Mentorship is a St Austin’s school-held program in which students are allowed to talk in small intimate groups with teachers, peer mentors, and each other.
This allows them to ask questions, get advice, or speak their minds about whatever challenges they may be facing whether in school or outside in a safe, non-judgmental and confidential environment. In this way, they can make more informed decisions on things currently going on in their lives, or receive comfort and support from people around them helping them weather whatever storms they may be in.
The schedule for the first term of the year was a success with a list of topics and their weeks of discussion laid out at the beginning of the term. These topics acted as a guideline for teachers on what conversations they could have when they were with their groups but were not expected to be strictly followed. If a more prevalent or interesting discussion was brought up then they had the agency to continue with it.
Events we had this term.
As well as that, we also had multiple guest speakers and mentors come and talk to the students during the term. The Year 10’s discussed future aspirations and 21st-century skills, Year 11’s had a conversation on post IGCSE options and further education, and the A level classes (Years 12 and 13) spoke about drug abuse and the law. Each presentation was tailored to the students being talked to and what they needed to hear most.
How does it work?
Peer mentorship, in which older students (years 10 and up) mentor younger students (years 9 and below), is an important aspect of our mentorship program. It comes from the recognition that it’s easier to speak to those who you feel you can relate to, and more often than not, those are people closer in age to you.
There is a lessened feeling of authority or fear of punishment when speaking to fellow students which is why peer mentorship has been so successful in previous years. However, peer mentors are not always able to handle the topics or situations that come up in mentorship, nor are they expected to. Training and the support of teachers and former students, who have more experience, help the mentors when they feel they don’t know what to do. Therefore, peer mentorship is not just the act of one person but a team effort.
The program is beneficial to all parties involved.
It provides role models for students in a more intimate way, with students being able to interact with them closely instead of just admiring from afar, as well as it being an opportunity for the personal development of peer mentors. The process of becoming a mentor is completely voluntary and once discussions start there is a broadening of one’s worldview.
Increased awareness of people and the things that happen in their lives develop empathy, compassion, and understanding in the mentors which they carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, we were unable to have peer mentorship this term, but our preparations for its reintroduction in term 2 are almost complete.
As I said before peer mentorship is completely voluntary and we received many volunteers from years 10-13. Each one of those volunteers received an application form which was then collected and processed.
The selection of the peer mentors from this group of volunteers was done by the mentorship prefects with the guidance and advice of some teachers. The grouping of students and allocation of mentors to those groups was also done by the mentorship prefects. Training for our peer mentorship team, which consists of students and prefects, will occur on Saturday the 4th of December.
I hope that the peer mentorship program is as successful as it has been in previous years and I look forward to seeing what the next term has in store for us.
Article by Amanda Brown (Mentorship prefect)