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Mentor Training

A few hours ago, Vickie and I got home from our second day of mentor training with the Cairns Youth Mentoring Scheme. Frankly, I think it’s the most honest-to-God challenging and exhausting training I’ve ever done, and for all the right reasons. I’ve read somewhere that the human brain actually uses no less than forty percent of the energy that the human body generates to power itself, and after this weekend I fully believe it; even though we didn’t do anything physically strenuous, Vickie and I were both knackered, last night and tonight.

I won’t go into too great a detail about the minutiae of the training course, but I will say that the most surprising thing was how much I learned about myself. The main goal of the mentoring course isn’t just to teach you techniques for communicating with your mentee, it’s about getting straight with yourself so that you can clear your junk out of the way when your mentee tries to communicate with you. Ladies and gentlemen, readers all, let me tell you that that can be a pretty scary thing.

Most of the training involved looking honestly at our own personal reactions to the sorts of problems that young people have, how we can deal with “on-the-spot” situations, where the personal borders of ourselves and our mentees are likely to lie and how to respect and manage them. That meant that all eighteen of we trainees had to be willing to actually put our reactions, however good, bad or even ugly, into words and air them with the rest of the group and the trainer, and trust that everyone will listen and make positive suggestions instead of condemning.

What made it work was the mindset that we all approached it with. I think it helped that we eighteen were all volunteers; we hadn’t applied for this program because it was a way to make some extra cash (or even as a primary source of income); we applied because we thought, for whatever reason, that befriending a young person with the aim of helping that person to handle life as best he or she can was a worthwhile use of our free time. There’s something in that spirit that makes you – that made me – willing to trust these people whom I’d mostly never met before with stuff that I normally wouldn’t share with anybody outside of Vickie.

The end goal was to get us able to encourage our mentees to trust themselves enough to stand on their own two feet and face life, no matter what it throws at them – because, really, the only way to show another person how to do that is to already be doing it yourself, or, at least, be making progress toward it. It required a good, honest look at yourself, and Vickie and I were quite surprised by the radical changes in some of our fellow trainees in the matter of two days. We both sure as heck learned some things about ourselves.

A side effect of the training, though, was that we made sixteen new friends whom we’d make a serious effort to get together with on a regular basis. There was already talk of a monthly gathering at lunch break today, and after training finished at three PM, half the group made our way to Brothers Leagues Club to chat. It wasn’t until almost six o’clock that the final four of us upped and left, and the time simply flew by.

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