Can Distance E-Mentoring in Dallas Schools Succeed?

Written by Patricia Hawke for

E-mentoring in Dallas Schools is a program endorsed by the Dallas Bar Association (DBA), Dallas Association of Young Lawyers (DAYL), and the Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD) that assists students in becoming the first in their family to graduate from college.  This program is called the Advancement Via Independent Determination (AVID) Program.  Dallas Schools AVID program students interact with these older college graduates via email.  The mentors provide students with the motivation to keep going in school despite the alarming drop-out rate in Dallas Schools. 
Tips for New Mentors
New mentors for Dallas Schools have a lot to live up to.  It’s mentor’ responsibility to motivate and support the students in the program.  Naturally, it can all be overwhelming, so here are some tips:
Attendance:  Since the AVID program is conducted mostly online, it is imperative that mentors show up for any scheduled face-to-face meetings with a Dallas Schools AVID  student.  This will ensure that mentors and students get to know each other properly and are able to attach a face to a name.  Mentors’ should ask their students questions about his or her personal life.  Find out about their goals, hopes, fears, etc.  This will really help you in the mentoring process because you’ll know the student that much better.
Limits:  It is very important that a mentor understands that there are limits in their  Dallas Schools AVID student’s life.  He or she may not have access to a computer at home so it might take longer for him to respond to a mentor’s emails simply because it has to be done at school.  Even with school internet access, it might take as long as a week to respond to any email a mentor might send.  In order to work around this better, a mentor should find out when the student has internet access so they can establish a schedule of email response times accordingly. 
Do’s and Don’ts:  Mentors should not, under any circumstances, initiate any outside contact with their student.  Correspondence can only be made through email and scheduled AVID program events.  It might be tempting to a mentor to take their Dallas Schools AVID student out to lunch or to talk over telephone, but remember that it is strictly forbidden by the program.  This program might seem challenging to a mentor at first, because the student may not respond quickly. Dallas Schools encourages mentors to stick with it. Mentor should continue to provide words or encouragement for their Dallas Schools AVID reminding them that mentor support is behind them.   
Overall, it seems that the E-mentoring program in Dallas Schools is headed in the right direction, but the lack of physical contact between mentor and student is troubling.  Interaction works so much better between two people if they can meet on a regular basis and talk face-to-face.  Dallas Schools, in order to be truly successful with the program, should consider integrating more supervised and meaningful face-to-face time in their e-mentoring program.  The detached and impersonal nature of email mentoring would seem to be limiting in its power to make an impact on Dallas drop out rates.
Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. For more information please visit <a target="_new" href="">Dallas Independent School District</a>