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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It’s Who We “Be”, Not What We “Do”

Talking with our students often brings my mind back to things that are important but for one reason or another I’ve lost focus of.  The other day I was reminded that if we aren’t living up to the standards expected of us we won’t be tolerated and the same goes for our students.  However, and here’s the really challenging part of all of this, we have to do it ALL the time!  It was that conversation with a student the other day that opened my eyes to something that I think is really important…it’s not who we “be” in the good times but who we “be” in the face of adversity.  Can we “be” the person we want to “be” when faced with people we don’t respect, like, or have patience for?

Our best can only be measured by our worst.

I had a great conversation with one student in particular the other day.  He is a ‘frequent flyer’ in my office and we were speaking about why he was there on this particular day.  He started off with “I didn’t DO anything!”  Which is how our kids think 99% of the time  – they think about what they “do”.  I, however, didn’t want to hear about what he did or didn’t do.  Rather, I wanted to know who he was “being” instead of what he was “doing”.  It took him a minute to go along with my questions but eventually he explained that “when he is my age” he wanted to “be nice, respectful and kind”.  He acknowledged that he was not “being” any of those things during class that day.  I asked him if he thought he’d just wake up one day and “be nice, respectful and kind” which really made him stop and think.  As we continued to talk he mentioned that he was very upset with a few classmates because they weren’t “being” very nice and this is why he was “being” mean and rude.

This is it, this is the point where we need to meet our kids beliefs head on and help them grow.  They need to understand that who we “be” isn’t something that we flip on and off and find excuses to “be nice, respectful and kind” sometimes and “be” a jerk other times.  We can’t “be” the person that we strive to “be” only in good times and resort to some lesser version of ourselves when we encounter people we don’t respect.  In fact, it’s for these people that we need to “be” even better, to rise up instead of come down to their level.  If we don’t change that in ourselves first and then guide our kids to this understanding through modeling, conversations, and consistent reflections, then we can’t expect to see them become the kind of adults who we and they want to “be”.

This change can’t happen over night but as I’ve written before it starts with us and who we “be” for our kids, as their role-models we have a HUGE responsibility to always “be” awesome!!

Real Tips for Educators

Last week I was fortunate enough to go to the EARCOS Leadership Conference (for those on Twitter, #elc13bkk, there’s some good stuff there!) I met Rick Wormeli who you may remember from the assessment and homework videos we watched earlier in the year. I held up my promise to you, I called him out (privately!) and asked his rationale for allowing homework to count in his class at all (he claims it counts about 1.7%, ha!) His response was honest…basically, he admitted that the pressure in his school district from parents and admin to count homework is strong and that he included it ONLY because of that fact. He encouraged me strongly to not count homework when assessing a student if at all possible and even offered to participate in a Google Hangout if we wanted to chat with him more as a staff…so that is on the table for the future if people are interested. I’ll write and share more about the ELC in the near future but for today I want to share a great article written by another great education mind, Alfie Kohn. One of the pleas I hear often from teachers, and one that I used to make myself, is “Just tell me what I can do!” Well I can’t do that but in this article Alfie Kohn outlines 12 core principles that are essential to success in the classroom. As I read through these I connected more to some than others but the three that hit me the most were numbers 5, 6, and 9. I especially like number 9 as it speaks directly toward the motivation piece that we so often struggle with in middle school. Have a look and let me know what you think…thanks for listening to my two cents (more like 3 or 4 cents this week!)

Rick Wormeli homework video

Alfie Kohn Article Link

Originally published in SCIS MS Headlines on November 8, 2013.

Teaching the Growth Mindset (and Motivation)

I’ve been looking at a lot of articles and research recently about mindsets and the recent push forward that the “mindset concept” has made in the beliefs about intelligence. The attached article talks about ways that teachers can begin to actually teach Carol Dweck’s “Growth mindset” to students…it starts with the vocabulary you use and the way you speak to kids about their learning experience. It’s an interesting article and with our Mindset book discussion coming up next week as a part of SIPs, this is a great read to get you thinking about how the Mindset Revolution can impact our students! It’s powerful stuff and it plays a huge piece in helping our students achieve great things; not only now but in the future…but that’s just my two cents 🙂 As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts!!

This article summary came from the Marshall Memo, an amazing professional resource!!

Originally published in SCIS MS Headlines on September 20, 2013.