Fort Dodge Community School District

"Invisible Mentoring" Takes Off at Feelhaver - from The Messenger

November 24, 2014

By BRANDON L. SUMMERS

At Feelhaver Elementary, teachers this year are practicing invisible mentoring.

The effort is part of the school's Positive Behavior and Intervention Supports program.

"The whole goal of PBIS is to encourage positive behaviors while also building relationships with students," Julie Nation, Feelhaver counselor, said. "To take that a step further, we looked at those students that we want to have a further relationship with, so they have a connected feeling to school."

Teachers who volunteer to be invisible mentors choose or are assigned a student, and subtly build a relationship with that student through subtle interactions.

"It can be something as simple as saying hi to get going in the program, and then it can continue. I noticed you like the Cyclones, or I noticed you're really good at football outside, or really good at art," Nation said. "It's a way for the teachers to invest in the students, for the students to understand there's a teacher at school who really has a genuine interest in who they are."

The mentors, though, are not matched up with the students in their classroom.

"They already have a relationship," Nation said. "So we're trying to expand the number of adults that have relationships with the students in the school."

Also, the students are not told they are in this program or that they have a mentor, Kate Simpson, Feelhaver counselor, said.

"That's purposeful," Simpson said. "We want it to be authentic interactions, instead of a teacher going to the room to pick up the kid for a specific time with them."

According to Simpson, the students are appreciative of the extra attention.

"The kids view that, all the adults in the building have an invested interest in me and care about me, and want me to be at school every day," she said. "It's just trying to get more adults contact with kids they may not see, because they're not in their rooms every day."

An invisible mentor can be anyone, including the school secretary, nurse or a paraeducator.

"It's any adult that wants to have a genuine relationship with a student," Nation said. "And for the student to have a sense of belonging at the school."

As a result of invisible mentoring, teachers are seeing students respond more positively to PBIS.

"It's helping students buy into the PBIS framework of doing what they're supposed to be doing, and following expectations," Simpson said. "They know people are watching for them, and when they have someone that's connecting with them, they want to make that person proud and happy."

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