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The Mentor’s Field Guide: Question 65
This is surely something that should concern you… and all mentors.

Two People Having A Conversation

The twenty-first-century economy is unlikely to welcome young people who are not well prepared academically. And research suggests that a consistent predictor of a child’s academic achievement is parental expectations for the child’s educational attainment.

This holds true across income groups. Furthermore, according to Child Trends, parental expectations for academic achievement but outweigh other measures of parental involvement, such as attending school events, with educational outcomes parentheses (Child Trends, 2010) In addition, the following should be noted:

  • Parental expectations directly affect the amount of parent-child communication about school.
  • Parental expectations affect a child’s own aspirations and expectations.
  • Families with high educational aspirations for their children tend to provide more out-of-school learning opportunities for them.
  • Students who reported that their parents expected them to attend college had better attendance and more positive attitudes toward school.

If you are a mentor who learns that your mentee’s parents have low expectations for what she can achieve academically, either in the long or the short term, plan to play a role in countering that influence.

Help your mentee do better at school and offer all the encouragement you can to your mentee regarding both her current school work and what you think she can achieve in the future.

And try to find opportunities to, quite literally, see other kids whose circumstances resemble hers who are doing well in school or achieving success in some type of post-secondary educational institution.

For example, many former mentees have told us that one of the most important things their mentors did for them was take them to visit specialized vocational training schools for electronics or the visual arts or college campuses.

Simply seeing or meeting students who look like them in these settings suggested possibilities they hadn’t considered.

If you are mentoring an older child, explore whether her own or her parents expectations of her for advanced educational reflect a belief that financial barriers stand in the way.

They are likely to be absolutely right about the reality of financial barriers, but your job is to help your mentee see that they are not necessarily insurmountable.

Then do all you can to help her figure out how she could get the aid she needs to attain the kind of education that will give her a real shot at realizing her potential and succeeding.


Copyright 2002 by Search Institute. From The Mentor’s Field Guide: Answers You Need to Help Kids Succeed by Gail Manza and Susan K. Patrick. Copyright 2012 Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN; 877-240-7251 ext. 1; All rights reserved.