Every day, we spend countless hours in front of screens. While the technology that makes virtual mentoring possible has without a doubt enriched our lives, it also comes with its own series of drawbacks. Our brains are hardwired for in-person interactions, and sometimes the delays of milliseconds (or more if it’s just one of those days with our technology) act as a barrier to perceiving emotions on the other end of the screen. Additionally, we are limited in what we can see, so often we aren’t able to read full body language over the computer. Taking these limitations in stride, how can you know if you and your mentee are on the same page?
We’ve compiled a few activities that can help both you and your mentee overcome screen fatigue as well as find some new ways to bond during your virtual mentoring sessions. You will notice that some of these tips are no different than the advice we’d give you about mentoring in person. That’s not an accident — one of the best ways to have a quality mentoring match is to follow your mentee’s lead, and this works virtually or in-person. Check in with your mentee at the beginning of every session to see how they are feeling and what they would like to do, and remember that these tips work best when both mentee and mentor take part in the activities together!
Shake It Off
This may seem obvious, but a lot of us have pent up energy that makes us get antsy sitting in front of a screen. If you notice your mentee is having a hard time focusing or sitting still, suggest some physical movement the two of you can do together. If space is an issue for you or your mentee, just stand up and do a few stretches as you’re both able to (neck rolls, shoulder rolls, reach high to the ceiling, etc.) If you both have more room and need an energy boost, try doing something like Bananas of the World.
Silence is OK
Remember back to your mentor orientation? We let you know that sometimes your mentee might just want to play a game or draw, and that shared time together is equally as important as conversations in building trust in your relationship. Virtual mentoring is no different. In fact, it’s possible your mentee is feeling more pressure to hold a conversation with the camera on, and you giving them reassurance that it’s ok to spend your time doodling on the whiteboard or playing games could provide some relief.
Take turns describing an item to each other using your senses but keeping the item off screen. For example, say your mentee has some scented markers. They can tell you their item is blue and smells like blueberries and feels hard and stick-shaped but has a kind of squishy point that is used to draw. Playing a game like this one shifts focus to your tactile senses and grounds you in your body. Plus, it’s always fun to get a little competition going and see who can guess the most answers correctly!
Show and Tell
Here’s another one that focuses on making your mentee feel grounded. Give your mentee 30 seconds to find something around them that signifies something important to them (it could be an important memory or something upcoming they’re looking forward to, like a flyer for an art contest they entered). Have them tell you about it. Playing a little show and tell gets your mentee up and moving for a brief minute, grounds them in their immediate surroundings, and has the extra benefit of getting them to share about something meaningful to them.