Mentoring in practice: An MCR Pathways mentor and young person share their journey together

27 October 2021

Topic: Health and Wellbeing, Throughcare and aftercare, Voices of young people
Author: Lorna Tilsley and MCR Pathways mentee

MCR Pathways is a national relationship-based Mentoring Programme that provides young people with a school-based mentor. On this National Mentoring Day, a young person who is currently a mentee with MCR Pathways and their mentor, Lorna Tilsley, discuss how their relationship has developed over time, navigating COVID-19 restrictions, and the impact that mentoring has had.

Young person*, age 14, MCR Pathways mentee and pupil at Alva Academy

During lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions, many pupils couldn’t go into school so my siblings and I were pretty much in the same room in the house doing online classes. Being cooped up in the house with just my family and not getting to see my friends was a bit boring at times so I liked when it came to Friday morning when it was time to see my mentor. It was nice to talk to someone else other than just my family. We were able to tell each other things that we had been doing during the week at home with our families like dog walks, afternoon tea, a pizza party, a music festival and spa days. We also got to show each other our dogs.

Due to the restrictions we had to change our meetings to virtual meetings so we had to come up with different ideas for things to do during our mentor meetings. My mentor had got to know me and knew what my interests and hobbies were. She knew I liked reading so she suggested books for me to read and we would chat about that. We suggested movies to watch and songs to listen to and she challenged me to bake brownies and I challenged her to make pizza from scratch. She knew that I liked arts and crafts so she arranged an activity box from a local community group to be delivered to my house for me to do and we created online games such as hangman and created online quizzes on Kahoot with different themes such as Disney and animals because I like them.

It is nice to be back doing face-to-face meetings again and meeting up with my mentor in person. I like having my mentor as we have similar things in common and means we can chat about stuff that I am interested in. She knows that I am interested in acting and as she has done drama in the past, she is able to give me advice on things to help me with my career and my confidence. She has suggested clubs and groups to join to give me experience and she has given me links for online things that she thinks would be helpful to watch or read. People have noticed that since the first time that I met with my mentor, I have changed and got a bit more confident. I have become a bit more open-minded and willing to try stuff. A big change for me was joining a drama group during the summer where we did a ‘Play in a Week’. We had to rehearse during the week then put on a performance on the last day for an audience of our parents and siblings. Before having my mentor I would have been too scared to do it, but I managed to do it and I was really proud of myself.

Lorna Tilsley, MCR Pathways mentor at Alva Academy

It was great to have something to look forward to each week outside of work and housework! Although we were unable to meet in person, being able to meet up virtually still allowed us to connect and keep in touch. This was important during a time when so many other connections in day-to-day life had been lost.

It also forced us to do different sorts of activities to what we would have, had we been in normal circumstances. Initially, I was concerned that virtual mentoring could be awkward and unproductive, but in fact I found it helped develop our relationship, and we gained a little bit more insight into each other’s lives through that small window into our worlds – as viewed through being on screen. My young person got to meet my dog, and I said ‘hello’ to some of my young person’s family who popped up in the background, which was nice. I also noticed that my young person was very relaxed when on screen for home and seemed to enjoy the virtual set-up. It was genuinely uplifting to see this each week.

We adapted well and the virtual set-up seemed to come very naturally to my young person. Instead of playing hangman and noughts and crosses on scraps of paper in the school dining hall, we played some fun online quizzes each week, and my young person seemed to find it easier to chat from within the home setting. I also arranged for a craft box to be sent to my young person and their younger sibling to give them something else to do whilst stuck at home. I don’t think boredom was ever a problem for my young person though, as their family was brilliant at coming up with lots of activities to keep the kids occupied – staging everything from pizza parties and beauty salon sessions to full-on garden music festivals!

I have learned that mentoring is something that takes time to develop into a relationship, with each pairing evolving differently and at its own pace. My YP is quite shy and reserved, and I have tried to make sure we take a slow journey towards getting to know each other so my young person always feels comfortable.

This has taught me a lot about myself in terms of how to be more aware of someone else’s needs and that mentoring is not just about trying to move that person’s life forward or setting measurable goals. I now appreciate that sometimes enjoying a friendly chat and a nice bit of cake is just as valuable as anything else.

*The young person’s name has been anonymised to protect their identity

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author/s and may not represent the views or opinions of CELCIS or our funders. 

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