February 7, 2023

How Mentorship Can Alleviate the Academic Setbacks of COVID

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently reports that the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is low for young Americans, research shows that children are especially vulnerable to the emotional impact of traumatic events that disrupt their daily lives.

As a result, we’re seeing the toll of the pandemic show up in key academic indicators among young students. COVID essentially erased decades of progress in math and reading across the country.

This year, for the first time since the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests began tracking student achievement in the 1970s, 9-year-olds lost ground in math, and scores in reading fell by the most significant margin in more than 30 years.

“The results of a national test showed just how devastating the last two years have been for 9-year-old schoolchildren, especially the most vulnerable,” reports Sarah Mervosh in The New York Times.

The significant adjustment of children learning online at home interfered with their sense of structure, predictability, and security–a lasting impact of COVID that calls for a durable solution to keep our youth grounded during this educational crisis.

Mentorship with a safe, caring adult has the power to significantly improve the course of students’ academic, professional, and personal life trajectories, research shows.

A 1995 study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program found mentored youth earned higher grades than a similar group of young people who did not have mentors. Further, a 2007 study of the program found youth in school-based mentoring programs turned in higher quality class work, did better academically (especially in science, and written and oral communication), and completed more of their assignments than their peers who did not have mentors.

Here is how we can step up as mentors for the impacted students to elevate their educational experience:

Establish expectations from both parties

When meeting your mentee, it is essential to make them comfortable by explaining your role in their development. 

Communicate what you expect from them, as well as how you’ll be there to support and mentor them. This allows both parties to share what they hope to get from this experience.

Make space for conversations around education

With the lasting impact of COVID on students’ education, it is imperative that we ask students if they feel supported at school, what their current struggles are, and how they might feel more supported. This is also a great opportunity to discuss their strengths and where their interests in school subjects lie. 

Goal setting is critical for future success

Integrate a brainstorming session to set S.M.A.R.T. goals which will set you up for success by making goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. The SMART method helps push you further, gives you a sense of direction, and helps you organize and reach your goals.

You and your mentee should discuss what you’ll tackle together first, as well as create check-ins and incentives for each goal set.

Emphasize strengths, hopes & positivity

Facilitate positive conversations with your mentee to speak about their experiences and the challenges they’ve overcome. Sometimes our youth just needs someone to affirm their strengths and pour hope into their hearts about the future.

Discussing strengths is connected with many benefits including increased well-being, engagement, life meaning, achievement, and decreased depression, to name a few. 

Mentorship can be a valuable, life-changing experience, especially in education and learning. Let’s strive to be mentors that positively, deeply impact how our youth succeed in school.

At For The Children, we deeply believe in the benefits of mentorship—both for mentors and mentees. Sign up today to become a mentor with FTC and change a young life.

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