Education can sometimes be a difficult sales job. During busy school days, teachers have limited time to connect with students, impart that day’s knowledge, and impress upon them why it matters.
Without enough individual attention from adults, some students suffer. Educators have long realized that. This past semester, Sterling Schools did something about it.
The school district identified students who might benefit from having one-on-one adult mentors – for example, students who come from single-parent homes or whose parents both work. Then it sought appropriate adult role models from within the schools, faith-based organizations, community groups and businesses.
Students and mentors were paired, and mentors came to school about once a week to meet with their students over the lunch hour.
They ate, talked, played games, did crafts, and used activities to work on asset development.
Along the way, mentors offered encouragement, listened, and – most important – gave their full attention to the kids.
That connection can be a powerful motivating force in a young person’s life.
It’s the kind of connection sought by Jerry Binder, the school district’s human resources director and organizer of the mentoring program.
“It’s all about connectivity, all about kids connecting to adults,” Binder said.
“We believe we lose kids when we lose that connection with them ... or when those connections go in the wrong direction.”
Those “wrong directions” range from falling behind in school to getting in trouble with the law.
But with the attention, friendship and caring offered by adult mentors, participating students may be more likely to succeed.
Interviewed by a reporter, mentors and students said the pairings were meaningful and enjoyable.
A great self-help motivator of a previous generation was Dale Carnegie, whose 1936 book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” spoke of the magic that can happen in interpersonal relationships when one person shows genuine interest in another.
Offering praise, listening, showing appreciation, and sympathizing can help the other person become open to your message, Carnegie wrote.
And today’s generation has a message to sell to tomorrow’s generation:
n Each student has unlimited potential.
n To realize that potential, each student must keep learning, now and throughout life.
Sterling Schools, which hopes to expand the mentoring program, is not alone in having one. Tri-County Opportunities Council, based in Rock Falls, has a Foster Grandparents Program that matches older adults with students in Amboy, Dixon, Grand Detour, Rock Falls and Sterling.
Here’s hoping those connections help sell this generation’s knowledge, experience and aspirations to the next generation and reap bounteous rewards in the process.