Meeting Your Mentee Where They Are At

As you learned in the previous lesson, it’s imperative that you understand your own mindset and begin to model Growth Mindset practices in your role as mentor. In this same vein, it’s helpful to know where your mentee stands with Growth Mindset.

As you get to know your mentee, you may find that in other aspects of your mentee’s life, he or she may be getting stronger messages that are contrary to Growth Mindset. You won’t be able to control every environment that your mentee interacts in, but you can support students in developing a growth mindset lens through which they interpret challenges and setbacks. For example, teaching students that working through mistakes help them actually get smarter, is knowledge that they can take with them everywhere they go. Be consistent, be patient, and understand that contrary messages will abound. Work with your mentee to help them start to apply a growth mindset framework to challenges they face, and look for small wins in order to set the foundation for growth mindset to occur.

Emphasizing Strengths to Begin

Your mentee will have lots of strengths and abilities. It’s up to you to learn what those strengths are and to build upon them. In order to begin to understand strengths, you have to build trust and rapport with your mentee. This is the foundation of a strong mentoring relationship! Show your mentee that you care about them. Take a genuine interest in activities and hobbies they have and look for ways to emphasize strengths in those areas to begin. Listen and help them learn from mistakes and setbacks. Work with them to solve problems and reach goals. In other words, be there for them so it’s clear that you want them to live to their fullest potential.

Remember it’s a Process

Remember to have a growth mindset about instilling a growth mindset! It can be challenging to help a young person develop a growth mindset. Some mentees will not adopt a growth mindset right away; it is a process. Try guiding your mentee towards it little by little. For example, if your mentee perceives just one hard problem as an opportunity to grow, that's a good start. Instilling a growth mindset will take time and effort, and you may need multiple strategies and small wins to begin to see lasting change.

Some concrete ways to work with your mentee include:

  • When working with mentees in different age ranges, it’s important to remember that all mentors should praise students' process instead of their "smartness" and help mentees see their mistakes as valuable and helpful parts of the learning process, but the way you talk about this will look a bit different depending on a student’s age. Here are some great examples to help you meet your mentee where they are:
  • Use personal examples of when you employed a Growth Mindset. Make sure your examples are relevant to the young person’s life and situation. This goes with getting to know your mentee. Once you have a better understanding of who you are mentoring, you can better share relevant struggles you faced.
  • Consider identifying something that you’d like to improve on over the course of the year, share that goal with your mentee, and have your mentee identify a goal then make a deal with him or her to work on your goals together.
  • Understand that there are some things that Growth Mindset can support and some things that may need a different approach. For example, if your student seems unsure about their fit in school more generally, their challenges may be stemming from feelings of non-belonging or belonging uncertainty. For information about belonging, visit the Belonging for Educators Course.
  • If a student is working with trauma or suffering from stress about their life circumstances, it’s important to get that young person support for those feelings and issues first. Knowing when to ask for help is key in your role as mentor!
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