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When mentoring is mentioned, what comes into anyone’s mind?  It could be Socrates and Plato.  Or it could be Jesus the Christ and his disciples.  Whether these men used ‘ice breakers’ to make their students feel at ease, we would never know.  But for sure, ice breaking exercises open doors for both mentor and student relationship or student to student relationship.  

Mentoring is doing something valuable such as leading a less experienced individual to improve aspects in his life.  It could be his faith, his skills or even simple time management.  But even if you are the best mentor in the whole world, you would still need to break that barrier that comes with the stranger whom you will now teach.   And this is the area where ice breakers come in.

An ice breaking exercise need not be an unruly game.  In fact, it doesn’t always come in the form of a game.  Sometimes, ice breaking exercises could simply mean the mentor introducing himself to his students and encouraging them to do the same.  It could also be storytelling time for everyone.  The main purpose is to make the students relax and feel comfortable.  

An effective ice breaker is one that suits its participants.  A more serious group could feel at ease with open forums or storytelling while an active group could easily relax physical activities.  Ice breakers should also avoid activities that coerce communication, games that are not related to the course, games that take too long to finish, or activities that foster cultural biases.

In finding the perfect activities for a mentoring session, it is also important to consider the time factor.  How long will the mentoring last?  Would it take a week or two?  Or will it only last for two days?  You should be able to suit the activities to the available time that you have.  

Here are some tips on making your games or discussions much more interesting:

1. Be enthusiastic.  Feel the game.  You should be able to explain the mechanics with much liveliness in your voice.  An important part of this is to know every detail of the game.  You don’t want to be caught unaware that you are confused with the game yourself.

2. Experiment with a different game each time.  Variety displaces boredom (which the mentor might feel once he gets familiar with the activity).  

3. Bring props.  Funny props create funny moments.  Make fun of anything except someone from the group.

4. Encourage each member of the group to participate.  Don’t leave anyone out.  But if someone is implying that he is still not ready to be open or active, then respect his desire.

5. The mentor should actively participate in all given activities and not watch from a corner after explaining the mechanics.  

6. Make fun of situations that are outside of the circle.  Be careful of sensitive topics such as politics, religion, sexual preference, etc.

The most important part of mentoring is achieving the student’s goal which is academic, religious or social improvement.  Although ice breaking exercises are fun activities, they are still a necessary part of the mentoring program. In fact, it’s so important that it’s considered as the key that opens closed gates.  With that in mind, participants should pay more attention and participate more on their next ice breaker.

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