Last spring I met a rookie team at Silicon Valley Regional and offered to join on as a mentor for the 2017-2018 year. They are based out of a community college “middle college” program - essentially, the program allows high school students at participating high schools to take all their classes at the community college for their junior and senior year.
However, as I’ve been trying to dig in and help, I’ve come to realize how many issues this team has. The crux of it is two main things:
The students are all very busy and have largely non-overlapping schedules, which makes it hard to find times to meet with more than one or two members present. Unlike traditional high schools where all students have approximately the same class hours, many of our students have classes interspersed from morning to evening. Most of them also work 15-30 hours a week. They plan meetings a day or two in advance, with no regular schedule, and as a result only a couple people show up, they are disorganized, everyone is frustrated and stressed out. It’s also hard to sort out any of the miscellaneous problems we have as a young team, because we’re never all in the same room together to talk about things.
They had no mentors last year (someone’s mom signed off on the paperwork, but wasn’t actively involved), so they are used to doing things their way without a lot of rules. Suggesting even basic rules, such as “no using power tools without an adult present” has been met with a lot of resistance, and doesn’t have school policy enforcing it (just my perception of best practices). The college administration has issued them their own key to the workroom, and seems content to treat them as adults even though they are minors (because their parents signed a special liability release in order for them to join the middle college program), and I get the vibe that they kind of think of themselves as grown-up enough to be above things like “adult supervision”. They also insist on doing many things for themselves - for example, I offered to sit down with them and help them figure out a schedule for meetings, and they said “I just think it should be on us [the student leads] to figure it out”. A week later, they have finally sent out a poll to the team asking when people are free. They put out the word last year that they were looking for mentors, but they seem resistant to letting us take on any responsibility in the team, even though they seem to not have/make time to do it themselves. (they have one other mentor as well, who seems great but has not showed up to many meetings because they don’t give enough advance warning).
I don’t want to bail on this team to find a new one to mentor at the first sign of difficulty. But I have offered to help them and tried to give them my advice, and feel like I’m being rebuffed. I don’t want to steamroller them with “my way or the highway” ultimatums, but the way this is running right now stresses me out and isn’t very fun or rewarding to be involved in. Does anyone have suggestions for ways to try to improve our team dynamic?