Shining Bright: Inspiring, Guiding, and Mentoring Future Stars

Happy Monday everyone!!!

It’s been four weeks since the kids arrived at school and I couldn’t be more impressed.  We have a school full of kind, motivated, and hardworking young men and women.  The OSIS Yule Ball was a wonderful showcase for some of the amazing students we are so lucky to teach.  The organization, communication, and foresight required to successfully put together a 200 person event is incredible.  OSIS members shined bright on Saturday night as did a few of their peers who performed on stage, sharing their talents as musicians and dancers.  However, it is important to note that while some of our students were shining bright there were others who were lingering on the fringes watching and hoping to one day achieve similar success.  Another great thing about our school (and all schools for that matter) is that we have a wide range of kids; from those who’ve found their passions to those who’ve never looked for their own.  A beautiful thing about being an educator is that, no matter what students’ talents or skills may be today, we have the opportunity to help them find their chance to, one day, shine brightly.

As I was lucky enough to see this weekend, some of our students already shine brightly in certain areas, you know who they are.  They receive the attention from their peers, teachers, and the community.  They are praised for their skills and talents, yet they (probably) still desire to grow and improve.  But what could these students possibly need?  They need mentoring.  How many stories are there of the student who was talented and adored in high school only to flame out and “go no where”?  Too many.  These students need mentors who can show them how to continue growing while also pursuing other passions, creating a diverse skill set to draw upon in the future.   While these students most certainly aren’t making anyone hit the panic button they are still in need of support and attention.  Skills and talent don’t grow in a vacuum, hard work and guidance are essential for anyone to succeed.  If these students’ stars are going to continue to shine, they’ll need support and mentoring to keep the flames of passion burning.

While some of our students have already identified areas of ‘brightness’ there are many who’ve just only discovered their area(s) of passion.  These students need more than just mentoring, they’ve chipped off the tip of the iceberg but have a long way to go to understand the depth of opportunity ahead.  To have found something to be passionate about at such a young age is an awesome thing; with the time and energy to devote to a passion there is no limit to the potential for greatness.  However, as we all know, young minds can wander and stray from their paths.  As educators we can help guide students along the journey toward their goals.  We can help students grow their skills and talents in a focused manner as they pursue their passions.  These students may not need motivational speeches, but rather guidance and coaching in order to make their stars shine brightly.  This group, largest in number amongst our students, is on the right track and are fun to work with as they pursue and further explore their new found passions in an effort to, one day, shine brightly themselves.

Every student has that ‘brightness’ inside of them, the ability to shine in something (or many things).  While many of our students have already discovered their ‘brightness’ and have begun to shine in certain areas, others still appear to be searching.  What about, however, those who have never searched for their passions, have given up searching, or are convinced that they have no ‘brightness’?  They need inspiration, they need someone to believe in them, or they might just need the right opportunity to come along.  We can be all of those things for our students.  We can light those fires, we can show them we believe in them and we can open doors to opportunity.  Our job as educators includes a mighty dose of motivational speaker/inspirational leader.  When students enter our classrooms they are there, not only to learn, but also to be inspired – help our students to find that inspiration.

Academically, all of our students need us in a variety of ways, we differentiate the classroom to meet the needs of all learners.  The exact same thing is true of their social-emotional needs.  If our students aren’t motivated and inspired, then their ability to learn is limited – there is a ceiling.  Getting to know your students, showing them you care, and sharing how much you value learning are all ways to help motivate and inspire your students.  If they can’t see the passion inside of you they’ll never see it inside of themselves.  Let your passions shine bright, then light the path of inspiration for our students stopping along the way to guide and mentor those who’ve already joined you on the journey.

 

A few great motivational speakers worth watching:

Rita F. Pierson:  Every Kid Needs a Champion (Straight from a teacher’s heart)

Nick Vujicic (He’s got a lot of awesome videos and an amazing heart)

Matt Foley (for a good laugh)

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Strengths Quest Professional Development

Happy American Thanksgiving everyone!  It would be remiss of me not to at least give a moment of thanks to each and every one of you for all that you do for our kids, “Thank you!”  Being the “communicator” that I am, I wanted to make sure I said that before I got off and rambling on something else…

The last couple days have been a wonderful opportunity for us to look a little deeper at ourselves and think about how we can use what is already within us to be better teachers.  Going through the Strengths Finder activities yesterday really helped me to begin thinking about how my strengths can be maximized to make me a better educator and leader.  Another aspect that was pointed out a few times are the dynamics of how different people and teams work together based on the combinations of strengths within the group.  Understanding the 34 different strength themes is a very important step toward building a strong collaborative environment.  Also, so is knowing each others strengths.  To that end, I’ve followed the example of a friend of mine from SAS (Singapore) and added my five strongest themes to my email signature.  In so doing, I’m hoping to inspire some of you to do the same.  Now that we all have this common context, it seems only logical that we use it to maximize the strengths of the whole team, not just ourselves!  Feel free to stop and modify your signature now 🙂

The work that we do together on a daily basis is far too important to do alone.  Looking around the stage yesterday and contemplating all of the different strengths we have as a collective group is astonishing.  The sheer wealth of knowledge and experience we had in that room could, combined, be strong enough to move mountains.  As a school we already do a very good job of collaborating and working together.  Deliberately focusing on our strengths will only lead to better things down the road!!  I’m a big sports fan and I love sports analogies despite the fact that so many of them sound cliché.  However, I’m going to use one…even the best players in the history of team sports couldn’t do it alone…Michael Jordan, Pele, Mia Hamm, Jerry Rice, or Wayne Gretzky wouldn’t have stood a chance without the help and support of their teammates.  Take a second and close your eyes, think about the stage on Thursday afternoon…there were a lot of amazing minds up there, feel free to engage with as many of those as possible!!

It’s very inspiring to sit along side all of you and think about how much collective intelligence is in the room, thank you!  It’s also inspiring to think about all the potential in the world…you futurists know what I’m talking about…so take a few minutes to play with this super cool toy from the BBC.  It’s a customizable look at how the Earth has changed since you were born and a fun way to think about all that has happened around you so far during your life.  I’m only 17 years old on Mars, my heart has beat 1 billion times already in my life, there have been 385 major earthquakes since I was born, and the average life expectancy in the world has increased 7.5 years (Earth years) in my life time…what about you?