I received some disappointing news yesterday. As my elementary school mentee informed me, our relationship won’t continue next year. I’ve feared such a result ever since last week’s well-intentioned, though unwarranted, call to family services. And while the reason ascribed by Ernie for the change – his mother’s intended relocation – may in fact be unrelated to the misunderstanding caused by my cry of suspected child abuse, I can’t help but see the old “chicken and the egg” at play in this situation.
Ernie told me of his moving plans while we attended the school’s mentor appreciation function. An annual event, the hour-long affair offers the school’s Principal and guidance counselors a forum to thank the parents who offered their time to students in need of extra adult interaction. The Principal welcomed all of us and added his heartfelt appreciation for our efforts. He also gave an impassioned speech urging those of us whose students are graduating or transferring elsewhere to consider remaining as mentors at his school. “We have so much need,” he implored, “so even if you follow your current mentee to a new location, we hope you can find the extra time to mentor another child here too!”
On my way out, I stopped to thank him for the splendid presentation. He surprised me with his response: “Richard, I understand young Ernie is leaving us next year. Since I assume you’ll follow him to his new school, I just want to say thanks for all your efforts and tell you you’ll be missed.”
My departure came as news to me. Puzzled, I replied: “I know Ernie’s leaving, but I think I’ll stay on and mentor another child in need … especially after hearing your stirring words!”
Sounding more than a trifle aghast, he exclaimed: “But Richard! The best mentors remain with their children all the way through high school! And all the psychological studies show children like Ernie greatly benefit from a stable, continuing relationship with a good adult role model such as yourself! Surely, you won’t desert him now?!”
While exiting the school and pondering the contradictory messages I’d heard, I couldn’t shake an insidious thought: He’s the Principal, so he must know Ernie’s moving Tennessee, right?