Thursday, 15 September 2011
Inspiring Children with a Vision
Several weeks ago I attended a secondary school and was inspired to put fingers on the keyboard to create this article.
In my quest to deploy the Life Skills for Children course to as many young people as I can, I regularly meet teachers and their assistants that evoke a wide range of emotions from me. Unfortunately, most of these emotions are negative.
I am constantly questioning the reasons why some people have chosen the teaching profession to earn their living.
As I entered the classroom to greet the group of young people that sat before me, I was pulled to one side and introduced to a teacher who would be assisting me in the delivery of the curriculum.
I paused for a moment to digest her name (Michelle) and then my brain started to work at pace to ascertain how I was going to adjust the Life Skills curriculum accordingly to accommodate an additional teacher who to my knowledge had no prior experience of the course content.
Upon asking Michelle if she had experienced any of the course material before, she gently smiled and replied in one word “No”
She then went onto explain that that group of young people in front of us both had all been assigned to her over the coming term and she was determined to create a positive relationship with them.
What a breadth of fresh air. A teacher that realised that the most important ingredient to educating young people was to establish the right relationship from the start.
A little confused and only half convinced her statement was heartfelt, I proceeded to start the lesson and introduce my new colleague.
I decided to provide a platform for Michelle to speak about herself so that she could create the groups first impression.
I remember the exact words she used because silence fell across the classroom when they came out of her mouth.
“Good morning, Over the next few sessions I am going to get to know you, enjoy your company and together we are going to create a vision of your future that we both can work towards.”
One of the more vocal students amongst the group felt the need to utter some immature comments towards the front of the classroom. Before I could respond, Michelle had absorbed the comments, smiled and dissolved the negativity of what was said by going and sitting right next to him.
Without confrontation, his comments had backfired as the rest of the group laughed in support of Michelle’s actions.
At this point of the article it is relevant to note that the group of students within the course had all been identified as having serious behaviour issues which in many cases was likely to lead to permanent exclusion.
In light of this, Michelle had drawn the first of many victories I witnessed in just 4 hours of working together.
The curriculum for the first lesson involved getting the group to identify the reasons why they so disliked school and felt the need to be so disruptive.
This particular lesson within the course is normally a little hit and miss. It is not unusual to get a large percentage of the group refusing to participate in any of the written drills or open discussions. After all why would they want to expose the reasons for their negative behaviour when solutions might be found to stop giving them the excuses to carry on creating havoc.
As the lesson developed and several members of the group attempted to disrupt the class with silly comments, Michelle took the opportunity to build a better rapport with the group.
Without warning and breaking the lesson curriculum, Michelle decided to inform the group of details about her child hood, schools experiences, likes and dislikes and the poor qualifications she received in her final year of education.
The group was shell shocked and sat mouths open, eyes fixed as Michelle created an image in their minds of this out of control girl who thought school was boring and teachers hated her.
She went onto say how her attitude at the time influenced the people she went around with outside of school and how smoking and drinking was something she regularly did on school premises.
You could see the group of students in front of her being taken on a roller coaster ride of emotion as many of them related to her experiences. Over the 15 minutes that followed, members of the group would ask questions to clarify in their minds what Michelle was saying.
The tension and mild hostility that many members of the group had previously shown Michelle and to be fare show most of the other teachers was dissolving in front of me.
You could physically see the barriers many of the students have placed around them lifting for just enough time for them to be influenced by a vision.
By the time Michelle had finished painting a picture of her younger years, the group had moved onto more relevant questions such as “Why are you a teacher, if you hated school?”
Michelle had the groups attention and used the small window of opportunity she had developed to install what changed her and how she developed a vision for her future.
She went on “Despite numerous people telling me to concentrate at school, be respectful and listen to your teachers, the moment that changed me was when the kids I used to hang around with who were much older than me had left school with no qualifications and spent every day out of work, drinking and smoking”.
“I realised when speaking to them that their lives were seriously boring and they had nothing to look forward to. Some of them were getting into trouble with the Police and life was pretty rubbish.”
Michelle then acknowledged that she had no reasons for behaving the way she did, She came from a loving family, was given everything she wanted. She just thought she could get away with being bad.
I remember a couple of the group members looking at each other almost accepting that they to had no real reason for their poor behaviour.
In just a few minutes, Michelle had entered the lives of this disruptive group of young people, acknowledged their poor behaviour, identified with them and gained an important window of opportunity to install a very powerful message.
One of the group members, a young girl named Sophie asked without doubt the most important question of the lesson. “What is this Vision you keep talking about?”
Michelle took this opportunity to tell the group that she had to return to college to improve her grades and in the process met a teacher that inspired her with vision.
He asked her to list down all of the wonderful things in life that she wanted to achieve, or visit or do. With a little help and nudging, Michelle said she had developed a long list of goals, which excited her and gave her a good reason to study and behave properly.
Michelle shared some of her goals list with the group and in the process collated their opinions and dreams to start creating their own list.
Upon being asked why she became a teacher, she replied “up until the day when I met the teacher who taught me how to create my vision of my future I was lost. He made my life make sense, and I want to do the same for somebody else”
Needless to say the scheduled curriculum for the lesson was put back to the follow day, but what I witnessed in a short period of time was the secret to teaching.
Every day of my life I talk about the importance of building rapport with students in order to create the right learning atmosphere. Michelle had taken a hardened group, excepted their current mind set and approach to life, demonstrated that she was once in their shoes and more importantly demonstrated how one moment of inspiration changed her life.
The remainder of the Life Skills for Children course was full of as many ups and downs as every other delivery, however the relationship with Michelle was great and with a consistent approach to creating the right vision the outcome of the course was very successful.