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Mentoring: The Added Benefit of a Small School

Authored By: 
Maren Holmen, Academic Liaison

As a child of educators and as an educator myself, I’ve always had an interest in the topic of education.  Even before I became an administrator, I would read any article or snippet about teaching that caught my eye.  Recently, the subject of teens and mentoring seemed to be popping up everywhere I looked.  From a study done by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health  to a talk sponsored by The Parents’ League of New York to an NBC News commentary, the benefits of mentorships between children and adults are becoming widely recognized.

For years, parents have looked for a smaller class sizes in their child’s education in order to address their academic needs.  But let’s look at this issue from a different perspective: teachers as mentors.  Most teachers I know have spoken of themselves as mentors to their students, but, for those in larger schools, they are also aware that the number of students they can truly mentor is limited.

For students in smaller classes, the possibility for mentoring is greatly increased.  I see this happen daily in our school, whether it is in the classroom, in clubs, in advisee meetings, or in passing conversations.  I also see this with alumni who come back to visit, whether they graduated last year or decades ago.  My fellow teachers and I here at The Beekman School are able to make the effort to engage each of our 80 students as individuals, learning their likes and dislikes, their struggles and their victories, and sharing advice along the way.

Is it a coincidence that most schools with small student-to-teacher ratios tend to have higher graduation rates, fewer problems with behavior, and have better interpersonal skills?  No, but it isn’t a matter of better oversight; it’s a matter of mentorship.