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A learning mentor works with children who may be doing poorly in school for various reasons. Generally, these children have disabilities, learning or behavioral problems, or are otherwise disadvantaged in some way. Through listening, encouraging, and motivating, a learning mentor assists children who may have special needs or require a little extra work to succeed in the classroom. The majority of work takes place in a school environment, though a mentor often is also expected to work with parents, organize extracurricular events, and network with other mentors and teachers. This may require learning mentors to extend their work into the community or the home life of a child and have an involvement outside of the classroom.
Learning mentors may work with any number of children, though the majority of students are generally special needs children. Most often, work is conducted either one on one with a child or in a small group environment. Learning mentor qualifications include listening skills, attention to detail, ability to work alone, excellent organizational and communication skills, and problem solving abilities. Additionally, a learning mentor must be able to motivate and encourage, keep detailed records, and build confidence in children. They must be capable of serving as a role model and recognizing which children may need special attention and assistance.
While learning mentors usually are not required to have a specific degree, an academic background and educational testing may prove useful. Specific educational qualifications and experience will vary. Previous experience working with children is also a usual requirement. Learning mentor training is generally provided by the employer and may include extensive testing and instruction.
It should be noted that the roles of a teaching assistant and a learning mentor are somewhat different, though the two may be combined in some settings. While both assist, encourage, and instruct children in a classroom environment, the role of a learning mentor is primarily to work in small settings with special needs children. They may also be required to play a larger role within the community and the families of the children with whom they work.
Learning mentors typically work within primary and secondary schools, though employment may occasionally be found in private school settings. It may also be possible to find a job as a private tutor as well. Opportunities to advance into teaching or to work as a special needs assistant may exist with further training and education that can be attained while working as a learning mentor.