“I greatly enjoy putting away my computer and to-do list and spending 45 minutes talking with one of our students. I believe that this is one of the most valuable things I do...”

Discipleship: “Dalat mentors students, inspiring them to seek truth, love God, and grow in Christ.”

As we focus on Discipleship this quarter, I want to explain what mentoring students looks like at Dalat. Building strong intergenerational relationships is key in faith formation for students (Kinnaman and Matlock, Faith for Exiles). Social science research also demonstrates that teens who have adult mentors develop greater confidence, self-esteem, and relationships with others. When children are young, their parents fill this role entirely. As children grow up, however, they naturally crave more independence and begin to develop their own identities distinct from the family identity. It is at this stage that outside mentors are crucial. Teenagers still need strong input from parents, but having additional adults build into their lives reaps even greater rewards.

Mentoring at Dalat is pretty unique. Many mentoring programs focus on students determined to be “at-risk” or from dysfunctional families. We believe that mentoring benefits everyone, so we offer it to any student who wants a mentor. The process usually begins with a student asking an adult to be their mentor or asking Mr. Ronzheimer to pair them up with a mentor. This is a really important step that should not be overlooked. If you think your child would benefit from having a mentor, encourage your child to pursue it. The students who are willing participants are the ones who end up benefitting the most.

Mentoring times can take on a variety of forms. I have mentored students one-on-one, in pairs, or even in a group of 10. This variety is because students have different levels of comfort and unique individual needs. The key is finding a regular time to which both the mentor and mentee can commit. During our weekly meeting times, I let the students guide the conversation. I ask them to come with questions, then we can discuss them. I have helped write English essays, studied for tests, talked about universities, discussed politics, debated different theologies, chatted about dating relationships, sorted through friendship issues, prepared for university interviews, and many other topics. 

Many of the students I have mentored have now graduated. When leaving, they want to know that they can still talk to me if they need anything. They will soon find new mentors and friends, but knowing there is someone “back home” is a critical part of the transition. Mentoring has been a blessing to me just as much as to the students. I greatly enjoy putting away my computer and to-do list and spending 45 minutes talking with one of our students. I believe that this is one of the most valuable things I do, and time well spent. I would encourage you to take time to talk with and listen to the children and teens in your life. Put away the devices and the list of chores for a while and really have an open conversation. It may be awkward at first, but you will both be blessed in the end.

Written by SHAWNA WOOD

Ms. Shawna Wood is dedicated to mentoring and discipling the next generation. Shawna has a Master of Education and has been at Dalat since 2012, first as middle school principal and now as deputy head of school.
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