Mentoring for Gifted Students: Three Considerations
With summer rapidly approaching, gifted students have a great opportunity to spend additional time learning about careers, fields of study, and research that intrigues them. While there are many avenues available to students to pursue their individual interests, such as attending a SIG program, forming a mentoring relationship with someone who is knowledgeable in that field of interest is often a productive and nurturing process, much in the same way as apprenticeships have functioned throughout history.
If you are a parent or educator and are seeking to set up a mentoring experience or program, there are generally three aspects to consider in the mentorship relationship process.
- The student: Mentorships are generally most appropriate for secondary students. Students considering entering a mentorship relationship should possess interest, motivation, a demonstrated ability to learn in independent settings, the ability to get along with others, the ability to respond to directions or to act independently in cases where directions are not given, and the ability to learn from experience.
- The mentor: Criteria for selecting a mentor should be individualized to the needs of the relationship desired, but generally the mentor:
- is usually, but not always, an adult
- is enthusiastic about working with the student
- listens well
- has a sense of humor
- is compatible with young people
- has a special skill, intense knowledge, interest, or activity which engages the learner’s interest
- can guide the learner toward personally rewarding experiences where challenges can be met, skills developed, problems solved, and relationships established.
- is flexible, helping the learner review and revise activities and, when necessary, goals, through thoughtful and supportive feedback and criticism
- is often a role model for the learner. The mentor can impart an understanding of lifestyle and attitude different from those the student might ordinarily meet.
- is, above all, interested in the student as a learner and as an individual and is willing to commit time and availability to the student.
- Matching mentor and student: Mentors and their potential students should be interviewed to match similar learning and teaching styles. In other words, a highly verbal mentor should not be matched with a visual or kinesthetic learner. Both mentor and student should play a role in selecting each other, and their relationship should remain open-ended to sustain itself as long as is needed.
When these three aspects are carefully considered and implemented, the mentor and mentee can enter a mutually fulfilling and long-term relationship that plays a critical role in the gifted student’s total educational experience and can provide a level of individualization surpassing most other strategies.
If you have had success with setting up a mentoring relationship for gifted students, we’d love to hear your success stories.