Most people are most vulnerable when they are teens. Worrying what other kids think about what they wear, who they eat lunch with, and where they’ll hang out on Friday night.

For some, it can be a great time of life and for others, it can be miserable. For some, it is a time to get lost in learning; knowing that teachers are there to help them when they don’t understand and redirect their actions when something is done incorrectly.

Unfortunately, many students often learn how to just complete a task. They figure out what the teacher wants and without putting much thought or effort into it, race through the work and turn it in.

The best teachers know how to draw students into intentional thinking, intentional problem solving, intentional learning.

I think all people are hesitant to really invest any time or energy into something that they don’t fully understand or love. It takes real effort and intentional action to try something new.

Think about the bravery that is required to do any physical activity, for the first time, in front of other people. You could be jumping on a trampoline, diving into a swimming pool, or learning a new dance. It is unnerving to put yourself out there for the first time. What will other people say when I screw up?Will they think lesser of me because I can’t do this thing right?

Imagine you’re entering a dance class in high school. Chances are most of the kids in this class have some experience with dance, cheer, or tumbling. They are already used to trying something new in front of other people. They know that they have some ability to dance and enjoy it so much that whatever other people are thinking doesn’t matter.

Until they hear that they’re learning a completely different type of dancing, Bollywood. They haven’t ever seen it before, they can’t imagine themselves moving and stepping because they’ve never seen it done. They’re not familiar with the music. The stories that are being told through this type of dance are culturally foreign. They nervously smile and look around to see that nearly everyone else in the room is feeling the same way. 

However, emotionally, dance is universal. The students learn to relate their own life experiences to the dance style.

What does this have to do with you?

Well, if you’re feeling stuck, or alone, or in a place that nobody understands, there is a way out of that feeling. It does take a brave step or two from you. You need to know what you want to do, but more often than not, you need permission. What is really blocking you from doing something new? What is keeping you from progressing? Do you know what needs to be done? Have you been given permission (from yourself or someone else) to begin?

We live in a world where it’s simple to learn something new. There is so much information in front of us on the internet that we can do nearly anything we set our minds to. But, you can over-prepare to the point of information overload. You can become stuck with so much information that you don’t know where to begin.

Trust the dance teacher, or a mentor, or a friend. You need instruction, but you need the signal to begin. Permission. Begin. Start. Make a plan, but take a step. Start doing something. People might be standing around watching you, and you might feel self-conscious that you’ll do something wrong. Don’t let that stop you. They’re not doing anything for themselves. They’re just standing there, watching you.

You have permission. That’s the only real block for a lot of people. You may begin. Even if people are watching. Give them a show. Show them that you want to achieve, learn, do. You can do it. You are capable. You have the ability to learn and progress built inside of you. Don’t let fear or others opinions stand in your way!

Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, it can’t be as terrifying as being in a high school dance class 🙂

You can Own Your Good! Make it happen! You’ll be amazed at your progress and growth!

– Dave

Check out the Own Your Good podcast episode with Amber McCord, my friend, and a high school dance teacher.

https://davidlstone.com/own-your-good/

I had an awesome conversation the other day with a friend who works for an organization that helps people improve their lives through mentors and micro loans.  Poverty is a world-wide problem that can be solved in a variety of ways, but often is best changed with a personal connection and a little bit of time.

Find a Mentor

A mentor is one of the best tools to change your future. Chances are they have been through something similar to what you would like to accomplish. It is also likely that they have had someone else to give them advice or bounce ideas off of. You need someone that understands where you are coming from and believes in you.

The best way to find a mentor is to talk with people that are a part of a group that are doing or studying what you are interested in. As you have conversations with people you will begin to recognize where others are in their own journey, and that they might have some experience to share with you. They might be a part of a Facebook group, or a group on LinkedIn. Introduce yourself and be patient. Ask questions for others to answer. Be willing to talk about things you know, and answer other peoples’ questions. When you find a person that might be open to mentoring you, simply ask them if they have time to talk about a few things, or answer a few of your questions. Be patient. Don’t follow up immediately. They’re busy doing their own thing and they’ll respond when they can.

It’s important to be willing to take other peoples’ advice. They don’t know you or your situation, so they’re giving you honest and legitimate steps that have worked for them. If you aren’t willing to try something new, that is your problem, not theirs. Be gracious about what they are providing to you for free and because they’re nice.

You may arrange a professional mentoring relationship that guarantees time and advice that you are paying for. This can be a good way to get personalized advice and the relationship benefits both of you.

There are a lot of people in the world that are at different stages in their own process. You will eventually be a potential mentor for others as you gain experience and knowledge. Be open to helping others just as some might have helped you.

You Can Do Anything

Whatever it is that you want to learn, whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it. You have the potential. You have the tools. You have the support you need, it’s just finding it. Be willing to talk about what you’re doing. Be willing to listen to other peoples’ experiences. Take what you’re learning and apply it to your day.

It is a clichè, but I am a creature of habit. Just the other day my kids asked me to help tune up their bikes. I had just finished my day teaching online and was thinking about making dinner. Fixing bikes wasn’t on my list of things to do during that 2 hour time period. I immediately felt anxious about having to do another thing in a small window of time. I love my kids and want to help them exercise and have fun but at the time it was too much. I pushed my kids off until Saturday.

I feel guilt pushing my kids off to another day.

Schedules can feel restricting, like something that ties us down. But, I like to think of schedules like they’re the string that holds a kite up in the air. Kids need guidance and security no matter how much they fight it. Like the wind pushing the kite higher and higher, kids feel secure when they know what is coming up and what is expected of them.

Schedules are more important now especially since kids don’t have the structure of going to school. It isn’t summertime. Kids still have responsibilities with school and maybe even work. If a schedule doesn’t exist for them and parents aren’t helping keep kids on track, kids are less likely to get their schoolwork done and waste the day playing videogames or watching videos.

How to

It’s the parent’s responsibility to help their kids get things done. Parents know what their kids need, and what their weaknesses are when it comes to working.

  1. Sit down with your child and plan the week. Write it out. Print it off. Make it accessible.
  2. Be specific. Don’t just write in a window for homework. Create time slots for individual classwork.
  3. Make time for fun things too.
  4. Check with your kids each morning. Make sure that they have what they need for their work.
  5. Be aware of what is happening. You have your work to do, but watch what they’re doing.
  6. End the day with a reflection. How did the day go? What work got done? What work still needs more time?
  7. Hold them accountable. Set expectations with rewards and consequences. They are more capable than we often give them credit for. If you follow through with rewards and punishments they will feel the weight of getting things done daily and not putting things off.

Most students aren’t self-motivated. They need guidance on how to make things happen. They need someone to help them get started.

It is a strange time

These experiences will help define who they are and what they are capable of. Our kids and students are learning what it takes to be flexible, adjust to different circumstances, make things happen, and perhaps most important, they are learning how to communicate with people about what is expected.

I know it is difficult to manage your job, and your kid, or kids’ schoolwork. That’s why scheduling is so important. The more practice they get, the more you can leave them to do what they need to.

You can do this. Your kids can do this. We are all working for the same results. We want to see our students, your kids make good decisions, learn from their mistakes, and be successful and resilient in the future.

Hang in there!

-Dave

 

Language. We don’t often think about the words we use and the messages we send. Yet it is something we inherently know and do every day. We communicate with people using words, but communication or language is not just using words.
We use body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Language is something we understand, even if it is difficult to explain. Words mean things. Sometimes language can paint a picture, or express an emotion. Language can provide a window to our thoughts. Can language portray how we really feel?
Language is something that we can feel confident about until we get into a fight with a loved one. We think we make sense. We think people understand us. And then out of nowhere, we feel frustrated, flustered, hurt, for being misunderstood.
Language is not only the words we say out loud, but the words we think in our minds. The messages we tell ourselves to deal with the struggles we face.
My Canoeing Challenge – A Story
I found myself in the nose of a Coleman canoe, paddling a week’s worth of gear in hopefully waterproof garbage bags. We had begun the first part of a weeklong high adventure trip in Idaho. Half a dozen fourteen and fifteen-year-old boys and a few scoutmasters maneuvering the river from one point to another, pitching tents on the bank of the river. It was exciting and scary. A challenge that men accomplish. Something to tell my future grandchildren about as we sit by a campfire.
Each person had to prove that they were capable of participating in this adventure. I was a confident swimmer. But swamping a canoe, lifting it to dump water, and turning it upright is a solid challenge for any young man. Especially in the chilly, early summer snowmelt river. We proved we could do it, which put everyone in high spirits. Now we each hoped that we wouldn’t have to repeat that terrible process, potentially losing, or at the very least, soaking our clothes and gear.
We set out, enjoying the sunny morning, keeping our eyes open for eagles in the sky. I was paired with an adult by the name of Bart. He was a kind and encouraging leader, though he wasn’t afraid to keep us in line when we needed it. We made it for several miles without a problem. It looked as if we would make it through the day without incident. The river split into a fork. All of the canoes in our group floated to the left. Bart and I steered to the right hoping to stay in deep, moving water. We weren’t that lucky. We tried looking ahead, hoping to avoid logs or rocks close to the surface but with the sparkle of the sun on the water, we failed to float through a clear path. The bottom of the red plastic canoe scraped slowly against the bottom of the river until we stopped.
We were high-centered in water deep enough to potentially tip the canoe over if we attempted to get out. We tried to shift our weight and push with our oars, knowing if we broke the blade of the paddle the rest of the trip would be difficult. I had never really experienced such a difficult situation before this. I could see Bart getting frustrated. I was trying everything that I could without much effect. He was trying to be encouraging without being too mean. I didn’t want to be seen as weak. I didn’t want to tip the canoe. I didn’t want Bart to think I wasn’t trying. I didn’t know what I could do. I didn’t feel strong enough to move the canoe. We were stuck.
Bart didn’t take my reasons or excuses or anything else I said. He became a coach, aggressive and encouraging. He said things like, “We can do this!” and, “Pull that oar like your life depends on it!”
I tried to lean into it, pulling the oar through what seemed like inches of water. I didn’t think we would get out of this unless one of us got out to lift and push the canoe. Bart might have. It was a serious struggle. I didn’t like being stuck there in the middle of a river. I didn’t like being thought of as weak. I didn’t like worrying about whether we would tip over and get all of our gear wet.
We made it through. I was sore and embarrassed, but we caught up with the others in our group. It was a struggle and one that I will never forget. It helps me to remember that it is okay to struggle. It helps me to see kids, young people, my students, struggle and reminds me that they are not broken. They have not failed. They are simply struggling and haven’t figured out how to get through whatever it is that they are dealing with.
What About You?
Does anyone really like to struggle? It is frustrating, but it is a part of life. It is something that everyone experiences, regardless of age, status, nationality, and gender. At one time or another, all of us have tried to do something and failed, or at least not been successful the first time. What keeps us from quitting?
When our babies first try to walk, and fall, we think it’s cute. We smile, lift them up, and encourage them to try again. However, shortly after we become proficient walkers we start to get frustrated when we try to do something and get stuck. We think there is something wrong with us when we try to read new words, can’t get it, feel stupid, and quit.
Struggling isn’t fun. Nobody really wants to struggle. We might accept it, and learn from it, but it is a challenge and takes time for a person to change their attitude or perspective, or accept that it might just be time to grow in some unknown way.
But what is worse? Struggling when we have support all around us, at school or at home when it is manageable to some extent. What happens when we are expected to struggle and live with other people who struggle? Shouldn’t we have some confidence in our ability to struggle?
Shouldn’t we understand that struggle is a part of the process? If we are struggling, we are learning and growing. We are finding out what we are capable of. We start to learn that we can do hard things, even if it isn’t fun. We can do things and survive, and hopefully in some instances, thrive.
What are you capable of? Have you given yourself time to get there? Don’t give up! Keep trying. Find a new way to think about the problem.
Who has inspired you to not give up? How have you overcome a challenge?
Who can you inspire? Who is struggling that needs to hear your encouragement?

Nobody wants to look like a fool. It’s embarrassing to be seen as dumb or clumsy. Do we lose this insecurity as we grow older? In our teenage years it’s probably the thing that takes most of our time. We worry about what others will think about our clothes, our shoes, our hair, the car we drive, almost everything. The thing is, as we worry about what others are thinking of us, they are thinking the same thing. We are motivated to do things that we wouldn’t normally do because of what we perceive to be other peoples expectations.

What is Perception?

Perceptions are dangerous. We can see someone and based on how they’re dressed, what they are driving, how they carry themselves, we think something about them. We perceive them as successful, or smart, or poor. But are they really? We don’t ever have the whole story in front of us.

Perceptions are always assumptions. We assume things about someone based on how they look. We assume things about what someone is thinking when we don’t really know unless they tell us.

Perceptions are a problem because we have to observe situations and people around us. We are accustomed to observing people and guessing things about them. This isn’t necessarily bad when we get to know someone. If we really know someone, our perception, our observations could be totally accurate. If we get to know our coworker, or a fellow student, and we see by their facial expressions that they’re having a bad day, we can attempt to help them feel better. We view ourselves and others as good people who care about those around us. We know that we intend to help, or at least stay out of the way.

We’re All Human

As a teacher, I have observed my students and made assumptions about them. I have seen them behave, or misbehave in class. Some teachers might feel abused or offended by this behavior. Maybe these teachers even feel targeted by their students’ indifference to the lesson and assignment, like it’s a personal thing. It’s not usually very long after I have thought something about a student, that I find out what’s really going on at home. Maybe not everything is revealed, but enough is brought to light to make me feel like a jerk for thinking negatively about a student.

I like to think I give every student a fair chance in class, but I’m sure there are things that cause me to think or act unfairly toward students. I can only hope that I err on the side of the student more often than not. Not every student feels comfortable asking for help or extra time on assignments.

One student helped me to realize an aspect of the stress of school, and my perception of male students that I hadn’t thought of before. I had heard that some male students are being thought of as lazy. They are perceived as capable by parents and teachers, but they’re not doing the work because they don’t care, or they procrastinate. While that might be true to some extent, one student admitted that he “plays lazy” because he is afraid to perform to his true potential because he was afraid that he would be expected to sustain that grade level or GPA through the rest of his school experience. He knew he was capable of doing it, he just didn’t want to spend that much time doing it. Parents perceived one thing, while he was presenting something else.

The other side of that is the students perception of the energy that would be required to maintain a certain grade level or GPA. Is it really difficult to pass some classes? What is our students perception of us and the work we are having them do? Are our students really capable of doing the work we are asking them to do? We need to be sure that what we are presenting as important and critical to our class, really is important.

Communication is intricate and dangerous. I don’t mean dangerous like someone could die; well maybe death is possible. We don’t just rely on spoken language but body language and facial expressions as well. When we think we see something and guess a persons intentions, we are perceiving falsely. Young people in particular can have a hard time understanding what an adult is saying. A simple lack of experience can cause all kinds of problems.

An Example of Misperception and a Possible Fix

In school, a younger person might not have experience holding a conversation around an academic topic. In this particular instance, a student, Jane, was absent for a day. Now being back in school, Jane might feel lost and not know how to proceed with an assignment. Jane’s perception might be that the teacher expects her to know more than she does. Jane might be embarrassed because she wasn’t paying attention. Jane might be scared that things were covered the day she was sick. Jane’s perception is that somehow she is missing something that was probably already given to everyone else. Is she going to have the confidence to ask questions to fill in the gap that was created by her absence?

On the other hand, the teacher’s perception might be that Jane wasn’t paying attention, or already knows what need to be done. The teacher may or may not remember that Jane was sick and missed an important day. If the teacher remembers that Jane was absent, she might clarify what Jane remembers and what information she missed the day she was sick.

Jane has some responsibility to clarify what the assignment is about and ask for help.

The language of perception is challenging. Too often we are afraid to look dumb in front of other people. We want to be seen as successful and ‘with it’. We can’t control others thoughts or beliefs. We can only marginally impact how others perceive us. How do you dress? How do you style your hair? People make assumptions about you based on how you look. How do you want others to perceive you? Are you successful and confident? Do you dress that way? Do you want to be seen that way? Do you dress like you’re always ready to play basketball? How do you want to be perceived?

You and I are guilty of this kind of thinking. How do you perceive other people? What biases do you have about others? How we perceive others can impact how we treat others. How teachers or other adults perceive you can impact how they treat you. Most often this type of perception and treatment is unfair. A good teacher will take time to get to know students, and not make judgements about ability and intent until later when there is actual evidence of ability.

Let’s Fix It

So how do you manage your perceptions or how you perceive people? I can think of a couple of examples from my teaching experience. My most memorable experience with perception and expectation was when I taught 12 and 13 year olds in grade 7. I’m not super tall at 5’11”, but I did weigh a bit more than I should, and at the time I had a full beard which was almost all gray before I turned 40. I looked intimidating, but I didn’t really understand how intimidating I was until later in the year when students had become more comfortable with me and told me about their first few days in my class. They were respectful at the beginning of the year, which isn’t totally unusual. Everyone is nervous in those first days of school. Later I found out that they thought I was scary. They thought I would be mean, and strict, and unforgiving on their assignments. I just laughed with them. Our perceptions of others can really cause some anxiety.

So what? What does this have to do with me or my child now? Teachers are in the teaching profession to help students learn. Speaking from experience, some students ask for clarity or to understand, but don’t really want to know, or don’t plan on acting on what they are asking for. As a teacher, this can be frustrating. My perception of a student is tied to previous experiences with that student. I genuinely hope that each time a student asks a teacher for help, that that teacher responds seriously and with a helpful heart.

What you can do. Be specific and clear in your request for help. If you, or your student is asking for help or clarification, ask specific questions. Explain why you don’t understand. Honesty is always the best path. State the truth about who was distracting, or what didn’t make sense. Even if the teacher appears to be mean and scary, ask for what you need. If you can get written instructions for the assignment, that can help both teacher and student understand the end goal. Sometimes it might be appropriate to ask for help through email or other school instituted technology. That can work to include parents or others in the conversation.

Practice

Mr./Ms. –

I need some clarification on this assignment.
Can you please explain this to me again?
Are there written instructions somewhere that I can refer to later?
I’m not able to pay attention when I sit by _____________. Could he or I be moved, please?

Review

Perceptions are tricky. What we think we see or hear might not be right.
What our teacher or other adults see or hear might not be right. If more communication or clarification is needed, just ask. Let your student grow from this experience. Don’t take over because you want to protect him or her. Teachers aren’t mean people. They genuinely love the things that they teach and want to help others understand the information.

 

I hope this helped you out! Let me know in the comments.

I’m also available for questions and other motivational helps on Instagram and Facebooknametag.png