down and troubled and you need a helping hand… ain’t
it nice to know, you’ve got a friend?” James
happens when a classmate reaches out to help another
classmate become more organized and succeed on a
assistant principal and a seventh grade teacher
in a suburban middle school set out to discover
what they could about this process in the 2004-2005
at the school, with encouragement from administration,
developed “crisis plans” based on research by DuFour,
DuFour, Eaker and Karhanek. They discuss “the emergency
preparedness of public schools to respond to a variety
of crises such as fire, tornado, shelter-in-place,
and other emergencies in succinct procedures known
to all staff and students. They identified, though,
that schools need similar “crisis” plans which respond
when students are not meeting the primary function
of a school: learning.”
One team’s crisis plan which involves volunteer
team mentors was studied by the Met Life fellows
Aimee Holleb and Susan Williams for TNLI.
Measuring the effect of year long relationships
among teen age middle schoolers is a difficult task.
Middle school students are changing so rapidly,
physically, mentally, and emotionally, that many
times the friends they entered school with become
mere acquaintances by the end of the year. It seems
inevitable that a relationship based on need and
willingness to help, blessed by the teachers involved,
and academic and persistent in nature, will have
some rocky moments during the year.
believed that the student mentors make a difference
in the lives of their mentees. The researchers hoped
to find more positive attitudes, better grades,
better self esteem, greater confidence, and most
of all, better organizational and managerial skills.
Focusing on four pairs of students with interviews,
surveys and photographs, the researchers hoped to
show vast improvement. What they found was one student
who was drastically changed when he was shown a
method to become a better student. The others all
stated that they were happy to have a mentor, that
the mentor really helped them and that the mentoring
process was a success, however, their grades did
not show significant improvement.
decided to keep the plan and to improve it next
year to strengthen the positive impact it can have
the most important outcome uncovered through this
research was one which had not even been articulated
as a reason to create peer mentor relationships.
It came from a student who was viewed as “withdrawn”
and “at risk” academically and socially by her teachers.
For she, in addition to gaining a mentor in the
program, revealed that she found a “best friend”
when speaking about her mentor relationship.