Learning from a Mistake

Topics: Justin I, Learning Pages: 2 (397 words) Published: September 6, 2011
As a graduate student, I tutored Martin, a college senior in Calculus and Physics. It took me too long to see that he had a learning disability and because I pushed him constantly with the coursework, he failed the two courses and eventually spent an extra year in college.

Currently, as a mentor, I was paired with Justin, a very introverted young man. Despite having an undergraduate degree, he was unable to secure an entry-level job in his field. Justin was very willing and attentive but his poor communication skills made for a challenging mentorship experience. Each week, he would enthusiastically take feedback but returned unprepared and discouraged the following session. Of all the mentees, he had shown the least improvement after four weeks in the program.

My initial frustration with Justin’s performance prompted two reactions: I could reprimand him for his lack of focus or I could try to understand what other factor were stalling his progress. I knew that if I took the former approach, as I had done with Adrian, the result would be disastrous. I opted to seek additional counsel from the program officers and secondly to create a different ‘work environment’ for Johnny. I observed that he became tenser during our group meetings and even more so when asked direct questions about short and long term goals.

Each week, I set up phone meetings with Justin to help build his verbal skills. We spoke about his favorite movies and books or how his week had progressed. These calls were important because they helped him to open up without feeling tested or self conscious. As he began to trust me, I started introducing elevator pitches and different presentation strategies. Over the course of 6 weeks, I remained supportive even when he showed very little improvement. Seeing Justin give a coherent and well delivered graduation speech on exiting the program brought great me great pride as a mentor. Currently, Justin and I are preparing for his first...
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