21st May 2015
How to Find Mentors for Your Dojo
CoderDojo wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of all the volunteers that Mentor at Dojos. At CoderDojo there is never a shortage of young people that want to attend, however often at a Dojo there can be a shortage of mentors to guide the young people in learning about technology at a Dojo.
Sharing your knowledge
Mentoring at a CoderDojo is not only rewarding, but it benefits the children taking part in so many ways! Volunteers with technical skills of all levels are able to take part in a Dojo. Sharing your knowledge and inspiring young people to learn how to code is an amazing and empowering experience. It is also a great opportunity for you to give something back to your community.
“Don’t think that you need to know everything! At CoderDojo everyone is a learner: sometimes you’ll be sharing something you know, other times you’ll be learning from someone else. Peer learning is one of the great things about the Dojos.”
Craig Steele – CoderDojo Scotland
It can be difficult to initially source volunteer Mentors and subsequently to keep them coming back to volunteer each week, as people are often busy with work and other activities. We want to give you some ideas of where to find Mentors, and how to keep them, in order to keep your Dojo or youth club running and to help you cater for a larger amount of attendees.
Empower Youth Mentors
At CoderDojo we encourage peer to peer learning so that the children can ask each other questions when they are stuck before they ask a Mentor for help. Nothing solidifies and empowers their knowledge than showing others what they have learned.
Youth Mentors are usually CoderDojo Ninjas who have attended their Dojo for a few sessions who have some coding experience and are happy to share their knowledge by Mentoring other participants at the Dojo. Having Youth Mentors can give Ninjas more confidence as they are able to see, through exposure to peer role models, what they can amount to if they work hard and put their minds to it. It also shows them that nothing they are learning is impossible and that they can really do anything. Going to each other for help also creates a sense of community among Ninjas and can assist in making them bond and becoming friends.
”Don’t go in with any preconceived ideas, you’re dealing with kids and you’ll learn more from them than you would have believed!”
Sandra Maguire (CoderDojo Dun Laoghaire)
Reaching out to your local community
A Dojo gives to its local community by creating an awesome free place for young people to be engaged in learning about technology! When searching for Mentors and volunteers you should reach out to your local community via some of the online and face to face channels listed below:
Having a website for your Dojo is particularly useful as you can have a form where potential Mentors can register their interest. Posting in tech forums or groups can also help to create interest locally.
One of the best ways to find tech savvy Mentors and volunteers is by using social media networks. We recommend that all Dojos set up at least one Social Media Account to use for promoting your Dojo sessions and finding volunteers & supporters. Start reaching out to your local tech community via your social media networks explaining what CoderDojo is and what it is that you are covering at your Dojo. Below is the list of networks you should be using:
- LinkedIn – Set-up a Group and page for your Dojo. check out LinkedIn for Good
- Facebook – Set-up a Group and page for your Dojo.
- Twitter – Set-up an account for your Dojo.
- G+ – Set-up a Group and page for your Dojo.
Utilising Groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and G+ is a great way to spread the word and communicate with your Dojo and it’s followers.
Sites that host tech meetup events and have billboards to post on:
- Meetup.com – Useful for finding tech events in your area where you could meet people who might be interested in Mentoring at your Dojo
- LinkedIn for Good – A new way for you to connect with volunteers in your area
- Local Volunteer websites (varies with location)
It also helps to reach out directly to local companies that may have technical employees who would be interested in helping out. Asking to use their notice board or getting an email circulated to the company will help to inform people about your Dojo.
Approaching colleges and universities is a great way to find skilled students who would like to lend some of their spare time to doing something worthwhile. Having students as Mentors is also beneficial as they are usually more flexible and have better availability. You can see a template letter for reaching out to local companies here>>.
Get parents that attend your Dojo involved by spreading the word. Some parents may have technical skills and knowledge of programming, others can help with Dojo admin tasks to help free up technical mentors. Even if they may not be able to Mentor at the Dojo themselves it’s a great way to spread the word. Are there programmers or tech minded people at their places of work? This is a great way to source new Mentors for the Dojo.
Utilise your local paper by proposing to do an article about CoderDojo, this way you will get a listing in your local paper and you can add a call out for Mentors. You can also post in the personals.
All of these are channels that will help you get the word out there and source new Mentors! There are plenty of people willing to volunteer at your Dojo.
One last bit of advice:
Partner up: “As a new mentor in September, it was great to be partnered with another mentor (/couple of mentors). I thought that was inspiring and was a great boost in confidence for the occasional class where I felt a bit unprepared. It works much better in my opinion to have 2 or more mentors in a class. If you can arrange that, all the better!”
Steve O’Connor (CoderDojo Wexford)