January is the National Mentoring Month, when awareness of mentorship comes to the public and mentor organizations are highlighted. Mentoring is crucial to the development of a young person. Mentoring provides children with positive, thoughtful adults in their lives who can provide guidance as well as academic support. Children who have positive role models tend to distinguish themselves in school and do good things like adults.
Science, Technology, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) is an area where our children do not have enough positive mentors and role models. The academic achievement of K-12 students nationwide in mathematics and science is low, even with all the resources in recent years poured into mathematics and scientific education. There are several reasons for lack of achievement in mathematics and science. One of the main reasons is that there is no continuum for learning between classrooms and homes so the students do not have enough experience from the classroom. Students are not engaged in sufficient hands on activities within these subject areas, therefore they do not have fun learning experiences. Students learn better when they have fun, and hands on activities enable teachers to address all the learning styles of the students in their classrooms. The school areas, however, have limitations with their mathematics and science curriculum. Therefore, it is important that VET professionals join our youth both inside and outside the classroom to improve math and science education experiences for young people.
When STEM professionals, doctoral students and undergraduate students serve as mentors for young people by providing academic support it promotes academic achievement in mathematics and science. Students are given the opportunity to review the contents of a smaller group setting than in their classroom. By reviewing content either in one or in a small group, students will be able to ask questions that they may not be able to or be afraid to ask in a larger setting. The mentor can provide a different method of explaining a concept that will help the student to understand. Mentors can also provide students with strategies to improve their study and test preparation.
STEM professionals can find opportunities to mentor to provide academic support in mathematics and science by volunteering directly at the schools. Educators are always excited to get volunteers and do not get enough volunteers who can help with math and science. Just contact the school, tell your schedule and how you want to help and Im sure they will welcome you to the open arms school. If your schedule does not allow you to volunteer during school day, there are plenty of after school programs hosted by community organizations that would love to support you in these areas. The most important thing is that you should connect to students and give them self-confidence and skills to get them in math and science.
The pictures that students have of what a STEM professional is is not very positive. Most children think that STEM professionals are old white men. K-12 students need to know that there are STEM professionals of all ages, gender, ethnicities and backgrounds. But most of all, they must see that a VOT career is an opportunity for them by meeting someone they can relate to in the STEM disciplines. Therefore, it is important for STEM professionals and K-12 students to join. Most children do not even know that pursuing a STEM career is an option because they never have a STEM professional. We can not create pipeline for the future STEM labor force if our youth do not know about knowing about these careers. We need to make STEM more visible.
Mentoring as a form of career research can take place in any form that works for the mentor and prosthesis. Career exploration is easy to expose students to the career opportunities that are available to them. Exploration means that the career is defined, what a person in that career does and how they can do the career. The mentorship can take place in a one-time career as a career or career day at a school or local community organization. This can happen in an environment where you take children to your workplace for a tour. With older children, this can be done by offering traineeships for young people in your workplace. The conversation may be once or continuously, but children must start learning about STEM career and how to do them.
If our national wants to be a leader and innovator in STEM, it starts with how we educate our youth in mathematics and science. The best way to do this is to improve the math and science education experiences for our youth through mentoring. It takes a city to educate a child and mentors are an important part of that village.