Staging Success: The Transformative Power of Mentorship

Mentoring at Learnlife serves as a cornerstone for fostering personalised learning experiences and holistic development. 
Staging Success: The Transformative Power of Mentorship

At Learnlife, mentoring is a dynamic relationship where experienced mentors guide and support learners navigating academic challenges, socio-emotional growth and personal aspirations. 

In this collaborative journey, mentors play a crucial role in creating a nurturing environment, empowering learners to unlock their full potential. 

Countless research studies show the positive impact that mentoring has on student retention rates, academic success, and mental wellbeing. 

Through personalised guidance, mentorship in schools not only enhances academic performance but also instils essential life skills, laying the foundation for lifelong learning and success. 

The mentorship programme at Learnlife is an enriching experience for learners and mentors alike. 

In our bustling Urban Hub, mentoring sessions often unfold organically, creating spaces for meaningful connections. Picture a Learning Guide engaged in a mentoring session with one of her younger learners in the vibrant chiringuitos—the open booth-style seating area. Together, they navigate a check-in, probing into the learner's thoughts and emotions about her learning journey. 

The Learning Guide asks a series of questions trying to suss out how she’s feeling about her life and learning, finding ways to support and challenge her. It takes some time, but eventually, they get to the root of how the Learning Guide can help and reach a small breakthrough. 

“Thank you! I love being mentored by you. You explain things so well. I’m so happy,” says the learner, a sense of relief coming through in her voice. 

Such sessions, although not always concluding with explicit praise, represent an ideal outcome within the mentoring programme. 

How Learnlife’s mentor programme works

At Learnlife, we redefine mentorship, empowering learners to select mentors based on shared interests and comfort. 

At the “Meet the Mentors” event at the beginning of the year, learners visit various stations and do activities with the mentors to learn about them and discover if they have overlapping interests or talents. 

In this way, they can confidently select a mentor with whom they feel comfortable or who has knowledge about a particular area of interest. The mentee can change mentors if they find that their needs have shifted and they need to work with another mentor with expertise that better matches what they are working on. 

During the year, mentors and learners meet one to one for 30 minutes every two weeks. The mentoring meetings are meant to guide them on everything from what path they're going to take and socio-emotional challenges to discussing and guiding the projects they're working on. 

The mentor provides guidance, advice and encouragement around learning goals and challenges. But, critically, they also offer socio-emotional support, leading with a wellbeing check-in at the start of the meeting. 

As Innovation & Learning Director Devin Carberry explains, 

“Every mentor has their own style and format for mentor meetings, but typically, sessions start with a wellbeing check-in. 

“A Learning Guide might ask a learner for tell-tale indicators of their wellbeing like the cleanliness of their bedroom, how well they sleep or how many hours they engage with their favourite activities. Mentors might also ask, "what’s the most exciting thing in your life right now?” or “what’s keeping you up at night or costing you the most sleep?”

The way a mentor responds to these questions is key. 

Instead of offering advice or prodding a learner to get work done, a mentor should engage in reflective listening. Devin explains, 

“For instance, if a learner says they haven’t been sleeping because they feel anxious, the Learning Guide could simply respond, “You’ve been feeling anxious lately”.

Often, the learner will then provide more information and continue with a response like: “Yeah, I’m feeling a lot of pressure right now to figure out my future”. A simple follow up from the Learning Guide could be: “Thinking about the future is making you feel anxious and pressured.” 

This approach is helpful to ensure that mentors truly understand what the learner said but also because it helps learners feel heard and understood. This non-judgemental approach validates learners while also empathising with them. 

Learning Guide Jenny Wells sums it up simply: 

“You just put as much control as you can in the hands of the learner while supporting them.” 

Relationship as the core of mentoring 

“There is a strong premium on creating and maintaining relationships,” explains Jenny. 

“Being a mentor allows Learning Guides to tease out some of the information that wouldn't normally come out, which might be affecting the learner’s progress or emotional world.” 

One mentor summarised his approach:

“I listen and question past explanations or excuses to understand learners’ underlying drivers. When the relationship is strong, I can share critical observations because they know I don’t judge them, nor am I attached to specific outcomes.”

The key to a strong mentoring relationship is providing a safe space for expression. In this sense, the face-to-face meeting is vital for relationship building because it allows learners to express themselves honestly.

“I think it's harder to keep on a mask for a whole mentor session,” Jenny explains. “It's easy in a hallway to say things are fine and make that believable. But actually sitting down and talking with someone is when important things come out.” 

The impact of a mentoring programme for students

Mentoring does not always have a clearly defined impact on a learner, and it can be frustrating for Learning Guides when it appears that a learner is not engaging or transforming their behaviour or mindset based on mentorship. But mentorship is a long term game.  

It can even be demotivating if it’s focused on the short term. In many cases, transformation takes time to root and grow, and it can take months or even years to see true holistic growth in a learner. 

Former learner turned Learnlife Intern Pau Commeleran is emphatic about the impact that mentoring had on him during his journey through Learnlife. 

“It's been a crazy good experience for me. Being mentored is a great way for you to understand yourself, to share in a vulnerable way your thoughts and feelings, and to get feedback with someone fully attending to you,” he says.

Indeed, his experience at Learnlife was so positive that he’s returned to the Urban Hub to work as an intern, driven to give back to the community what he believes Learnlife has given him. 

Recommendations for building positive relationships

When designing a successful mentoring programme, it is essential to start at the heart, with an understanding of how to build strong relationships. 

We’ve included a few tips from our Innovation & Learning Director, Devin Carberry, about how to build relationships with learners and approach a mentor programme for students.

1. The relationship comes first

An expert mentor will know how to preserve the relationship and raise concerns with tact.  

No matter if the learner is obviously wrong, refusing to do what you want them to do, acting irresponsibly, going down “the wrong track,” or self-sabotaging, the relationship is what counts. 

There is a tendency to want to push mentees to be their best selves. A seasoned, sensitive mentor knows to respect their mentees’ limits and does not push without permission. 

2. Active listening

To help learners feel heard and understood, it helps to summarise what they’ve said. If a learner presents many disparate ideas, making a mind map or assisting them in visualisation helps to ground their thinking. 

Sometimes, learners struggle to fully express themselves, and the mentor can help the learner verbalise their inner experience. This should be done tentatively with phrases like: “It sounds like you might be feeling/thinking/experiencing…”. 

3. Talk tentatively

Use phrases like “In my opinion…” or “As I’ve understood…” rather than talking in absolutes.  

This avoids the pitfalls of learners adopting your worldview to please you or feeling misunderstood when their behaviour or words are interpreted definitively. 

Learners report appreciating Learning Guides who respect their opinions, even when they have a different one. 

4. Modelling

Talk about your own learning and growth process to demonstrate that growth is not always immediate. It takes deliberate practice, commitment and passion. Passion is contagious. 

Through personalised guidance and genuine connections, mentors become invaluable allies in a learner’s educational journey. 

Understanding the profound impact of mentorship allows us to appreciate its role in shaping not just academic success but also fostering essential life skills and socio-emotional wellbeing. 

The ability to navigate challenges, celebrate successes, and provide a safe space for expression highlights the holistic nature of mentoring. 

As we champion this collaborative approach, we empower our children to thrive, building a foundation for a future where they are not just academically proficient but resilient, empathetic and ready to face the complexities of the modern world. 

Written by