I’ve served as a mentor for the majority of my life. I was mentoring my peers and went on to mentor people younger and older than me. My passion allowed me to see potential in everyone I met, and sometimes I overlooked red flags that eventually forced me to throw in the towel. No one ever sat me down and showed me how to stop mentoring a child. While working with the Chicago Public School System, Indiana State University, After School Matters, and more, the subject of ending a professional relationship with a young person because there is an obvious personality clash has never come up. We are to assume that, as adults, it is our job to navigate around that. But how can you help someone and/or serve them if you aren't able to connect with them?
One of the fundamental elements of being a beneficial mentor is your ability to engage and bond with your mentee. While visiting classrooms and talking to students frequently, I hear about the neglect factor. Students know when they are being neglected, and it forces them to be callous towards adults and anyone that appears to be there to help them. You can say this is popular amongst the bad kids, but I’ve seen brilliant youth sidelined because of their superior intelligence as well.
Within the educational realm, we are missing the mark. We have failed to understand the importance of compatibility for success. We find it to be necessary for other relationships, but not the ones that are strategically in place to help us grow into a better person. I do understand the value of individual growth and emotional/communicative development that surfaces when you are challenged by others, yet, I doubt that aids in the retention of knowledge, independent thought development, and self-awareness as much as having a teacher that “gets you." That is why I treat mentoring as a matchmaker service within my program. I find people that my young people can relate to in order to avoid "the talk."