Great Thread!! Though I feel like we’ve discussed this before. However, I dont think I have seen the quality of the responses that I see here so far!
Sanddrag, I 100% agree with you. Its one thing if mentors are shoving students away, but its something else if they are sitting in the corner waiting for a mentor to give them something to do. I just had a huge discussion with our new teacher last night about this. So many students these days wait for things to happen to them. If they didnt have enough to do, it was someone else’s fault, the mentors did too much. If they fail a class, its because the teacher gave too much work… etc etc. Students these days need to stand up and get involved themselves, take ownership, take leadership, because they are all smart and they are all capable. Like I said, Im not talking about when a student asks to help and a mentor snubs him or her, Im taking about when the student doesnt ask!
Stephanie, great points also… a mentor is not a mentor until they teach something. Doing something for the team, and not working with the students or even just showing them how you did it afterward, is NOT mentoring. But I also want to answer your question:
One thing that’s up to debate for me and my team is who should be running the organization and the managing of the team – students or adults?
Personally, I think this is another great place to make the balance. Last year, I ran the whole team, subteams mostly ran themselves, but I as a mentor made the decisions… it was our rookie year and thats the way it worked out. However, this year, we are learning. We are going to have a group of students (we are doing elections), along with me, a teacher and another mentor. Students can learn from leadership examples just as much if not more than they can learn from engineering examples. I think the students should be involved and have equal say in making team decisions. The teacher and I have worries on the side of our corporation and the school which may occassionally cause us to override decisions, but I would say 99% can be shared decisions.
Back to Andy’s question…
Which “team” is better? What defines “better”?
I would say the balanced team is the best, but one of the things I love is that FIRST brings so many different types of teams, mentors, etc to the competition. What I have failed to see in this post so far is, that teachers can be great FIRST mentors as well. Our teacher last year was originally an industrial engineer. She knew the mechanical side better than any of my mentors, plus she was a teacher and a mom so she had great skills at dealing with the students. I’ve seen plenty of teams run with just a powerful set of teachers who are great at what they do, and act as mentors to the students. I think this works fine. I still think the balance is better because part of FIRST’s goal is to expose students to real engineers, but the students on these non mentored teams get exposure to other teams at competitions, locally, and here on CD.
Every team is unique, has its own problems, has its own strengths. I think the ideal team is one that has industry mentors, a strong teacher involvement, and motivated kids who want to take ownership and leadership. The mentors are there to “mentor”, to help the students learn the engineering process, to show them new ways, faster ways, better ways of doing things. The only time I think it goes too far is when the mentors do everything on the team and just drag the students along for the ride. Just watching someone do their job is not inspiring. Having them explain how they do it, or even getting you to help them, or do pieces yourself, is inspiring.
As for what defines “better”, then I have to agree with Cory. This is going to be a place where to each their own. If the students are learning, and they are inspired to look up to people who are in the science and technology fields, whether it is because of a project or a teacher or a mentor, FIRST has accomplished its goal. The reality of this world is that industry is small compared to the number of high schools, even smaller is the number of people willing to volunteer their own precious time (while I am thrilled with my amazing 20 mentors, I think Harris has over 1700 people working at our division… thats only 1%!!!), so not every team can have the luxury of an abundance of mentors. Should they keep trying to get some? yes! Can parents and teachers be mentors? Of course!!