Wednesday, November 3, 2010


While eating lunch with my mentoree today, I witnessed a typical interaction for that age group. Really, a typical interaction for any age group -- but as we age, we learn to refine the methods of our meanness.

On one side is a Girl who obviously has a crush on him -- maybe doesn't even realize that's what it is. We'll call Her Natasha. In the middle is my mentoree, a fifth grade student. Call him Michael. On the other side is some boy in the class who is friends with Michael. Call him Shawn.

At lunch today, Natasha obviously has a beef with Shawn. He is to be ostracized, apparently for resorting with his other friends to namecalling of Her and Her friends. Michael wants to be friends with both of them. Natasha instructs Michael not to. She teases him, pokes him, scolds him, warns him not to.

I am supposed to be a "buddy" to Michael. I am not supposed to lecture or compel him to make moral decisions. I presume that means his friends as well. The idea for the mentoring program is that I am to be a friend, not another authority figure.

So how do I proceed? I finally tell Natasha, gently but firmly, to leave Michael alone because I would hate to have to report Her behavior to their teacher. I don't know without reading Michael's mind how much of Her behavior crosses the line from teasing between friends to outright bullying. Certainly if the roles were reversed and some boy was pinching, poking and arm twisting a Girl, I would immediately intervene.

Then I say, "We should all get along." Gack, sounds like some pot-huffing hippie.

Then I talk with admiration about my best friend in high school who made friends with everyone, the cool kids and the ones on the edge.

Natasha thinks about it for a few moments. She has a murmured conversation with Shawn. Then She tells Michael: "You can be friends with Shawn if you want."

I have never been a parent. So I do not have the skills that parents develop. Did I intervene unnecessarily in this instance? Or should I have done even more?


kat said...

you were great and it looks like you got the message across to her, had an influence with her

kids emulate behaviors, but they are not always shown the full range of options and the idea of consorting with paupers and kings is a higher concept.... one that was brand new to her

and just because one doesn't come up with it on their own does not mean they are a 'bad' kid ... it is how quickly they embrace it that shows a developing character headed down a good path

you got that message across well, letting it come to bloom within her mind and not beating her over the head with it - that way it will truly become her own style and substance

BraveHeart said...

I have one comment..
I do not see any reason to treat a Girl with a capital G and a boy with just a simple b..

Some people might think that you were great and it looks like the message got across... I think that.. I don't know what to think..
other than one day I hope to be equal with YOU as a Man and Woman Specie as ONE.

Maybe if there was no difference between the genders, life would be easier to handle.

Eastcoastdweller said...

Kat: I hope so. I have learned so much in my life from observing the way that others act, as well as from their words. I appreciate Your observation as to "Natasha's" character -- evidenced by Her ability to listen, learn and change course.

It is always a very weighty thing, to intervene in the actions of another person. By doing so, one is judging, one is declaring that you are right and they are wrong. I don't take the task lightly. I agonize over it every time, as anyone knows who knows me.

Ela: I hope that You will forgive me this little quirk of mine. I have always considered Womankind (of which Girls are the tender buds not yet unfurled) to have something about Her that is slightly superior to men ...

I accept only grudgingly and most unhappily, the idea that She is anything less than perfect.

That said, life would perhaps be easier if there were no difference between the genders -- but would we want to live in such a world? Men and women do complement each other, each bringing unique gifts to the table.

BraveHeart said...

yes yes.
Have a wonderful day!

I think I am finally okay with it.
Sorry it took me so long to accept it.

Chase March said...


Intervening is usually a good thing if you can use it as a teachable moment. I think that good behaviouer needs to be modelled and sometimes even play-acted out for kids to completely get it.

Of course, doing something is better than doing nothing. Good job!

Anonymous said...

I doubt even the wisest man/woman alive would know with absolute certainty in every single case, whether he/she should intervene or not. And sometimes we will do the right thing and sometimes we will be wrong. But I guess with mentoring we need to be keep our message and our behavior consistent. But you did well on this occasion. You deserve a pat on the back for being a mentor anyway. All these little victories should just be enjoyed.