Thursday, June 1, 2006

June 2006: Syndee Kraus, The Go-To For Reinvigorating Relationships


June 2006 America Learns Strategy of the Month
Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate

Meet Syndee Kraus, a mentor with Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate and co-author of the June 2006 Strategy of the Month.

Syndee Kraus and her menteeLong term tutoring and mentoring relationships sometimes fall into a rut in which the tutor/mentor and student run out of activities to do together or simply lose the excitement and energy that once existed between them.

As Syndee will show you below, this situation presents a wonderful opportunity to grow and fill the relationship with a wealth of new purpose, meaning and excitement.  Syndee and her program coordinator, Graig Meyer, co-authored this strategy based on Syndee's successes.

More About Syndee
Syndee, who is a Project Co-Coordinator at FPG Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill, has been mentoring her mentee for five years.  She writes that "Being a mentor is a unique opportunity--neither parent nor teacher, and yet half-way between parent and teacher.  Finding where the boundaries lie as well as how far-reaching the role can expand has been a tremendous 'stretching' experience for me."

The Strategy


Created by: Syndee Kraus & Graig Meyer, Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate Program
(America Learns Network member since 2005)
Topic: Engagement & Motivation
Setting Goals
Your Relationship with Your Student
Grade Levels: Fifth - Twelfth
Arrangements: One-on-One
Materials: - Sample of Syndee and her mentee's goals (PDF)
- A clean goal-setting form you can use (PDF; Microsoft Word)

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Situation: Has your relationship with your student fallen into a rut? Do you wish you had more creative ideas about how to support your student? One long-term mentor-student pair tackled this challenge by creating specific goals for their relationship. At regular intervals (once a year in this case), they use one of their visits to focus on setting goals for the upcoming year.

Many steps in this strategy refer to the actual goals this mentor-student pair created. To download a copy of their goals, please click here.

Step 1: Why Set Goals?

Have a conversation with your student about the reason it's important to set goals for the relationship. You might say, "It's important to me that you get the most out of our relationship and the time we spend together. To make this happen, I thought we could spend our time today setting goals for the next ___ [insert time period]. Our goals will help me make sure that we're spending time doing what's important to us."

You may want to share examples of how you set and pursue goals in your own life. Emphasize that to accomplish goals, especially long-term ones, one must take steps to get there (which can be goals in and of themselves). You may say, "Goals take work to realize, to accomplish. They often involve accomplishing other goals along the way. To become a doctor, one has to complete years and years of study and practice. It usually takes careful financial planning and hard work to earn enough money to buy and keep a home. What goals have you accomplished that have required that you accomplish something else beforehand?"

Step 2: Choosing Goals

Check out Syndee and her mentee's goals.  This is just a sample of what they planned; they actually made 14 goals, which is a lot!  But they meet every week and these are their goals for an entire year. You may choose to create fewer or more goals; in fact, you may want to begin this process by just setting one goal to be accomplished in the next week or two to immediately give your student a sense of accomplishment and to show that it's possible to accomplish goals with you.

Whatever goals you set, be sure they fit the guidelines of your relationship. Try to select goals that are fairly specific and accomplishable. Avoid broad goals such as “Become better friends” or long-range goals such as “Become a writer.” While those are good goals, they’re also hard to break down into a few simple activities. Instead of using “Become a writer,” Syndee and her mentee thought about the steps needed to become a writer, and then selected smaller goals that would help the mentee explore writing and other career paths related to writing. 

Step 3: Identify Activities to Support Your Goals.

Goals are great, but you’ve got to figure out what you’re going to DO to accomplish them. Coming up with concrete activities to support your goals will keep your relationship on track. You and your student should work together to consider what activities you’ll do. If you look at the first goal on Syndee and her mentee's goal sheet, you’ll see evidence of the mentor-student collaboration. The goal is about reading, and the main activity is that the mentor and student will discuss the books they read.

You’ll also see that they agree to combine these discussions with “something else.” Apparently, they agree that they want to read and discuss, but they might be able to couple that with another activity that they'll decide upon later.

Goal #3 (cooking together) is accompanied by two types of activities, but the activities could be done multiple times or over multiple weeks. The first activity is to “learn about cooking foods from other countries.” That implies that they will spend at least a few different times cooking various ethnic cuisines. The second activity is to “put together a cookbook of foods from these different countries.” Clearly, this would need to be done over time. Also consider how this goal allows for the mentor and student to work on math, reading, writing, and research skills along with cooking skills.

Step 4: Designate Roles and Responsibilities.

Like most activities in mentoring, pursuing your goals should be a joint activity. So it’s important to designate roles and responsibilities for both you and your student.

It’s important to give your student some control and choice here. You may have strong ideas about what he can take responsibility for, but if he is going to follow-through, he has to agree. You might start by asking him what role he would like to play in pursuing each goal. You can follow-up by providing him with some other options, but give him the opportunity to choose what he’ll do.

Similarly, you should state what you’re willing to do to help reach the goals. This doesn’t mean you have to dictate your list, though. Consider asking your student what he thinks you should do or how you can support him in his pursuit of the goal. Then you can decide whether you can meet his expectation. Be sure you do not take full responsibility for the accomplishment of any one goal that's supposed to be accomplished together.

Step 5: Set Deadlines / Due Dates

When will you do these things? How long will you give yourself to make progress? Which activities will you undertake first? Set some deadlines that are realistic but keep you motivated. 

Step 6: Follow Through and Monitor Your Progress.

Doesn’t it feel great to accomplish your goals? You can help your student understand this feeling if you follow through and celebrate the goals you successfully accomplish. Maybe you can make a calendar with dates on when you’re going to check in on your progress. You also might come up with something you’ll do to celebrate once you and your student have done all you set out to.

Before you get to the end of the time period outlined on your goal sheet, check-in every once in a while. Monitoring your progress is the true key to making this process work. Are you on-track or do you need to adjust timelines? Did you realize that you and your student would have to complete additional activities to accomplish specific goals? The process of modifying goals based on new information and life circumstances is a huge lesson in and of itself. Pull out your goal sheet at pre-assigned times and evaluate how you’re doing!

How Have You Addressed this Issue?

Please share your thoughts about this strategy and any messages you have for Syndee below.

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