would be noted as a “hurricane”. Anxiety effects many things in life: an ability to focus, how we communicate with others, our reaction to stressors in life and so often it effects sleep. When I share this saying: “it’s hard to play chess in a hurricane”, so many students relate to this saying and can note at least once situation that they would consider being a hurricane.

So how do we help students who have experienced “hurricanes” in their life? One of the primary components that helps those who have had a lot of Trauma (high A.C.E scores) is the concept and experience of “resiliency”. Several studies have shown that resiliency is the primary way we help students overcome and “bounce back” from trauma.

What does resiliency mean? Two definitions:

“The capacity to bounce back, rebound, successfully adapt in the face of adversity and develop social and academic competence despite exposure to severe stress”

“Resiliency is about bouncing back from problems and stuff with more power and grit” (written by a 15 year old student)

During the rest of the month of August we will be focusing on this concept of resiliency and how we can best use tools that help foster resiliency in students especially those who have had “hurricanes” in their lives.

– Mike Black, Ferndale School Counselor & Mentor Coach

Helping your Student Value Optimism

This month, we are focusing on how mentors can help students make a healthy transition to adulthood. In our culture today, it is not uncommon for students to graduate from high school with little direction (or motivation) to grow into healthy adults. Culturally, we have even created a new name for 18-29 year old’s who fit this description. We call them emerging adults. As mentors, we have a unique opportunity to come alongside our students and help them grow towards becoming a healthy adult.

In the last three Mentoring Minutes, we talked about the importance of helping students find their purpose, plan for their future, and learn how to adapt.

A fourth way that we can help students make a healthy transition from high school graduate to healthy adult is to encourage optimism. Sometimes, students don’t make a healthy transition to adulthood because they can’t envision a positive future for themselves. Encouraging optimism in our students does not mean that we give them false hope for the future or place unrealistic expectations on them. It does mean that we talk with them about the realities of adulthood and the power that optimism has to help them persevere through some of the inevitable frustrations and uncertainties they will face. As mentors, we can do that by sharing from our own life experience, encouraging our students to choose a positive attitude in the midst of current obstacles, and being an advocate and cheerleader for them as they start planning for their future.

Check back next month for more ways that you can learn and grow as a mentor!

-Jason Matthews, BTO Mentor Coach

Quotes from Students

When you hear it from students, it means something!

“I am usually a negative person, but my mentor’s positivity really helps me have a better attitude.”

“When I’m down, my mentor lifts me up.”

“My mentor provides interesting insight, and is willing to listen to me”

“She is positive and can lighten up a bad situation; she rubs off on me.”

“She gives me positive feedback.”

“It helps to have an adult perspective.”

“Everyone should be more like my mentor. He’s such a great role model who always helps me see the positive side of things. There is way too much negativity in this world.”