ROTTERDAM — Five minutes isn’t a lot of time to spare, but Schalmont High School teacher Molly Brown is hopeful that it’s the perfect amount of time to make an impact on her students’ lives.
Brown, Schalmont’s Work Based Learning coordinator, won’t be able to have her students head into the community this fall to get the mentorships and hands-on job training they usual receive through the program.
To try and replicate it?
“We had to think outside the box,” Brown said.
For her special education students who will attend class in-person this fall but be limited to the Schalmont campus, Brown came up with a few solutions. Part of it includes experience in on-campus jobs like food prep and maintenance, as well as helping to design trivia games to make socially-distanced recess more enjoyable for younger students. To help establish the personal connections that she feels are vital to her program, Brown is embracing technology.
Using a free online platform called Flipgrid, Brown is enlisting a series of “5 Minute Mentors,” people from a wide variety of professions who can spend a short time each week answering questions posed by the students in her program — and, Brown hopes, potentially even more.
“Five minutes a week? Anybody can do five minutes a week,” Brown said. “I love the idea of a five-minute mentor. People can commit to doing it once, or commit to doing it weekly.”
“Initially,” she said, “I really wanted it for my group of students who are actually coming in daily, because they are special ed students. But, I’ve had such a response from my co-workers, and even outside of Schalmont, that I’m hoping this really grows and can be used across the board for all grades.”
The Flipgrid platform will allow Brown to set a time limit for each video — “I won’t let people go longer. For starters, my students will probably lose interest,” she said — as well as connect with other schools across the country and potential mentors all around the world.
It’s that second aspect that has Brown particularly excited.
“We’re talking about a global marketplace, global employment, global careers, and we can have global mentorships,” Brown said. “That would be so incredible.”
But, to start out, Brown said it’s important to establish mentorship connections close to home.
“I did want to start with it community-based,” she said. “I would love to continue to build connections so that when we do go back into the community, my students have those relationships built already.”
She’s already gotten commitments from people in a wide range of careers, from business to fitness to media.
The goal, Brown said, is to cast a wide net and allow students to explore a whole range of potential careers.
“We still have kids that are saying in kindergarten that they want to be doctors, they want to be firefighters and they want to be police officers,” Brown said. “But, by the time they get to high school, they want to be YouTubers, social media influencers and e-gamers. I’m looking for people that have these careers that didn’t exist when I was a kid.
“I’ve reached out to politicians and tattoo artists. I’m hoping to get a whole gamut of responses from people from all walks of life with all kinds of careers.”
While Brown is posing the initial discussion topics for the program, she’s hoping it’s the students who will eventually lead the conversation, posing a variety of questions about life in the workplace and the different paths taken to reach certain careers.
Brown’s students are all working toward their Career Development and Occupation Studies commencement credential, a program Brown said can be extremely valuable to students seeking to find their passion — whether that leads them to college or into the workforce.
“My goal is that it’s not just about being college-ready, but being career-ready, and to value both paths,” she said. “Schalmont is embracing the idea that we want students to chase their passions. I think that mentorships and internships are the most critical piece in that.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.