Think back to when you were in school. Which teacher did you look up to the most? Who pushed you to do well in school and served as a role model for life outside the classroom?
For me, the teachers who had the greatest impact in my life were the ones who took a sincere interest in me as a whole student. They acknowledged my social and emotional well being in addition to my academic progress. Their support and mentorship during challenging times made all the difference in my ability to be successful as a middle- and high-school student. Being a mentor may not be in a teacher’s job description, but it’s one of the most important roles they play in a child’s life.
If mentoring is so important, why don’t we do it more often? The challenge is time. Each teacher may see 50 to 75 students throughout the day. Unless we make time for mentoring, we won’t be able to develop individual connections with each student.
At Coastal Academy High School in Oceanside, we live by the mantra “our decisions should be based on what’s best for kids.” One such decision was creating a dedicated time for mentoring to take place. Each student is paired with a mentor—a caring adult, such as a teacher or administrator, who gets to know the student deeply, advocates for them inside and outside the classroom, and supports them in setting and working toward goals.
As the principal at Coastal Academy, I can say from first-hand experience that striving to do what’s best for our kids includes creating a school culture with mentoring at its core.
At our school, each teacher has a group of students they mentor on a weekly or biweekly schedule. We have crafted a customized schedule to allow for 1:1 teacher-student mentoring. Mentors work with their mentees on goal setting and habits of success, and provide social and emotional support for students. Mentoring is an integral component to the instructional program as it allows teachers to provide real time, personalized support to their mentees.
Coastal Academy is also committed to partnering with parents to ensuring student success. Through the Summit Learning Platform, mentors can log easily view notes and established goals from their mentorship meetings. Parents have immediate access to these notes and are able to come alongside their student to easily support their learning.
We introduced the mentoring program so that our teachers can provide life skills that students can apply to the real world. Our students are learning to be self-directed and prepare for life after graduation.
Now teachers have a dedicated time every week to work closely with each student, supporting them in meeting their personal goals. I also lead a mentor group weekly and from my perspective, the best part of making mentoring a regular part of school is enabling teachers to build a genuine connection with students’ families and keep them updated on their child’s progress and school experience.
Samantha Bartrom is principal at Coastal Academy High School, a tuition-free, public charter school serving north San Diego County. The school utilizes the Summit Program to prepare students for college, career, and citizenship.