Wednesday, November 1, 2006

November 2006: Paul Dean, Being in Two Places at Once


Dwight Hall at Yale

November's strategy was created by Paul Dean, a student at Yale University and mentor with the Dwight Hall Academic Mentoring Program at Yale (DHAMPY).

Paul Dean and one of his menteesPaul joined DHAMPY last school year "because I was very interested in education, specifically urban education, and I liked the idea of being involved in a program where I could learn first-hand about the challenges of urban education, but at the same time hopefully be helpful to some kids in New Haven....  I love going to the middle school or the kids' neighborhoods, because it gives me a chance to be a part of the New Haven community instead of [just] the Yale community."

About the Strategy
Paul's strategy should be a lifesaver for tutors and mentors working with two students at the same time.  The strategy helps us answer the question, "How can a tutor or mentor provide meaningful, individualized support to two students simultaneously when there's only a couple hours to spend and the students have very different needs and interests?"  Paul offers one concrete tool you can use to provide high quality, individualized support in these situations.  You can check out the strategy below.

The Strategy


Created by: Paul Dean, Dwight Hall Academic Mentoring Program at Yale
(America Learns Network member since 2005)
Topics: Group Cooperation
Setting Goals
Grade Levels: Fourth - Twelfth
Arrangements: One Tutor/Mentor with Two Students
Materials: - The schedule/goal sheet template
- Example of a completed schedule/goals sheet

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Situation: When I began mentoring, I had a lot of trouble working with my two students at the same time. They have very different interests (one is really into sports, the other hates sports and is into music), they aren't friends outside of mentoring, and they have opposite strengths and weaknesses (one is stronger in math, very weak in reading, and the other is the opposite).

To address this issue, I created a schedule/goal sheet that we use during each session. The sheet helps me to work with the students separately and go back and forth between them. It gives the one I am not working with at a given time a clear idea of what to be doing.

Step 1: Create the Schedule/Goal Sheet

Create a schedule/goal worksheet, broken up into one column per student and one row for each section of your session.

For example, I meet with my kids for two hours at a time and break up our sessions into five components. On my sheet, the first and last rows represent 15 minutes (for our opening and closing activities). The three rows in the middle represent 30 minute sessions during which we focus on significant work or projects.

At the bottom of the sheet, create a box for each student to write out their short-term, weekly/monthly, and long-term goals.

You can see a copy of one of my sheets here.

Step 2: The First Time You Use the Sheet

You'll likely spend more time setting up this sheet the first time you use it than later on.

If you know what you'll be working on with your students when you see them, you can come into the session with the "meat" of the sheet already completed (e.g., everything except the opening and closing activities).

When you see your students, explain that you want to make your time together as valuable as possible for each of them. In order to do that, you're going to begin using this new sheet so that you can spend as much time as possible working on the individual things they need to work on.

Show your students what you've already written and ask for their feedback on it. Then, complete the portion of the sheet you don't yet have completed based on what you've learned your students need to work on as well as your student's ideas for any "anything you want" time you may give them. Also spend this time setting goals for the week, month and the future. You'll likely spend more time on this portion on your first day than others. I always spend the first fifteen minutes of each session completing the sheet.

If necessary, my students can have different activities at the same time. The structure will allow them to know what to expect, set goals to accomplish them, and will help me figure out how I will give each of them the one-on-one time they need. The process also communicates to the students (without you having to say it) that you will have to spend time not working directly with each of them at some point, but that you will work with both of them.

Step 3: During the Sessions

Closely monitor your students' work. You may check in with the student you're not working with directly by asking questions or making statements such as:
- How are you coming along on your work (or goals)?
- Do you need me to look at anything?
- I'm going to check out your progress on that assignment/project/goal in a five minutes.

If your students accomplish their goals ahead of schedule, create additional goals for the day.

Step 4: Ongoing Sessions

As noted earlier, we spend the first fifteen minutes of every session completing this sheet. I also keep all of the goal sheets in order by date in the notebook I bring each week. We check the longer term goals listed at the bottom of each sheet every week. We talk about what needs to be done in the short term to reach them, and whether they have changed or added any new goals.

How Have You Addressed this Issue?

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

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