Mentor Voice Forum: Confidently challenging students misconceptions

Mentor-led training is a valuable way of continually improving and developing best practice for working with students. At Think for the Future, our Behaviour and Resilience Mentors join together in their small locality areas to hold regular Mentor Voice Forums to train on current themes and issues arising from their experiences in school.

At our recent Northamptonshire Mentor Voice Forum, Behaviour and Resilience Mentor Ashley shared his experiences on ‘Confidently and appropriately challenging negative attitudes or misconceptions that pupils display about school life, social life or social topics’.

During the training, the mentors discussed the following negative views and attitudes some students may have towards:

  • Their school (particularly their school’s behaviour system)

  • Authority figures

  • Aspirations (many young people may have the belief that life will always take care of them, and no matter how they are at school, they think that they will become successful.)

  • Racist or homophobic views.

  • Taking responsibility for their actions and seeking to blame others for their behaviour

  • Supporting the idea of glorifying the use of drugs and alcohol, crime and gang involvement, anti-social behaviour in their communities, disrespecting women, deliberate poor behaviour in school, rebelling against authority, etc.

  • Having views and opinions around topical world issues happening right now that they don’t fully understand or appreciate properly.

  • Not always willing to accept that everyone has different views, opinions, likes, dislikes and general interests, and that not everyone’s mentality is going to align with their own. ‘My way or the highway’ mentality.

Challenging students’ attitudes is a key part of the mentoring role and it is a skill to be able to appropriately and respectfully encourage students to think about their opinions and views.

Ashley posed the following top tips to his colleagues and the mentors discussed further in small groups:

  1. Ask the students how they formed the opinion and whether they feel they were influenced by social media/celebrity culture/peers/the internet etc.

  2. Ensure you inform the student that you respect and appreciate them sharing their views, this will help your relationship with the student and make challenging the view easier.

  3. Ask what other students think of this opinion. This makes for great peer-on-peer mentoring and usually sparks some healthy debates that are great the session. Young people often respond better when their peers challenge them instead of adults.

  4. Refrain from sharing or presenting your own views and opinions. When challenging students, always ensure you use facts and if you can, evidence the counter viewpoint.

  5. When students present extremely offensive or outlandish attitudes, ensure expectations are made clear and students are aware the behaviour is unacceptable. Always follow the school’s behaviour and safeguarding policies with regards to zero tolerance behaviour.

A great opportunity for us to discuss and develop practices together as a team, our Mentor Voice Forums showcase our fantastic mentoring team’s experiences and skills. They give those delivering our Behaviour and Resilience Mentoring programme on a daily basis across the UK a platform to share their knowledge and enable us as an organisation to respond quickly to the immediate needs and trends of the young people we work with.

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