Considering having a FIRST Robotics Competition or FIRST Tech Challenge student mentor your FIRST LEGO League team? Here are some tips for youth mentors.
The following discussion has ideas posted on the Facebook Group FLL: Share & Learn . Contibutions by Asha Seshan, Sarah Cerra, Charles Angel, Faith Bongiorno, Joseph Gillen, Loridee Wetzel, and Laura Adamonis.
Let the team have their own journey
Often, youth mentors (or recent alumni) feel like they need to recreate their journey through FIRST. It is important to let the current students on a team experience FIRST for themselves and in their own way. Let the team make their own journey (sink or swim). How well the team does or does not do is not a reflection of you, it is a reflection of their journey.
Youth mentors have nothing to prove
“Act” like you know less than you do so they try harder to figure things out. It’s okay if they think they know better or more than you.
Mentoring is work and a responsibility
It’s work. You are there to monitor and guide, and let them do the work. It’s active monitoring. It’s not baby sitting. So make sure you understand what the role of a mentor is.
Guide the students, but do not do the work for them
As a mentor, you are in a similar role to the coach; you are there to facilitate, you are not a “team member”. Your role more often will be directing team members onto tasks and encouraging them to look from a different angle at a challenge. Don’t let the kids give you the keyboard/mouse/tablet (because they may try when they are frustrated). As a mentor, you get to help encourage and build confidence. You are building people, not a robot, not a solution. The team builds those items.
You don’t have to make it pretty; if the kids glue something on a board and it’s not level, so what….
Let your team fail
Let your team fail and celebrate the failures, mentors need to be okay with this.
If it is not fun, something is wrong
Have fun and encourage fun. What we win is less important than what we discover, and if we have fun while we discover, we will remember better! Plus, we need to remember that young kids are not thinking about the future, so if they have fun, they are more likely to stick with it to become FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition members later.
They are just kids!
Remember they are kids. Youth mentors need to realize that younger kids don’t necessarily have the same capabilities. Therefore, set age appropriate expectations.
Appropriate behavior always
While a young mentor may be in high school, the students on the FIRST LEGO League are not. Listen to appropriate music, talk about appropriate topics, and be aware of the ages of who are mentoring.
Each FIRST program is different
Understand the differences as this impacts how you mentor. What is appropriate in FIRST Robotics Competition may not be in FIRST LEGO League.
Youth mentors need to focus too
Teenagers don’t always have the discipline and attention span we think they do. They need to be reminded they need to stay focused on the kids for the duration of the meeting and season.