boy with manCommitted volunteers take their unpaid work and the cause for which they donate their time and talents very seriously. They want to know how they’re doing. They’re interested in getting better at their “craft.” This sentiment is especially prevalent among those engaged in direct service with young children and families.

Work with staff to determine the most effective way to support a mentoring relationship. Some classroom teachers prefer a monthly meeting to discuss classroom dynamics, volunteer performance, and training topics. Others are more comfortable with informal conversations at the end of a shift during clean-up.

Some members of your staff may have little or no supervisory experience. They may not know how to deliver feedback, or simply feel very uncomfortable doing so. It may be especially tricky if staff must navigate a significant age gap with their volunteers. Identify a trusted, “go to” person with whom staff can discuss their challenges and develop skills to address them. You can also support them by training volunteers to defer to staff expertise – especially in the classroom. Ask volunteers to be receptive to coaching in a way that forwards the development of supervisory skills.

In an ideal setting, mentoring is a two-way street. Skilled volunteers can model read-aloud and story-time techniques, introduce early literacy skills, and provide recommendations on children’s books to foster a love of reading. Others can leverage their expertise in handling children with special needs. Thoughtful questions can motivate staff to think more deeply about their work and make concrete changes in programming.

Mentoring Resources

Intern Requirements (Family Building Blocks)

Classroom Intern Evaluation Form (Family Building Blocks)

Classroom Intern Letter of Reference (Family Building Blocks)