Lawyers for Learning Mentoring Program Information Booklet

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1 Life-Changing Lawyers for Learning Mentoring Program Information Booklet Be a part of the Lawyers for Learning experience Enlightening Exciting Rewarding

2 I. Introduction School Year Thank you for volunteering to work as a mentor with the students at the Rochester City School District's Adlai E. Stevenson School 29! The Lawyers for Learning School 29 partnership was initiated by the Monroe County Bar Association in October The goal of the School 29 partnership has always been to place volunteers at the School, to mentor children and assist in classrooms. Each year, the Lawyers for Learning Committee aims to recruit more than 100 volunteers who can be at the school on a regular basis. This past year, we had approximately 35 mentors. Lawyers for Learning volunteers include lawyers from firms in private practice and legal aid offices. They include secretaries, title examiners, paralegals, retirees, and recent law school graduates. Many mentors return year-after-year, and establish a close relationship with their students. The program has succeeded only because of the commitment of so many volunteers and the support of so many employers. The main focus of the School 29 partnership is to give students much-needed extra attention, while encouraging students to improve their reading and writing skills. School 29 has been very happy with the results. Teachers have noticed that many of the students who participate show improved morale and academic achievement, eagerly looking forward to the time they spend with the volunteers. Many volunteers have said that the hour they spend at School 29 is the most rewarding and enjoyable hour of their work week. Research suggests that access to non-parent adults for advice, support and in-depth conversation significantly aids a child s positive development. To ensure the continued success of the School 29 partnership, the Monroe County Bar Association created the Lawyers for Learning Committee in This committee also sponsors and distributes book bags filled with school supplies to all students at School 29 at the beginning of every school year and provides grants to teachers and classrooms at School 29. Individuals wishing to participate in the organizational and fundraising aspects of these programs are encouraged to join the Lawyers for Learning Committee. For more information, contact the MCBA at , or Iskra Bonanno, the Lawyers for Learning Committee Chair, at or II. About School 29 School 29 is an elementary school that includes grades kindergarten through six. It is located on the corner of Kenwood Avenue and Kirkland Road, about one block southwest of St. Mary's Hospital. Approximately 450 students are enrolled in the School. School 29 is a neighborhood school, and many children walk to and from home. The school was designed to be handicapped accessible, and many students with special needs attend. School Address and Telephone: 88 Kirkland Road Rochester, NY (585) Principal: Joseph Baldino Assistant Principal: Thomas Anderson Teacher/Mentor Coordinator Christine Manuele-Turnquist (585) ext Teacher Coordinator Jennifer Dawson Librarian: Lynn Paris Social Workers: Carol Graham Kelley Davis Hours: The school day runs from 9:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Mentors are welcome to meet their students when the school day formally begins (9:00 a.m.), during the student s lunchtime slot or at other times of the day until 3:30 p.m. Your student's teacher will help you arrange a time that is most convenient to you and your student. III. The Role of Volunteers School 29 has asked volunteers in the Lawyers for Learning partnership to serve the school in one of two ways. Volunteers can either mentor a child on a one-on-one basis, or they

3 can be classroom volunteers. No special skills or training is required of our volunteers, though we are happy to discuss the mentoring process if you are unsure about getting started! A. One-on-One Mentors. Mentors commit to meeting with a student once-a-week, for an hour. The purposes are to help the child with school work and to be the child's friend. Mentors generally meet with their students before or after school, or during lunch time. Some of the students matched with mentors are ahead of their classmates, and just need to be challenged and encouraged. Others are struggling with their class work and/or face serious problems at home. The teachers of the students are supportive of the program and will give the mentor guidance as to how to approach their job. Some mentors choose to sign up with a friend, and coordinate with the friend as to who will come to that week s mentoring session. This practice has worked well for some mentors and students. Mentors are responsible for making sure that one of them attends each week. Some mentors have also informally arranged with another mentor to care for both mentor's students in the event that one mentor is absent. B. "Adopt-a-Classroom" Volunteers. Classroom volunteers are assigned to volunteer with a particular class, rather than a particular student. Each volunteer is expected to visit the class weekly, if possible, but at least once a month. Times and dates are flexible and can be arranged with each teacher. Typical activities of classroom volunteers are helping the teacher with various activities, sharing information about the law, mentoring individual children who need special attention, and attending field trips with the class. Different teachers use classroom volunteers in different ways. C. "Ad Hoc Volunteers. If you are not able to commit to a regular mentoring schedule, you still may participate in Lawyers for Learning. Throughout the school year there will be opportunities to participate in one-time activities and events, such as our backpack packing party or backpack distribution. To be kept informed of these opportunities, your contact info to Amanda Dwyer at IV. Procedures for Volunteers Signing up to be a Lawyers for Learning Volunteer: The Lawyers for Learning program welcomes any interested member of the legal community to participate. Volunteers should fill out a sign-up form, which is available from the MCBA ( ) or The form should be returned to the MCBA. Volunteers will receive written notification of their placement within two to three weeks. Mentors and classroom volunteers will receive an identifying the name, telephone number and grade level of the student, and/or the teacher involved. Once you have received your assignment, please contact the student s teacher to arrange your initial visit and establish a schedule. If you do not receive correspondence about your placement within three weeks of submitting your form, please contact Christine Manuele-Turnquist at x Parking: Volunteers are asked to park on the streets surrounding the School. The parking lots are reserved for teachers, staff and buses. Check for alternate side of the street parking signs. Sign-in procedure: The school requests that all volunteers sign in at the school office as soon as they enter the building. The office is located near the entrance to the school off of Kirkland Road. School doors are locked during the day. Push the buzzer at the main door to the school, off of Kirkland, to gain access. There also is a buzzer at the entrance in the far right corner of the parking lot off of Kenwood. Attendance: The school is appreciative of the regular attendance of the volunteers. Students look forward to your visits, so please make every effort to come when you are expected. If you are not able to come on that particular day, you can call the school (the day before, if possible) and leave a message for the student and teacher involved. Depending on your arrangements with the student s teacher, you may reach out to the teacher directly. If you volunteer in the afternoon, you may call the school before leaving to make sure your child is in attendance that day. Communicating with the Teachers: All the teachers have mail boxes in the office and voic . If you are unable to speak with the teacher personally when you are at the school, you can leave a message for the teacher. Ask your student s teacher about how he/she prefers to get in touch. Many teachers can be reached quickly via text message.

4 Notices and announcements: Typically, we will circulate information about the program via . Sometimes permission slips for events or other information will be available in the office next to the sign-in book. Any Questions or Problems: Call Christine Manuele-Turnquist, the teacher/coordinator, at ext Also, feel free to contact one of the members of the Lawyers for Learning Committee such as: Amanda Dwyer - Iskra Bonanno - V. Suggested Activities for Mentors As a one-on-one mentor, you will be assigned to work with one child, for about an hour a week. Ask your student s teacher for guidance as to how to best use the time. Some students need conversation or play more than academic help. Some students need to focus on reading and writing. The following are some ideas from mentors who participated in past years: At your first meeting with the student, ask him/ her to give you a tour of the school. Send a card home to the student's parents with your name and telephone number to advise them that you will be working with their child. The student's parents may want to call you with suggestions or questions. Read a book to the child, or take turns reading. Ask your student s teacher if your student needs help with a particular subject or assignment. Help your student write a book report. Help the student write a letter to relative, friend, a politician, or a letter to the editor. Share whatever hobby or personal interest you enjoy. Read a magazine or the sports pages with your student. If you work in the classroom before or after school, use the blackboard. Some students like to work standing up and writing on the blackboard. Work on math facts or sight words. Help students organize. Mentors can work with their students either in the library, classroom or at the hallway tables depending on the time of day. Ask the teacher for suggestions as to where to work and try to find a place where the student is most comfortable. If you have trouble finding a quiet, suitable place to work, contact the teacher or a committee person listed above. Most of the students who participate really appreciate having a mentor. It means a lot that a non-relative would volunteer their time, on a reliable basis, to give a student personal attention. Most students are happy to do the same thing week after week, whether that is reading a book or working on spelling words. Not all students will tell you that they enjoy the time with you, but many of them will let their teacher know. VI. What Lawyers for Learning Expects from you. The role of the Lawyers for Learning volunteer is to provide students with positive reinforcement and encouragement. Be respectful of the students, and make suggestions or corrections with tact. Use humor. If at all possible, mentors should come every week. The City School District has found that students look forward to visits from volunteers, and attendance tends to be better on days when volunteers come. So try not to let the students down. It is best if volunteers commit to coming for the entire academic school year. However, if you find that you are not able to continue, let us know, and we will find a replacement. Please keep the following suggestions in mind: Avoid being judgmental about a child's situation or their family. Some of the children at School 29 come from strong families, and some have very difficult family situations. If a child mentions their responsibilities at home, try to be encouraging, even if those responsibilities seem inappropriate to you. If you have any questions or concerns about things the child shares with you, please contact the School Social Worker or Guidance Counselor. Let the student do his or her own work. There is no educational value in an assignment if you provide all the answers. Your goal is to teach the child to become a critical thinker, not a person who depends on others. VII. If There are Problems.. Tardiness or Absentees. The most common problem that mentors encounter is that a student may be late or chronically absent. Some mentors find it helpful to call the school office to verify the student s attendance before coming to the school. If a student is chronically late, discuss it with the teacher, the teacher coordinator, or a Lawyers for Learning contact person. We have found that the attendance of

5 some students is improved if the time slot is adjusted, even if that requires finding a new mentor for that child. Some students are responsible for helping younger brothers or sisters get ready for school, and they find it difficult to get to school early, in spite of their best intentions. Personality Conflicts: Once in a while, a student and a mentor will have a personality conflict. If so, it is best for everyone if the student and mentor are reassigned. It always takes a few weeks for a student and a mentor to get to know each other. However, if after a few weeks, you find that you and the student are not getting along, or the chemistry is not quite what you hoped for, please discuss it with Christine Manuele-Turnquist, the teacher/coordinator. It is also possible that you will have a personality conflict with a teacher. Since you and the teacher won't have to deal with each other too often, try to make the best of it. If it simply cannot be worked out, report it to a contact person. Behavior Problems: You are responsible for making sure that the student(s) whom you are working with behave and remain with you. Children cannot be permitted to wander about the school by themselves during your sessions. Please let Christine Manuele-Turnquist or Principal Tanya Wilson know if there is a consistent behavior problem. It is possible, but not likely, that a student will report something to you that makes you concerned about their safety. If this happens, call the school social worker for some guidance. VIII. Lawyers for Learning Guidelines and Policies The following are guidelines which all volunteers are expected to follow: This is an in-school program and mentors and classroom volunteers are not permitted to meet with the children outside of school. Our group does not provide extensive training and we do not conduct any kind of reference check for our volunteers. If you feel strongly motivated to meet with your student outside of school, this can be done through the Community Partners for Youth (Big Brothers/ Big Sisters) program. If a mentor and the student's parents want the child to participate in Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Community Partners for Youth will be happy to make the match. They will provide you with training, and they will conduct a reference check. All they require from you is a one year commitment to meet on a weekly basis with you student. In other words, you would be expected to meet with the student during the summer and over vacations, in addition to the weekly meetings at school. For more information, call the Community Partners for Youth at You should not be providing transportation to the children before or after school. As part of our program, Lawyers for Learning gives school supplies to every school child at the beginning of the year and books to the students twice during the year. Therefore, we suggest that other gifts be kept to a minimum. Any gifts you decide to give should have an educational theme or purpose. If a student seems to need some school supplies, you may decide to bring some to use. Some mentors have given token gifts for the child's birthday or brought in toys or books that their children have outgrown for classes to use. IX. Hopes and Plans for the Year Book Giveaway: The Lawyers for Learning committee donates books to the students at School 29. The annual book giveaway is usually coordinated in conjunction with an author visit. Grants and Field Trip Sponsorship: Each year, The Lawyers for Leaning Committee awards grants to School 29 for requests such as supplies, educational training or for field trips. Grant requests are submitted by teachers oncea-year and are reviewed by a grant subcommittee comprised of Lawyers for Learning committee members. End of Year Activities: The Lawyers for Learning Committee sponsors a field trip for mentors and students, to mark the end of the school year. In the past, these events have been held at Frontier Field, the Seneca Park Zoo, and the Rochester Museum and Science Center. Mentors and students are asked to come on the field trip, if possible. More information will follow. Fundraising: The Lawyers for Learning Committee raises money each year to support these activities, primarily through our annual golf tournament in August/September. Consider playing or sponsoring a team of your colleagues and/or clients.

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