The Sound of Silence

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As a follower of Psychology Today, I probably read several articles a week about the human experience or relationships. One about the power of silence really caught my attention. I thought it was going to highlight why humans are so terrified of silence. I figured this is something Tabor mentors and colleagues would be interested in. Something we touch on in training is that mentors should not feel obligated to always talk. This is a typical training in human services and psychology fields. We all get that there is power in quiet, but I think it is harder for us to act upon.

This article was actually about how silence can be more powerful than hearing music in a song. Although this article is not directly about mentoring relationships, I decided it was worth sharing on several levels. One is to start a conversation with our followers about how profound silence can be. Another is because music is a universal language and as a client once told me, a great equalizer: when you listen to music it does not matter how rich you are or what culture you are or what illness you have, it is something we can all share.

My mind can’t help but wander to the classic Simon & Garfunkel song written after JFK’s assassination, “The Sound of Silence.” Just listening to this highlights what is conveyed by the author’s research in the article. This is also where the parallel to mentoring comes in. It is truly a gift to give for you to be present with someone. We really do not always need to worry about exactly what we are saying. I think of when people talk about loss, we always want to say the right thing to comfort those in mourning. However those who suffered the loss often don’t remember the words but they remember that you were there.

When it comes to mentoring youth in foster care, many of them share that they just like that their mentor “is there.” I have worked with many child welfare workers and clinicians who talk about working with a youth who barely spoke to them and they always worried if they did their job. Many share how the youth will come back to them years later and just say thank you for not pushing me when I was not ready and how that really helped them during a tough time.

Those who know me are probably reading this post, thinking what a talker I am (and yes, rolling your eyes)! And of course, there are incredibly meaningful conversations that happen with our Tabor matches. However, this article was a powerful reminder that silence is okay, sometimes we need to be quiet and let the silence linger so that our youth can find their own voices in their own way and time.
-Jill

PS: My wonderful co-worker, Madison, suggested that people interested in learning more about this can also look into “wait time” from an educational standpoint. This research offers how long it actually takes different youth to absorb information and therefore how long we should give them to answer questions.

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I think it’s a dancing llama

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It is a rainy Friday in Bucks County. It is also Friday the 13th. It is also a full moon. And, according to one radio station, Mercury is in retrograde. YIKES!
My initial plan was to do a blog about some of the new research I have been catching up on from the Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring (http://chronicle.umbmentoring.org/). They have some pretty interesting information about trauma-informed mentoring and community involvement that is relevant to our program. However, I’ll urge you to check that out yourself. Not to say that I am superstitious or even know what it exactly means to be in retrograde but I think the “stars” are telling me it’s time to lighten things up on this blog!
Anyone who knows the mentoring program staff, knows we take our jobs very seriously. This includes knowing what the research says about mentoring adolescent youth in foster care. Something we see over and over again, is that mentors need to pay attention to the youth’s need for fun and this is something I wanted to bring to the blog today. Mentoring a youth is an awesome responsibility that demands commitment and compassion but to truly connect with a teenager, mentors need to know when it’s appropriate to have some fun.
I decided to google some videos that could draw a few laughs from the readership. Some were highly inappropriate (i.e. I never thought to ask a mentor if they have ever been on Jerry Springer during the screening process). Then I came across one that asks some teens/young adults what their definition of mentoring is. This serves a dual purpose. It highlights that this younger generation could use some extra guidance but it is also fairly amusing. Check it out at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QixGzqhKIMmentos41A9K5F3QCL._SY300_
No mentoring is not a dancing llama (seriously!?!). It is also not the candy, mentos, those chewy mints. However, it can be fresh and full of life like the candy. For those of you who remember the heyday of those commercials, I think I have found a new marketing strategy. Anyway, I digress. I hope you have enjoyed this quirky departure from our usual reflective and research-based posts. I also hope you had a few laughs and recommend avoiding black cats and walking under ladders today. Have a great weekend and Happy Father’s Day!
-Jill

 

Self-Efficacy As a Spectrum

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I recently came across this newer study that evaluates mentoring relationships based on the mentor’s perception of self-efficacy, or the mentor’s perception of their own effectiveness. While this study is based on university students as mentees, the notion that self-efficacy is a sliding scale is something that isn’t discussed much in the mentoring world. This study brought new things to light for me, and affirms that Mentors and Mentees both need constant support, as we are all brought to question our choices, judgements, and decisions (while some do this more than others!), and in the caring nature of Mentors, we often tend to ‘over-empathize’ or ruminate over decisions that affect our own perception of self-efficacy. Thoughts like: This isn’t like my last mentoring relationship, I didn’t know this would be so hard, Maybe I’m not cut out for this, Does this mentee even LIKE me? These are all questions we wonder on some level.

This study, featured in & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning in 2013, illustrates these insecurities by showing us that self-efficacy is an ever-changing aspect of any mentoring relationship. The study concluded that those mentors with higher self-efficacy in the face of successes and challenges in a mentoring relationship, would be more likely to ‘persist in their efforts.’ Also, they mention ‘self-efficacy boosters’ for which we would hope our in-services and trainings would qualify! 🙂

This served as a reminder to me that self-efficacy, much like confidence, depends on the task. Constant support is needed for all of us: we can all be listeners, but sometimes it is good to talk, learn that some of your struggles are community-wide, and we can all use a self-efficacy boost at one time or another! As we continue to develop this program, please let us know how we can offer you a boost (besides the strong coffee at in-services).

-Madison