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Gradient Learning Poll: The Power of Mentoring

Whether her students were learning in a socially-distanced classroom or from their own home, Chrysantha Norwood began every school day with one primary goal.

“I wanted them all to know that they were not alone,” Norwood said.

Norwood, a sixth-grade teacher at Distinctive College Prep-Harper Woods in Michigan, said regular mentoring sessions between students and a trusted adult have created a consistent—and calming—routine amid so much uncertainty since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

Each student used a weekly one-on-one check-in with their mentor to keep pace with their academic progress and set achievable goals. But Norwood credits mentoring with positive results that weren’t seen on a report card.

“We had to create spaces that were safe,” Norwood said. “A space where a student can say, ‘Hey, I’m not feeling 100 percent today,’ and we could unpack that together. I’d tell them, ‘It’s OK, because we’re all dealing with a collective trauma that we’ve never experienced before. But we’re making our way through this together.’

“Our mentoring’s gone way beyond these check-ins that we had to do because it was a requirement. It really has become a necessity and something we all look forward to each week.”

Norwood’s opinion on the power of mentoring is shared by educators across the country, as evidenced by the results of the first installment of the Gradient Learning Poll. In partnership with Project Tomorrow, Gradient Learning surveyed 1,418 teachers to better understand their views on the state of education. 

Ninety-five percent of teachers agreed that every student can benefit from a mentor and 88 percent said one-on-one mentoring provides value to their students. The survey also found that 82 percent of teachers said mentoring time with their students results in positive changes in their academic performance, and 83 percent believe that mentoring is helping students learn to succeed on their own. 

One of those students is Sariah Harwood, a senior at Bear Lake High School in Idaho. Harwood said her mentor gives her the confidence to succeed in school and the emotional support to handle any obstacles in her life.

“These teachers have been with us through thick-and-thin,” Harwood said. “When times get tough in the future, we’re always going to have these relationships to come back to…I truly love that I have someone to turn to in my times of need. I often come away from a check-in feeling relieved.”

Doreen Fioretto, Principal at OCASA College Prep in California, said the meaningful support her students have consistently received from mentors over the past couple of school years has helped “bring back the fun” to her school’s hallways.

“It’s been an incredibly challenging time for students, but mentoring has truly been the most important piece to help us all,” Fioretto said. “Students have been able to go to that one teacher and rely on them…Yes, it’s been hard, but it’s time to have some fun again and let kids be kids. 

“They’ve got to have a chance to grow up and have a good time. Mentoring helps them do that.”

Check out the first installment of the Gradient Learning Poll, which focuses on the Power of Mentoring. 

As part of its commitment to rebuilding education, Gradient Learning has embarked on this initiative to listen to educators, understand their feedback, and provide actionable solutions to meet their needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped teaching and learning in many ways, and the Gradient Learning Poll is helping to uncover practices and trends that are influencing the future of education.

Educators and non-educators alike can leverage the information shared in the Gradient Learning Poll in a number of ways:

  • Share these insights with your community. Repost this content on your social channels, or add to the Resources section of your website.  
  • Incorporate findings into your school’s vision for education. Leverage this data to help drive efforts to maximize student success. 
  • Begin a dialogue with your community. Listening to educators is a great way to kick off conversations with your peers and local leaders who help shape education for the students in your area.
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