Mentors are an essential component of the IOAPA model, playing a significant role in the success of their students. Anyone can be an effective mentor, but there are a few characteristics and actions that stand out as especially important for enhancing student success.
- Being available: It can be incredibly difficult to manage student and teacher schedules to allow for daily face-to-face meetings between students and mentors. IOAPA policy requires that courses be scheduled into students’ regular school day, but we recognize that a mentor may not be available 100% of the time that students are working on their courses. By making an effort to be available to students through email, frequent planned check-ins, and any other way deemed appropriate for students’ needs, mentors can help students overcome challenges as they arise while still allowing students to be independent.
- Building positive relationships with students: Regardless of how easily accessible mentors are, students must be willing to reach out and ask for help from them in order for mentoring to be successful. Students who experience positive relationships with their mentor, especially early in the school year, will be more likely to seek help when needed, and the support and encouragement provided by the mentor will be more positively received.
- Seeking support: Just as IOAPA students require support to succeed in their courses, IOAPA mentors can benefit from support at times – be it emotional support, logistical help, or content assistance. The mentor support network (more information available in the IOAPA Handbook) can be a source for all areas; more experienced mentors can provide suggestions for overcoming challenges, or empathize regarding difficult situations. Other sources of support include staff in your building(s), course instructors, the IOAPA website, and the support forums available through Edhesive for computer science courses.
- Encouraging positive and healthy work habits: For many bright students, participation in IOAPA may be one of the first times they are experiencing challenging academic coursework. Mentors can help students develop coping strategies for dealing with frustration, perfectionism, and other issues that arise. Mentors can also model healthy habits, including taking breaks and engaging in self-care. These non-academic supports will be equally, if not more, necessary than content help for IOAPA students’ success.