Monday, June 23, 2014

Creating the Paradigm Shift

Part of my summer agenda is to clean out old files, either my desk or my computer.  I ran across this today and though it was worth repeating.  
Okay, it’s summer; you may be wondering what we are doing at the office.  While the work in the schools is finished for the season, the training and programs continue.  We have been wrapping up the final numbers, entering data from the school year, reviewing program impact and assessing personal evaluations.  We discuss, how effective have we been?  Where could we, as instructors, improve?  What have we learned that will move our program to the next level of excellence, etc?  It was during one of those sessions that we had a visit from a student who had recently graduated from one of our local schools.  He stopped by unexpectedly and stayed for a couple of hours talking to our staff about the power and importance Reality, Check, Inc. had on his life.  He first began in our program in the 8th grade.  He was one of the students who slumped in his chair and acted like he was too cool, or too sleepy, for the information.  In 9th grand, he was the one with the chip on his shoulder.  In, 10th grade, he made some personal decisions that caused him to have legal consequences and spend some time in juvenile detention.  His 11th grade year, he was surprised to see Reality Check, Inc. at the alternative educational program he attended.  He even got chosen for a “Backpack” visual about how negative choices add unnecessary weight to our future.  This caught his attention and surprised him as it began to refresh his memory and bring to understanding all of the things he had learned from Reality Check, Inc. in the past.  His senior year, he was at a different alternative school to help him catch up on credits he had missed, again Reality Check, Inc. showed up.  This time he was eager to not only hear the information but also to actively gain more knowledge by engaging in discussion and seeking more information and mentoring outside the classroom setting.  The change and growth in this young man has been incredible to watch.  I think the most powerful things he shared with the instructors that day was the following:  
·      Don’t believe the student who pretends not to care.  He said, “In eighth grade you planted a seed in my heart that stuck with me.  You said I had value, and that I was special, my choices matter.  No one had ever told me that before.  I was only pretending not to listen, after all, I had my reputation to think about.
·      You change more teens than you think.  He said, “You didn’t make all the kids want to make better decisions about sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.  There are still some that may want to, but you are like a speed bump in the road.  When it comes down to it, they can’t forget the information you share with them.”  He recounted several instances of when his friends or he made the correct choice because they couldn’t shake the truth of the knowledge they had on how and why to make the positive choice for their future.
·      Don’t underestimate the power of truth combined with caring.  He shared what a powerful impact that the respect our instructors show each student has on their lives and futures.  He said, “When you teach us, you don’t put your self above us as having something we can’t obtain in our life.  You are on our level, not in a peer-to-peer way, but in an understanding way that you know where we are at.  You don’t judge us.  You want to help us by giving us knowledge and skills that help us succeed.”  He paused for a minute and said, “No, you really but yourself underneath us, and life us up to a higher standard.  You lift us up to where you know we can go.” 
You already know, there wasn’t a dry eye in the office by this time.  Reaching teens is not about having and using the latest technology.  It isn’t only about having that educational degree, or using the latest teaching techniques, although those things can enhance to experience.  It isn’t about the age or gender of the instructor.  It is about the power of giving time, a pat on the back, a simple, eye-to-eye; “How’s your day going?”, or, “I’m glad you’re here.”  Or most importantly, “Your choices matter because you matter.”  It is about being committed to care about this generation and having the passion to see them succeed.
This doesn't just apply to instructors in a classroom.  These three principals can be applied in the home, in business, and in faith-based organization. Take some time today to share truth with a caring attitude, even if it is not well received in the moment.  

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