This is a reflection on my practice as a youth worker and training on ‘mentoring young people’.
I had signed myself up for the training because I had an interest in possibly being a mentor sometime in the future.
The training included a variety of activities/group resources which were designed to help us both understand being a mentor and to give us ideas of what we can do to get to know our mentees. We spoke about a range of things such as who we think our own mentors/role models in life are and why we think they are mentors (what sets them apart from everyone else we have known)? What skills mentors may need and defining a mentor role among other professional roles such as counsellors? Then we focused on the mentoring relationship, personal values, acceptable behaviour and boundaries.
This last section of the training was very interesting for myself; relationships, values, behaviour and boundaries. First and foremost I learnt that I would have to work very hard if I were ever to become a mentor because of my personal values.
Here are some of the reasons I felt I clashed with the role of being a mentor:
-As a youth worker I ultimately want to encourage people to be free from oppression and this was a very key theme that I expressed in the ‘values’ part of the training. Due to this I believe I would find it hard to say ‘no’ to people which mentors seem to have to understand when it is appropriate to do. I felt that mentors while working within a partnership framework with young people also needed to retain the fact that they have power in situations.
-During the boundaries exercise I found that I didn’t want to give people any boundaries instead I wanted to encouarge them to explore and create their own boundaries from experience, of course I would advise them on what I thought was best but not ‘impose’ rules on to them-mentors seem to need to do this as they are working one-to-one on a short time scale with agreed objectives.
-Time was another reason I wouldn’t like to do mentoring, I like working with people too much and wouldn’t feel right to end a relationship with a young person myself. Within mentoring this is a key element of work, there is always a time scale attached to a relationship. I do prefer working in a youth centre where I do not have too choose when a relationship ends -the young people do when they stop coming.
All of the above values/preferences to working can affect every job in which you work with people even my current role as a youth support worker however, now that I am aware that I feel this way I will choose future jobs carefully. I think the most important things about this training experience for me was to think about my own values -I believe once we are aware of them we can control their expression/suppression within our work to fit the job role.
One of the of ways I realised this was to ask myself why do I choose to occupy the job that I do?
What do I want people to get out of it? ~freedom~expression~creativity~confidence~experience~the ability to place themselves within their surroundings and feel contentment.
Why do I want people to gain these things? Because I have felt oppression, lacked confidence, not experienced things and needed guidance to experiment, express and understand myself…perhaps.
We never work with people 100% selflessly we do always get something out of it. I have cried for a week on and off after the experiences I have had with young people on Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions-because I felt an emotional involvement with their journey, because I helped them, because I felt proud of them and because I felt proud of myself for choosing to participate in such a (in my opinion) ‘worthwhile’ form of exploration. Some practitioners may believe my emotional involvement to be unethical or inappropriate, although I do not believe it is ‘wrong’ myself I do think it’s an important part of my work that I can recognise my emotional involvement so that I can contain it when needed.
Critique/comments welcomed…Thank you