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Pros and Cons of Student Mentors

Mentorship is an incredibly underrated tool. Well used, it has the power to change lives for the better. Student mentor programs are structured initiatives that pair older and younger students to provide academic and emotional support. 

These programs have become increasingly popular in schools, as they’ve been shown to impact student achievement, attendance, and behavior positively. And in addition to the benefits for the mentees, these programs can also be rewarding for the mentors, as they gain leadership skills, increased confidence, and a sense of responsibility for their peers. 

So let’s explore the pros and cons of implementing a student mentor program at your school or classroom.

Pros of Student Mentors

Student mentorship programs are a valuable asset in any classroom or school setting. If you’re setting up a mentorship program, remember to offer some sort of training for student mentors to help them feel excited and empowered to participate. 

Mentors Serve as Role Models

Younger students are often inspired by their older peers. Having a mentor who is a few years older and has already navigated their way through the school system can be incredibly motivating. They can provide insight into the challenges of transitioning between grades or schools and offer guidance on overcoming obstacles.

Provides Individualized Support for Mentees

Teachers can only do so much to cater to the individual needs of every student in their class. By having student mentors, younger students have someone to turn to who understands their particular learning style and can provide personalized support. Additionally, student mentors can offer insight into the academic demands of their peers and help them manage their time and prioritize their workload.

Mentors Create a Sense of Community

Student mentors create an environment of mutual respect and support by working collaboratively with their peers. This collaborative learning approach helps build a positive classroom culture, where students are encouraged to help each other and work towards common goals. Student mentors can also help to break down social barriers and encourage students from different backgrounds to work together.

Mentors Develop Their Talents

By taking on a mentoring role, students can practice leadership skills, such as communication, problem-solving, and decision-making. They also develop a sense of responsibility for the well-being of their peers, which can be a powerful motivator. By taking on this role, student mentors gain confidence in their own abilities and are better equipped to navigate challenges they may face in the future.

Cons of Student Mentors

While there are many benefits to student mentors in the classroom, there are also some potential drawbacks to watch out for. 

Mentors May Not Have Enough Skills to Provide Support

If student mentors are not adequately trained or supported, they may struggle to provide meaningful support to their peers, which could ultimately do more harm than good. You can help train students on active listening, problem-solving, and empathy. 

Mentorships May Create Social Hierarchy

In some cases, mentors may be selected based on their academic or social status, creating a dynamic where certain students are seen as "leaders" and others are seen as "followers." This can create a sense of competition or exclusivity that may harm the classroom environment. Instead, be intentional about who you pick and help mentees understand the experience mentors have to offer. 

Mentorships Take Time and Resources

Schools may need to provide training and support for both mentors and mentees, which can require a significant investment of time and money. Additionally, the success of these programs depends on the availability and commitment of the mentors themselves, which can be difficult to guarantee. Try having a consistent plan you can re-use year after year. 

Mentorships Won’t Replace Professional Guidance

Student mentor programs should never be seen as a substitute for professional counseling or other forms of support. While mentors can provide valuable emotional support to their peers, they are not trained mental health professionals. 

Moving Your Student Mentor Program Forward

Having a mentor can be a game-changer. Having someone to guide you, offer advice, and provide support can make all the difference. Before implementing a student mentor program, carefully consider how you can jump these hurdles and provide adequate support and training. Student mentors can be especially effective in fostering great relationships, so give your students an opportunity to build meaningful connections that can last a lifetime. 

Written by Michelle Terry
Education World Contributor
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