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        Mentoring Matters: Passing It On | MacArthur Fellows Program

        This lesson helps students explore mentorship through building their own template for a successful mentoring relationship. Students will examine the stories of a diverse collection of mentors and mentees, including MacArthur Fellowship recipients and college-bound students from PBS LearningMedia’s American Graduate Collection.

        This resource is part of the MacArthur Fellows Program Collection.

        Lesson Summary

        In this lesson, students will explore mentorship through the stories of a diverse collection of mentors and mentees, including MacArthur Fellowship recipients and college-bound students from the American Graduate Collection. They will compare and contrast the responsibilities of mentors and mentees and develop their own template for a successful mentoring relationship.

        Time Allotment

        60-90 minutes + Assignments (Approximately two 45-minute class periods)

        Learning Objectives

        Students will:

        • Compare “mentors” to “role models” and examine the qualities of a successful mentor/mentee relationship
        • Identify the role that mentorship has played in the work of MacArthur Fellowship recipients
        • Examine the benefits of mentoring through impact reports from MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership
        • Cite textual evidence from The New York Times article “A Chess Prodigy, a Mentor and Still a Teenage Girl” by Tammy La Gorce in a group discussion about successful mentorship
        • Compose a letter to a prospective mentor/mentee detailing what a successful mentorship experience would require

        Prep for Teachers

        Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:

        • Familiarize yourself with the MacArthur Fellows Program Overview video and the two or more MacArthur Fellowship interview videos (see Media Resources section)
        • Select and view one “Mentoring in Action” video (see Media Resources section)
        • Print student handouts
        • Prepare the multimedia projector for Learning Activities 2 and 3


        Media Resources:

        • The MacArthur Fellows Program Overview video
        • “Mentoring in Action” videos for Activity 1 (select one or two)
        • MacArthur Fellows interview videos for use with the lesson plan Learning Activity 2 (Select two or three):
          • Deborah Bial: Founder of the Posse Foundation and Education Strategist who addresses the challenges of college access for underrepresented populations by identifying and fostering latent talent and opening opportunities for them to pursue higher education
          • Francisco Núñez: Choral Conductor and Composer, shaping the future of choral singing for children by expanding opportunities and redefining the artistic and expressive boundaries of the youth choir
          • Rebecca Onie: Project HEALTH founder who created a program that works in concert with hospitals and physician mentors to mobilize college students to assist patients in overcoming obstacles limiting their access to health care
          • Jonathan Rapping: Criminal Lawyer, safeguarding the essential democratic right of every American to high-quality legal representation by transforming the practice of indigent defense in the South through training, mentorship, and community
          • Sebastian Ruth: Violist, Violinist, and Music Educator providing richly rewarding musical experiences and education for urban youth and their families while forging new roles beyond the concert hall for the twenty-first-century musician
        • Videos for additional lesson plan support, as needed:
          • Patrick Awuah: Education entrepreneur creating a new model for higher education in Africa that combines training in ethical leadership, a liberal arts tradition, and skills for contemporary African needs and opportunities
          • Claire Chase: Arts Entrepreneur forging a new model for the commissioning, recording, and live performance of classical music and opening new avenues of artistic expression for the 21st-century musician
          • Dafnis Prieto: Jazz Percussionist and Composer electrifying audiences with dazzling technical abilities and rhythmically adventurous compositions while infusing Latin jazz with a bold new energy and sound
          • Juan Salgado: Community leader creating a model for workforce development and training among immigrant communities through a holistic approach that addresses language skills, education, and other barriers to entering the workforce

        Student Handouts:

        Equipment and Supplies:

        • Computers with Internet access
        • LCD projector
        • Speakers
        • Whiteboard/ blackboard, markers/chalk
        • Pens/pencils and writing paper
        • White butcher paper (Kraft Paper)

        Web Sites:

        • The MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program: Official website for The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
        • CPB American Graduate: Corporation for Public Broadcasting initiative that offers national and local content, town halls, digital and community engagement, classroom resources, and teacher professional development to improve graduation rates and get adults involved in making a difference in a young person’s life.
        • The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR): Works with the private, public and nonprofit sectors to facilitate mentoring relationships that improve youth success at home, in school, and in their career.


        Mentor: Someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person

        Role model: Someone who another person admires and tries to be like

        Introductory Activity

        Introductory Activity: Understanding Mentorship (15 minutes)

        1. Do Now THINK-PAIR-SHARE: Ask the class to think about someone from their community, family, school, etc. that they admire and trust. Give students three minutes to describe in writing what it is about that person that makes them remarkable. (As they are writing, encourage them to think about the person’s character, how they treat the people in their lives, what is valuable about them that has nothing to do with wealth or possessions. The students do not need to name the person.)
        2. Have students share their response with a partner. Working together they should list common qualities that their subjects share.
        3. Have volunteers share their list of qualities with the class. (Record their responses on the board) Discuss:
          • What quality do you most admire in the person you chose?
          • Can these qualities be learned over time or are we born with them?
          • Is there someone in your subject’s life that s/he looks up to? (What do you think s/he learned from that relationship?)
          • What do you hope to learn from your subject’s example?
          • Have you ever been an example for someone in your life (a family member, friend, neighbor)?
          • Have you been a tutor, coach, teacher, caretaker, etc.? What was that like? What were the most difficult and most rewarding parts of that experience?
          • Would you describe the person you selected as a role model or mentor? What is the difference between a role model and a mentor?
        4. Explain:

          A role model can be a friend or a stranger who demonstrates qualities we respect and admire. A mentor is a person who represents qualities that we respect and admire and is also someone that we know personally who builds a positive relationship with us.

          A mentor actively guides a less experienced person by building trust and modeling positive behaviors. An effective mentor understands the responsibility that comes with that role and actively works to be dependable, engaged, honest, and responsive.


        Learning Activities

        Learning Activity 1: Mentoring in Action (10-15 minutes)

        1. Distribute and review Student Handout 1: Mentoring in Action. Play one of the “Mentoring in Action” videos (see Media Resources above).
        2. Review the responses and discuss:
          • What benefits do students/mentees gain from mentors?
          • What do mentors do? What roles do they play in their mentees’ life?
          • What responsibilities do mentors have? What are some qualities of a good mentor?
          • What responsibilities do mentees have to their mentors?
          • What do you think is required from each person for a mentoring relationship to be successful?

        Learning Activity 2: The Value of Mentors (15 minutes)

        1. Explain that the class will be introduced to The MacArthur Fellowship Program and the stories of award recipients.
        2. Meet the MacArthur Fellows: Distribute copies of the MacArthur Fellows Program Overview or ask for volunteers to read it out loud. (Optional: Play the MacArthur Fellows Program video and follow with a brief reflection and discussion.)
        3. Instruct students to take notes while watching the MacArthur Fellow interviews and write down quotes and examples of mentoring in the Fellows’ lives and work.
        4. Play the interviews with MacArthur Fellows Jonathan Rapping: Criminal Lawyer and Educator and Francisco Núñez: Choral Conductor. Supplement the lesson with one or more of the following interviews, as needed:
        5. Follow with a brief class discussion:
          • What are some examples of mentorship in the Fellows’ work and/or lives?
          • What roles does mentoring play in their projects?
          • How are the examples of mentoring similar/different?
          • According to the Fellows, why is mentoring important to the success of their programs?

        Learning Activity 3: Why does mentoring matter? (10 minutes)

        1. Use a multi-media projector or computers/tablets to display the Education, Daily Life, and Career section of Why Mentorship by the National Mentoring Partnership (located at the bottom of the web page). Ask for volunteers to read each brief section.
        2. Discuss:
          • What information surprised you most?
          • Why do you think people with mentors are “less likely than their peers to skip a day of school”?
          • What examples from the MacArthur Foundation interviews and films reinforce and illustrate these facts?

        Learning Activity 4: Who can be a mentor? (20 minutes)

        1. Ask: Can anyone be a mentor? Why or why not? What are the responsibilities of a mentor? (Record the responses)
        2. Distribute one of the following articles, and have students read the article and highlight examples of mentorship:
        3. Organize the class into discussion groups and distribute Student Handout 2: Who can be a mentor? Have the groups discuss and complete the handout.
        4. Reconvene the class and discuss their responses to the article:

          Discussion Questions for “A Chess Prodigy, a Mentor and Still a Teenage Girl”:

          • Do you think Alice is a good mentor? Why or why not?
          • Which of the qualities of a good mentor does she seem to possess?

          Discussion Questions for “Peer Project Mentor Preeti Finds Direction and Family”:

          • Do you think Preeti is a good mentor? Why or why not?
          • Which of the qualities of a good mentor does she seem to possess?

        Culminating Activity

        Culminating Activity: Mentoring in Action (20 minutes + writing assignment)

        • Writing Activity - Option 1:
          Finding a Mentor: Ask students to think about the kind of person they would like to have as a mentor. Have them write a letter detailing the qualities they are looking for in a mentor using the following prompts:
          • Why would a mentor be valuable for them?
          • What do they hope to learn through this partnership?
          • What will the mentor can learn from the student?
          • What responsibilities will they have to each other?
          • What specific life goals can the mentor help them pursue?
          • Why is mentoring important?
        • Writing Activity - Option 2:
          Becoming a Mentor: Ask students to think about the kind of person they would like to mentor. Have them write a letter detailing the qualities they have to offer as a mentor using the following prompts. (Optional: Have students research mentoring programs in their community and find out how they can get involved as a mentor or mentee.)
          • Why would you be an effective mentor?
          • What do you hope to offer through this partnership?
          • What will the mentee learn from you?
          • What responsibilities will you have to each other?
          • What specific life goals can you help the mentee pursue?
          • Why is mentoring important to you?

        Extension Lessons

        1. Oral Histories of Mentorship: Instruct students to research local mentoring programs and interview mentors and mentees about their experience. Have students develop a presentation about the impact of mentoring in the lives of their subjects and share information about how students can get involved.
        2. Mentoring Narratives: Have students research how mentoring is portrayed on television, in movies, in books, etc.
          Have students:
          • Identify two or more examples of mentorship stories and compare/contrast how mentoring is represented
          • Examine how these representations shape our understanding of mentorship (What social, economic, and political messages are conveyed by the mentor/mentee relationships? What roles do race and class play in portrayals of mentoring?)
        3. Going Deeper, The Impact of Mentoring: Have students examine the research, data, and resources related to mentorship and understand how mentoring programs are implemented as well as their impact. Instruct students to work in groups and analyze:
          • Who contributes? Who benefits?
          • What are some challenges that mentoring programs need to overcome?
          • What are the social and political demographics of mentors and mentees? Is this significant? Why or why not?
          • What makes a mentorship program successful?

          Instruct groups to supplement their research by interviewing participants in local mentoring programs. Have groups apply their research by designing a peer mentorship program for their school community.


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