27th May 2015
Mentor Retention Advice
Congratulations on gathering your team of Mentors! CoderDojo wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of all the volunteers that Mentor at Dojos. Once you have acquired a team of Mentors it is important to provide support for them so that they continue to return to the Dojo each week. Below are some ways in which to create a community and assist your Mentors.
Host Mentor meet-ups every so often to give Mentors the opportunity to provide and discuss feedback. This provides an open channel for them to highlight anything that is not working or what is working the best. Mentor meet-ups create:
- A sense of community among Mentors
- Opportunity to discuss new session topics or ideas
- Ideas on how the team can help to spread the workload evenly
- An opportunity to recognise achievements within your Dojo either by Mentors or Ninjas which is a good way of encouraging creativity and participation at your Dojo.
For new Mentors and volunteers icebreaker sessions can be a great way to get people new to the group more involved and engaged. Be sure to involve everyone in the sessions.
“Meeting mentors at CoderDojo gave me great ideas for new learning and teaching concepts. It’s also wonderful to meet other developers in the industry who introduce me to new technologies and network with other companies who can help with resources for our Dojo. It’s comforting to know there are female role model developers out there too!”
Ursula Clarke Everett, Docklands Dojo
Share the Work!
One of the main reasons for a drop off in Mentors is that when the workload isn’t shared equally among all Mentors and as a result they can become unmotivated. If Mentors feel pressure to have a lesson plan ready for each week it can become somewhat of a burden on top of their day to day work. Keeping your Dojo largely unscripted can help to make it feel less like extra work they need to do. Resources for Dojos are available on Kata, our CoderDojo Community Wiki, so Mentors will never be stuck for something to do with their Ninjas.
Making sure to divide up the tasks between all Mentors and volunteers means that no one will feel too much pressure and they will all be free to enjoy themselves. Having specific tasks allocated to each volunteer is a helpful way of keeping everything equal and there is an opportunity to change around tasks every so often.
“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)
Run your Dojo during a suitable time for both the Mentors and attendees. It is better to have a set time so Mentors & parents can fit the Dojo in their routine of other activities that they are taking part in.
Be flexible if possible, try having your Dojo on a weekend as well as a weekday means that people who may not be free during the week can still have the opportunity to help at the weekends. Being as flexible as possible with working hours makes it easier to find enough Mentors.
“I love watching the pride in other mentors’ eyes as they see a kid they’ve worked with present their project. It helps to watch the other mentors so you can see how the kids respond to their approaches – remember what works for one may not work for another. It’s great to hear the parents tell me CoderDojo is their son or daughter’s favourite part of the week.”
Sandra Maguire, CoderDojo Dun Laoghaire
Content is key! Be sure to always have content available at your Dojos that Mentors can use at the session. This is particularly useful for retention when a Mentor has not been able to prepare anything so that they don’t feel like they can’t take part. Let Mentors know where there is content available online either through CoderDojo (Kata) or through other useful sites that you have found.
If you have found new content that could be useful at your Dojo, share with the Mentors at your next meet-up so that they can familiarise themselves with this content before your next Dojo.
One of the best angles to take in terms of content is to ask the Mentors what they would like to teach at the Dojo. If some are more skilled at one aspect and some at another it will make it easier to divide up the sessions so that each Mentor is teaching a skill they are confident in and enjoy teaching.
If you would like to add content to Kata then please see here for more information!