They should say “No”.
I’m never surprised by the “No”.
I am honored and excited by the potential of the “Yes”.
The process I’m talking about is finding students to match with new mentors. Students are often from single-parent families that we believe would be open and receptive to this powerful partnership.
I pull the potential mentee from their classroom for a brief meeting in the hallway. I have been doing this on and off for 15 years. I have varied the tone and tenor of my presentation. I have lengthened and shortened the content. But at the end of the conversation it’s about the inertia of need. Is the need greater than the risk?
Students that are open to this new relationship and are hungry for that additional caring adult in their life say “Yes”. Despite the different approaches to my presentation, it is always the snap decision at the end.
Those whose first blush is more negative rarely workout even if I should convince or cajole their participation.
When I meet with the student, I say something like this:
“My name is Dr. Novak, and I have an opportunity for you that is optional. If you are not interested, it’s not a big deal. Have you ever had a mentor? No? Well, a mentor at Washington High School is an adult from our community to comes to Washington and takes a student out to lunch. We have about 30 students doing this right now. I will host the first meeting over pizza here at school and then from there you and the mentor will find a restaurant in our community for lunch once a week. Does that sound like something you would be interested in?”
If the inertia of need is there, I give them an application. If not, I say “thank you” and they return to class.
The process of getting that piece of paper back is arduous, but the end result can be life-changing for both the student and the mentor.
This moment in the hallway is a fork in the road. The inertia of need drives the student to risk the unknown, to risk meeting with a stranger, to even risk rejection in the hope of finding solace in a conversation with a person whose only known quality is a willingness to meet with just them.