It's like herding...NERDS!
I feel a creeping sense of fear as I start to write this, our inaugural post of new venture.
Because embarking on anything new invokes a bit of fear in all of us. Whether it’s the first time we get behind the wheel of a car or entering the high school on your first day of 9th grade.
And remembering how tough those milestones are is one of the reasons we mentor.
For me personally, mentoring was an evolution I didn’t see coming. My student had joined team 2560 in her junior year. She was a lackluster participant initially, having joined a a way to spend time with her new boyfriend. The relationship fizzled but it did open her up to new friends and interests that helped overcome the break up. But more than that she learned more about herself by being part of a team.
That year we started the parent support group that would become the Parent Pack. It started with snack food to fuel their late night build sessions. I started talking to other parents and realizing they knew about a much a I did (Very little!) about what the team really did except build a robot. Many of us equated it with ‘Battle Bots’. I had little to less technical knowledge but what I did have was unbridled self confidence masking some fairly deep social anxiety and a sense of insecurity.
Parent shared numbers and ideas and as we stood around waiting for our kids to wrap up we learned more during those informal conversations about our kids. We shared moments where we’d see someone else’s kid step up, be nice or use a new tool and how excited they were about it. We complimented one another when their kid showed exceptional good manners. By osmosis we learned more about this thing they incompletely just call ‘robotics’. But more importantly we got to see first class mentoring up close.
At the time we saw four primary mentors, Mr. Wilson, James, David and Eric almost daily. They always greeted us with a smile even as they were helping wire a circuit board or write a line of code. We heard the respectful and supportive ways they spoke to our kids while teaching them a new skill. No question was ridiculed, no student too inexperienced to use a drill and no shame in admitting you didn’t know something. Because they were there to help whether you were 16 or 36.
That first year, as the season wound down towards competition (Trust me, that was a WHOLE experience we’ll address in another post!) my organizational side became engaged. Admittedly, I kind of shoe-horned myself into by volunteering to give kids rides which meant having parent contact information to get permission, to writing up parent hand outs, which were really cheat sheets for me so I could fake my way through helping with Science Nights and led to creating thank you letters for donations etc.
Why was I getting involved in something I barely understood? Because there was something infectious about hearing the kids fall apart laughing and giving each other some gentle grief. Something about their faces lighting up with excitement, create in jokes and learn that they weren’t so weird after all.
Ultimately though it was seeing these amazing adults teach skills and letting them find their own way. They inspired, encouraged, cajoled, listened and nurtured. I will never be able to thank them enough for that.
Oh, you thought i meant the kids? They did all that for them too.
The next year I had an aspiration. I wanted to try to be more like them. Then I learned how maddening, exhausting, challenging and more than anything REWARDING it would be.
I love every minute of it.