The role of the mentor at Valenture

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Posted on: 12 Oct 2020

She is neither teacher nor parent. She has characteristics of each, yet the whole is more than the sum of these parts.

I’ve always thought of a mentor as an old(ish) person who has been successful in their field over decades and is willing to share their knowledge, skills and experience with a young person following a similar path to them. Think of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg; Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey. If we staged a play about a mentor, the actor playing the mentor would have grey hair and wizened skin; the rookie would be fresh-faced and bright-eyed. You get the picture. 

But hearing the word mentor in a school setting had my mind rushing from new Grade 1s being paired up with Grade 6 buddies to help them ease into ‘big school’ (this delightful practice happened at my children’s primary school), to shivering Standard 6 (yes, I am that old) pupils being terrified by smug Standard 10s as a rite of initiation into high school culture. 

So when we heard that Sam would be assigned a mentor at Valenture, we weren't sure what to expect. Enter Roxy from the wings directly to centre stage. Roxy Kühne is Sam’s mentor, one of a few Valenture mentors (there's also Avanti and Kate), each assigned to one class – in our case the Baobab Junior High homeroom. 

Right from the start, it was Roxy who walked us and Sam through those first days, softening the landscape as if using Photoshop. After our initial dealings with Adam (our admissions counsellor), Roxy became our interface with Valenture Institute, the buffer between us and whatever logistic or academic issues arose. It was Roxy who worked out a personalised catchup plan for Sam when he started two weeks after his peers, Roxy who liaised with Sam’s teachers to find out what he needed to hand in and by when, Roxy who spoke Sam through his first tentative steps in his online classroom.  

The Valenture mentor occupies a position that remains unfilled in most other contexts. Roxy is neither teacher nor parent, neither facilitator nor guidance counsellor. She has some of the characteristics of each one of these and yet the whole is so much more than the sum of these parts. 

The mentor’s invisible hand guides each student through their week. They send parents and students an email each Friday with the work programme and timetable for the following week mapped out, along with any other important information like changes in schedule. They meet with their mentees at least twice each week – once as a whole class (a Homeroom session) and once in smaller groups (a Learning Compass session) to ensure each student is coping socially, academically, mentally and emotionally. They are also available (phone, Zoom or email) to parents and students at all times. 

For me, one of the best features of the Valenture campus is the mentor who is always in the wings, just offstage, ready to enter on cue.  

Written by Caryn Gootkin

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