Today is high school registration. I believe Rachel has a normal range of emotions about high school. She is excited but she has acknowledged she has some anxiousness about certain things. I think that is typical. I am excited for her and have my own anxiousness. More about some of that later.
I was up at school last week because Rachel’s case manager changed over the summer. This situation was caused when the assigned case manager took a different job. As I was thinking about the new person and bringing them up to speed on Rachel, I realized I have not shared much about the vital role I believe a good mentor has played in Rachel’s school success. I am not referring to typical mentors either. Yes, it is important to have students as mentors. Rachel will have a lovely young lady as her assigned mentor at high school. She has some great mentors like Oksana, but I’m talking about a different kind of mentor. I’m talking about an adult, a teacher.
We believe that one of the reasons Rachel was able to be successful in middle school was because of her relationship with her 6th and 7th grade resource teacher and case manager Ms. Cox. We didn’t plan for that. It just happened. Rachel really needs someone she can go to and talk through things with. She needs an adult who understands her or who can clarify situations to help her process. She needs someone to love on her, support and comfort her, but she also needs someone who doesn’t overreact. She needs someone who can be firm and say time to dry your tears and get back to where you are supposed to be.
Rachel needs someone she can talk to about “girl things” and “teen girl things.” She needs someone she feels like she can talk to and count on. Even though Ms. Cox was not her 8th grade case manager, she was still Rachel’s go to person. Rachel knew she could go to Ms. Cox. I was up at school last week and this “mentor” thing is one of the topics we covered. I realized we had not really addressed and hit me this summer that this is a discussion we need to have. We need to try to identify someone who can be this person for Rachel. We think we have identified that person and the school representative I was talking with was in complete agreement that this was important and had already been thinking about it.
While it is important for Rachel socially, this also impacts her ability to do well in her classes. If she has the right person to give her support, she is better able to focus on her classes. Rachel tells us her brain is full. When it gets really full and the movie of her life gets intense (remember she sees her life as one ongoing Disney movie), she needs someone to help her process so she can re-engage. Ms. Cox was her usual go to person. She knew she could count on her even in tough times. To be successful in high school, she will need a new mentor.
Once Rachel had done something she shouldn’t have done. She was trying to impress a boy. It was crazy but she realized she had messed up. She was terrible upset and went to Ms. Cox. Ms. Cox calmed her and figured out who was involved in the situation. She took Rachel and went and found the person who clarified what had happened. She realized Rachel needed to apologize and told her to do so. Rachel did and the student said it was okay. Ms. Cox told the student “No, it was not okay. That was inappropriate and you need to accept her apology but tell her that this was not okay.” Then, Ms. Cox got Rachel back to her own class. And that was exactly as it should have been handled.
As I think about it, she had a mentor in elementary too: Ms. Stefanie her para. Ms. Stefanie had many of those same characteristics that Ms. Cox had. One of the main ones is that Rachel trusts Ms. Cox and she trusted Ms. Stefanie. Rachel knew that she could go to Ms. Cox and she knew that she could go to Ms. Stefanie.
What I’m trying to communicate today is to think about this as you plan. We didn’t necessarily plan this and I didn’t even think about the importance of it until we were already fully engaged in the transition to high school. I am convinced that it has made a huge difference for Rachel and for us though. It has given Rachel a way to sort out her full brain and re-focus. You might just pay attention to who is around that can play that role in your child’s life to give them more support for success. Like friendships, I think the best mentors are the ones who have just happened as a result of natural relationships. However, I think you can have your eyes wide open and see if there is someone who seems to be filling or able to fill that role for your child.
I am certain that Rachel’s adventures in high school will give me many more stories to share. Now, I am off to enroll Rachel in high school!