Wednesday, January 2, 2008

January Tutor/Mentor Tip

Compliment to Confidence

I am excited to be writing a monthly coaching article for volunteers involved in a literacy program in Chicago. I was thinking about mentoring and what it means. When we think of tutoring and mentoring, we usually think of academics. But, in truth, mentors do that and so much more. According to the dictionary, a mentor is a “wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” Mentors have so much to offer the students they are working to help. My goal is to give mentors of all types some tools to help them in their journey. This article series is for all of you mentors; volunteers helping kids in need, teachers and librarians dedicated to going the extra mile for their students, parents and other family members, all working hard to help someone they care about grow and succeed.

The psychology of growth and learning is an integral factor in student’s success. The tools I will present each month will focus on a variety of easy to use strategies aimed at facilitating psychological development. Together, we can work to stamp out illiteracy and build emotional strength for our youth at the same time.

I saw a wonderful quote the other day. It was from the late great Mark Twain.
"I can live for months on a good compliment."

No one says it like Mark Twain. That is such a powerful and true comment. But, what if you took that compliment and dialed it up? What if you turned a compliment into a campaign? Allow me to explain. A compliment is nice, but can take us only so far. As a mentor, you have a lot of power to impact your student (parents, remember, this includes you).

What if you looked carefully at your student and hand picked one of their personal strengths? After searching out that strength, what if you pointed it out to your student every time you saw that strength in play? What happens then? You begin to move your student from getting a compliment, to developing a stronger sense of self. Think of how far your student will go when you turn this, “You stuck with it until you understood that math problem,” to this, “You always hang in there and stick with the problem until you figure it out. You are a diligent person.” Now imagine if you give your student a variation of that same statement with different examples repeatedly over time. Hmm.

What you are doing, very simply, yet in a focused way, is highlighting your student’s strengths for them. You are helping them build their identity and enhance a sense of self esteem. This will have tremendous impact on your student and their academics! As we know, it is so important to both believe in ourselves and to know ourselves. This does both. In just a few concentrated minutes.

Remember, compliments can turn into internal confidence if you deliver them with consistency! Have fun, find your student’s strength and deliver it to them until it becomes a part of their identity! And by the way, don’t go hog wild. Stick to one trait at first, and make it a subtle campaign. No one likes the overly obvious. And stick with it. Before you know it, you will hear music to your ears. Your student will recognize their strength on their own. When that time comes, dab your tears, pat yourself on your back……and look for other hidden strengths of your student!

Maria Murphy has written this article in collaboration with Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection,
Please feel free to go to the discussion forum at or to to discuss this article.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for connecting with the Tutor/Mentor Connection via your blog and the T/MC web site. Together we can do more to help kids than any of us can by working on our own.