Dave & Aidan
In-School Mentor, Dave Stell, wrote this lovely story about his mentoring experience a couple years ago.
Work can be pretty hard. Paying the bills and taking care of lots of different responsibilities can be challenging. But being a Big Brother? That's easy. I became a big brother in 1999 and I've had four little brothers in that time, two at RH Cornish and two at Prince Albert. Jordan, Jeremy, Nic and now Aidan. They've all been very different from each other, but they shared one common trait: they loved to have fun.
I've been lucky to be able to stay in touch with two of them after they went to high school. That's when mentoring ends, at the end of Gr. 8, but the friendship doesn't have to.
It can be weird later on, though. I was talking to a past little brother recently and we agreed to go out for beer and play pool soon. I can't tell you how that felt, the first time I realized he was old enough to go out for beers. But it's a good kind of weird. And we did go for that beer.
As an in-school mentor, I'm there for just one hour each week. The hour always flies by really quickly, every week.
For the most part, it's just fun and easy. Big Brothers is pretty good at finding kids that you will mesh with. Right now my little brother Aidan is a hockey nut - so we play floor hockey about 90 per cent of the time. It's a blast.
Others have liked basketball or dodgeball or any sport we could make up out of our imagination with any of the equipment we could get our hands on. Those are the best games of all. In the nice weather we take our fun outside and play football or baseball in the school yard.
The school is as accommodating as possible and helps us get gym time or library time with computers or space to play board games or cards. I've also heard that other matches watch movies together and make popcorn in the staff lounge.
It's funny, but I got into it thinking it was all about helping a young boy grow up. I worried that it might be a burden, that I would have to teach him discipline and be responsible for him becoming a man. But it's not that at all. It's been something I get a lot out of myself. It's a rewarding feeling to know my little brother looks forward to seeing me every week. In fact - that's one of the most important things I was told - that stuck with me when I first signed up. Show up! That's 90 per cent of the hard work in being a big brother. For kids with single parents, they sometimes get let down by dad or don't get to see him at all. So if you can just show you can be there for him, it makes all the difference in the world.
Now, one myth I have to bust while I'm talking about the experience is the idea some people have that it will be awkward. Talking to young kids is intimidating to some. But despite my best efforts to be a psychiatrist when I started 12 years ago, boys just aren't talkers. I gave up on it a long time ago. Unless they ask you to talk, or they are visibly upset about something, they are OK and just want to spend time doing something with you. Each match has been a positive experience. Teachers tell me they see a change in their personality and their relationships in class. And all I did was show up and play games and be nice to him for an hour a week. How easy is that?! For those of you who have 9-5 jobs like me - you may be concerned that it will be a pain to get time off to do it. But I've worked for five bosses over the past 12 years and they have all been completely supportive of giving me a longer lunch as needed, or to come in an hour late one day a week so I can keep this mentor volunteer opportunity going. I think companies see it as a way to give back to the community, so don't automatically think your employer will balk at the idea. You'll be surprised.
If you're interested in learning more information about our mentoring programs, please call Cheryl Holmes at 905-985-3733 ext 2.