Book Review: Marching Off the Map

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Marching Off the Map by Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak is an incredible resource for people who have the amazing privilege of investing in students.  There is a battle raging for the hearts and minds of this generation.  We can’t just stand by and do things the way that we always have.  Elmore and McPeak have surveyed groups of students all over the country and see some distinct themes and trends.    I’ve had the privilege of studying a lot of this material through our new partnership with Growing Leaders at North Cobb Christian School the last several months.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to benefit from this research.  The particular calling that the Lord has placed on my life is to invest in the hearts and minds of students and this book has informed the way I approach those valuable conversations.

I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…

  • The fact is, we are moving into what Harrison, Day and Halpin call a “Vu jade” (vu-ja-de) world, which is the opposite of a “deja vu” world. This new world is where leaders realize “I have never been here before, I have no idea where I am and I have no idea who can help me.” Location 510-512
  • It’s time to travel into this new world, where kids are uncertain yet hopeful. They desperately need a compass from you. Location 570-571
  • Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. —Ralph Waldo Emerson Location 576-577
  • This book is designed to help you recognize what changes you must make to lead and equip a new generation of emerging adults who live in the corner of the map:
    -For educators, our role must change as we teach a generation of students who don’t need adults to get information.
    -For parents, our role must change as we raise kids in a time of terrorism, economic recession, racial unrest, underemployment and ubiquitous technology.
    -For coaches, our role must change as we train young athletes who have eight- second attention spans, and may arrive at practice with little resilience or grit.
    -For youth workers, our role must change as we mentor students who may have few life skills or values because adults either over-functioned or were absent.
    -For employers, our role must change as we onboard young employees who may have never had a real job before, and may ask when “spring break” will be. Location 660-670
  • I believe adults today can be divided into two groups, in terms of their disposition. The two groups can be described in this way:
    1. Pioneers—-Those who explore and pave the way for others.
    2. Settlers—Those who move ahead only when they know it’s safe. Location 671-674
  • We must be able to either adapt to the new world that’s emerging, or we must explain why a timeless virtue or value is still relevant in our 21st century world. Location 703-704
  • Adults must enable the students to leverage what is new, yet at the same time, hold on to what is ancient, yet valuable. We must be both timeless and timely. So, our job as we serve the next generation is two-fold:
    -To adopt or adapt. We must seize what is new and help kids leverage it well.
    -To explain and equip. We must relay to them the timeless ideals every generation needs. Location 707-711
  • This is the first generation that:
  1. Doesn’t need adults to get information. Consider how this difference changes the role of an adult. Because information is everywhere, we are no longer brokers of data. They don’t need us for information, but for interpretation. We must help them make sense of all they know, by giving context to the content. The task isn’t to access data, but to process data and form good decisions.
  2. Can broadcast their every thought or emotion in real time. You see this every week. Thanks to Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, your kids can send messages to huge populations who matter. They are the new PR for your school or department. Some posts actually get famous…good or bad. Most, however, have not been equipped to harness the megaphone in their hands.
  3. Has external stimuli at their fingertips 24/7. Because a portable device is in their hand, they receive outside stimulation any time they’re bored. Many don’t think well on their own. This outside entertainment may have reduced their internal motivation. They’ve never had to motivate themselves. They depend on a screen to push them. We must equip them to find it within.
  4. Are socially connected at all times, but often they connect in isolation. This is the most connected generation in history—but perhaps the one who’s experienced the least community. They’re rarely disconnected, yet they are lonely because their connection is virtual—in isolation, on a screen. Their empathy, soft skills and emotional intelligence are lower because of it. They’ll need those skills for life.
  5. Will learn more from a portable device than from a classroom. This one is a game changer. The portable device they hold in their hand is now the compass that guides them, not their teachers. They’ll consume more data on this device than through any other means. It may be inaccurate or damaging, but it’s available and they are digesting it. They’ll need us to help them navigate this tool.
  6. Uses a phone instead of a wristwatch, camera, wall calendar or board game. Students no longer manage their lives the way we did growing up. Their phone tells time, provides entertainment, takes pictures, gives directions, connects with friends and broadcasts their messages. Designed to make life simpler, this non-stop information center has made them the most stressed out generation to date. Location 729-755
  • In his groundbreaking book, The Inevitable: Understanding Twelve Technological Forces That Will Shape Your Future, author Kevin Kelly paints a picture of life in thirty years:
    -“You don’t own a car, or much of anything else, paying instead to subscribe to products and services as you need them.” (Think Uber.)
    -“Virtual reality is as common as your cell phone. You talk to your devices with a common set of hand gestures.” (Think Star Trek.)
    -“Practically all surfaces have become a screen, and each screen watches you back. Every aspect of your life is tracked by you or someone else.” (Think The Matrix.)
    -“Advertisers pay you to watch their ads.” (Think The Jetsons.)
    -“Robots and Artificial Intelligence took over your old job but also created a new one for you, doing work you could not have imagined back in 2016.”
    -“Ultimately all humans and machines will be linked up into a global matrix, a convergence that will be seen as the most complex event up to this time.” Location 760-772
  • I believe, we’ve only begun to taste this pre-figurative world. Over the next two decades we’ll experience an astonishing transformation of our lifestyles and expectations. In fact, I believe we are now entering what we might call the Intelligence age. We not only have technology in our lives—it’s now smart technology. The cell phone changed our lives, but the smart phone transformed them. Our phones have been smart for years now. Our homes are now smart, where residents can communicate remotely to set alarms, lock doors and turn on or off lights. Our cars are smart. Soon, all our appliances and toys will be smart; then, our clothes will be smart, communicating with the washer when to use hot or cold water. It will be stunning. So much so, that I believe the critical element to differentiate people is their morals. Yep, I just said that. Our world will be so full of smart technology that we must be prepared ethically and morally for the technology that will be introduced so rapidly. We must harness it. It will be easier to merely be utilitarian instead of a “Good Samaritan.” Location 805-813
  • When former hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretsky was asked why he was so successful on the hockey rink, he replied with a phrase that’s been repeated time and time again: “I don’t skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck is going.” Location 963-965
  • To connect with Generation Z, we should:
  1. Keep it short. Remember, they have strong filters and short attention spans. They can binge watch Netflix for hours, so they can pay attention to a long stint of content. The key is to engage them within six seconds. That’s how much time we have for them to make up their minds about engaging with us.
  2. Make it visual. They are visual learners. Images are the language of the 21st century. Among teens, Instagram is the fastest growing social media tool. In short, pictures beat words. This means we’d do well to anchor our big idea with a metaphor, or better yet, with an actual image or visual on a screen.
  3. Feed curiosity. Whet their appetites. They want to discover new content and pass it on. Build a hunger for interesting facts, and relay why some are important to know. The numbers tell us they’re naturally curious, consuming Buzzfeed and all sorts of daily data. Feed it and channel it in a positive direction.
  4. Give them ownership. Students support what they help create. Help them own the message. Don’t do the work of learning for them. Once they’re curious, let them dig and find. They’ll value something they’ve discovered more than what’s given to them without effort. Push them to be creators, not consumers.
  5. Make it interactive. They love connecting socially. Place them in small communities to talk. They are an “upload” generation who wants to talk, create and offer their opinion. So let them. While it takes longer to teach something with interaction, it sticks longer as well. If you want retention, foster interaction.
  6. Gamify your content. Make your message an interactive game with quests, points and badges. A huge percentage of Generation Z is gaming in some way. Try utilizing points, competition and achieving badges (with or without technology) to position them in their natural habitat. Learning has gone from Gutenberg to games.
  7. Offer a cause. Most kids want to do something very important and almost impossible. This has always been true for adolescents. They have a natural bent for risks as their teen brain (the frontal lobe) develops. Why not use this for redemptive purposes? Give them something meaningful, not hypothetical, to pursue.  Location 1277-1304
  • We must help pull ambition out of them, not push information into them. Think “pull” not “push.” Get ready. Location 1307-1309
  • How do you pioneer new territory by engaging students in real problems? Location 1336-1337
  • But what if we believed in them? Thomas Edison told the story of how he became such an incredible inventor. It’s a powerful illustration of belief and a bit emotional for me to retell his story. When young Tom returned home from school one day, his mother noticed he had a piece of paper in his hand. He told her it was a note from his teacher and she was the only one who was supposed to read it. When she did, she grew tearful. When the boy asked what it said, his mom replied, “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers to train him. Please teach him yourself.” From then on, Edison’s mom removed him from school and he was self-taught. She allowed him to curiously pursue what interested him and to devour it. Years later, after his mom died, Edison was rummaging through her belongings, and came across that note from his teacher. When he read it, he was stunned. It read, “Your son is addled (mentally ill). We won’t let him come to school anymore. We don’t have the teachers to handle him. You’ll have to teach him yourself.” Edison wept and wept for hours, and since that time, gave his mother credit for cultivating his genius as an inventor. She saw something others didn’t in her boy. What she read and what that note said ultimately led to the same result—Tom Edison had to learn at home. But what was behind it meant everything to that kid. Someone had believed in him. Who knows? There may just be another Thomas Edison near you. Location 1394-1406
  • Can we talk to students about the future in a way that’s hopeful and doesn’t overwhelm them? Can we help them out without stressing them out? Can we coach them, but not constrain them? Can we obsess over preparing them and not just protecting them? Can we equip them to do what we neglected to do ourselves? Location 1658-1660
  • Can we talk to students about the future in a way that’s hopeful and doesn’t overwhelm them? Can we help them out without stressing them out? Can we coach them, but not constrain them? Can we obsess over preparing them and not just protecting them? Can we equip them to do what we neglected to do ourselves? Location 1658-1660
  • Can we talk to students about the future in a way that’s hopeful and doesn’t overwhelm them? Can we help them out without stressing them out? Can we coach them, but not constrain them? Can we obsess over preparing them and not just protecting them? Can we equip them to do what we neglected to do ourselves? Location 1658-1660
  • When you communicate with your students, how can you relay that you are aware of the difficult realities they face (that your head is not in the sand), but remember to relay the noble ideals you believe they are capable of growing into as adults? We must juggle the real and the ideal. Location 1709-1711
  • We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road progress means doing an about turn and walking back to the right road. In that case, the man who turns back the soonest is the one who is most progressive. —C. S. Lewis Location 2208-2210
  • A culture that offers the young increasing information and autonomy without requiring equal parts accountability and responsibility produces “unready” adults. In fact, we should expect arrogant, entitled brats to emerge as they enter adulthood. Location 2410-2412
  • Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman popularized this subject in 1995. It has become a buzzword today among both educators and employers. Emotional Intelligence (what some call EQ) is the sum total of our self-awareness, our self-management, our social awareness, and our relationship management. Along with many others, I believe EQ is a greater predictor of success in life than IQ. I believe success in school is made up of 75 percent IQ and 25 percent EQ. Success after graduation is just the opposite. It’s 25 percent IQ and 75 percent EQ. It’s the ability to manage your emotions and relationships. It’s the capacity to get along with colleagues and take correction. It’s how aware you are of others’ needs and how you come across to people. Whether we call them soft skills, business skills, employability or executive skills, we’ve got to build them into today’s graduates. Location 2494-2501
  • Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman popularized this subject in 1995. It has become a buzzword today among both educators and employers. Emotional Intelligence (what some call EQ) is the sum total of our self-awareness, our self-management, our social awareness, and our relationship management. Along with many others, I believe EQ is a greater predictor of success in life than IQ. I believe success in school is made up of 75 percent IQ and 25 percent EQ. Success after graduation is just the opposite. It’s 25 percent IQ and 75 percent EQ. It’s the ability to manage your emotions and relationships. It’s the capacity to get along with colleagues and take correction. It’s how aware you are of others’ needs and how you come across to people. Whether we call them soft skills, business skills, employability or executive skills, we’ve got to build them into today’s graduates.  Location 2494-2501
  • Metacognition (or thinking about thinking) is the secret to and the driving motivation behind all effective learning. It’s how these new “natives” learn best. If we want our students to learn as much as possible, then we’ll want to maximize the amount of metacognition they’re doing. It’s a relatively simple equation for students: The more they reflect on their learning, the more they learn. The better they engage in the subject and how to communicate it to others—the more they actually own it. Location 2632-2636
  • People simply perform better when they’re both physically and mentally active; when they do the work themselves. It fosters ownership. Every faculty member knows that teaching is hard work. You have to constantly engage in and be aware of your process, and how to improve it. Ironically, this is exactly what makes an expert learner. We need to share the wealth. Location 2670-2673
  • Question:Is there a way you could create a learning environment that uses experiences, not just instruction, to catalyze students to engage better? Even if it were once a week, what if you offered an experience and turned students loose to learn an idea by working experientially—and then discussing what they learned?  Location 2816-2818
  • Question:How could you provide a sense of “ownership” by allowing your students to weigh in on what or how they learned? How could you let them put their fingerprints on the subject so that it would look slightly different this year than last year, because they were in it? Is there any way they can personalize the ideas?  Location 2833-2835
  • Question:How could you capitalize on an image or metaphor to relay the big idea you’re attempting to communicate? While you must enable students to grasp rigorous and didactic concepts, how could you furnish a handle for them by using an icon to help them visualize and remember the idea? Location 2850-2852
  • Question:How could you break down your larger class into smaller communities and allow them to connect with each other to solve a problem? When could you stop your lecture halfway through, and offer a well-crafted question to these small communities (a question that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no.”)?  Location 2869-2871
  • TWELVE CONCLUSIONS I’VE DRAWN ABOUT LEARNING… As we ponder “free range” teaching and metacognition, consider these facts:
  1. Students support what they help create. Some athletic coaches are empowering students to decide how practice goes, what players do, how long and when they do it. They’re getting surprising results. How can you give ownership of a subject by letting students direct the learning?
  2. Students learn better when they expect to teach what they learn. My friend George is a college professor who now has his students prepare each other for final examinations. Grades have soared as they actually engage their peers. What portions of your topic or ideas can you assign students to teach to peers?
  3. Students are incentivized if they know why a topic is relevant before they learn. Two math teachers did an experiment. One taught in a traditional style; the other took time to cover “why” each section was important. Predictably, grades went up. How can you share the “why” behind the “what” before you teach your subject?
  4. Students bond with an experience more than a lecture. As I stated earlier, some colleges are now using “project-based” learning, where the class becomes an experience—not just an explanation—and students are loving it. In what ways can you create an experience from which your students learn?
  5. Students engage more holistically when music is connected to the subject. One faculty member I know selects a pop song, addressing topics in her classroom. Her students love their history teacher, now calling her the “music” teacher. When could you incorporate a popular or even new song into the learning?
  6. Students retain more when they physically gesture what they learn. My son took a sign language class for his foreign language and found that the gestures actually accelerated his learning. This is a proven fact for all subjects. Where is a spot in the course where students could align gestures with big ideas?
  7. Students absorb more when more than two senses are involved. As in the example from Finland teachers, students grasp and retain more when they don’t merely listen to lectures, but they touch, smell, taste, hear and see the topic in class. How can you cultivate an environment that includes all five senses?
  8. Students understand a larger percentage when they must practice it. Students learn on a “need to know” basis. They engage when they must apply or practice the subject in real life. As a rule, application accelerates learning. How can homework be expanded into enabling students to actually apply the topic?
  9. Students connect with a subject when allowed to connect with each other. Decades ago, Russian psychologists taught that learning occurs best in community; that we learn better in circles than in rows. Life change requires “life exchange.” When could you incorporate smaller discussion communities in your classroom?
  10. Students comprehend information when it’s connected to a narrative. The effectiveness of the use of “story” has become widely known in our generation, but it is one of the oldest forms of pedagogy, dating back to cultures in ancient times. Where could you tell a story that ties directly into the subject they must learn?
  11. Students grasp new subjects when teachers connect it to familiar subjects. Educators have used the term “schema” for years, but we often fail to leverage the idea. The best teachers build frameworks by attaching new subjects to familiar ones. In what ways can you use “schemas” (files) and attach known concepts to old ones?
  12. Students remember data when an image is utilized in their learning. A picture is worth a thousand words. It’s the reason we created Habitudes®. They are images that form leadership habits and attitudes. Pictures are handles for data. How can you leverage a visual, metaphor or image to anchor your big idea?  Location 2876-2934
  • The decline in motivation is a pressing and tangible problem. Instead of student achievement, what if we targeted student motivation? When motivated they will naturally achieve. An inspired student, passionate about what he or she is learning is pushed from the inside out, not vice versa. Plus, I’m not sure teachers can compete with YouTube or Snapchat when it comes to engaging students. We don’t have the budgets to compete with such sources of entertainment. We must dig deeper into the core of what drives people—especially young people—to take initiative. Location 2999-3003
  • The message that gets through is usually one that contains imagery. Location 3220-3221
  • Maya Angelou wrote, “We are all creative, but by the time we are three or four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.”  Location 3349-3352
  • D—Begin with a Dilemma. This is a real-life problem that incentivizes them. We begin with the “why” before progressing into the “what.” This step should create urgency. Question:How could you create intrigue with a dilemma?
    I—Then you show an Image. The next step is revealing the image, which represents a possible solution. Each of our more than one hundred images symbolizes principles to practice. Question:How could you leverage images?
    C – This sparks Conversations. Next, allow them to process their application to the problem and principle in a small group. Interaction creates ownership of their learning. Question:How could you foster conversation?
    E – This should lead to an Experience. Finally, we encourage all discussion to lead to an experience that can change their lives. We believe information without application is incomplete. Question:How could you offer a platform for real experiences? This four-phase sequence should always prompt deeper learning and discovery. It is simply a beginning that invites a student into growth and critical thinking.
    TRAVEL GUIDE: Where could you try rolling the “DICE” in your teaching? Location 3382-3398
  • Much like Dr. Seuss, we’ve simply attempted to harness:
    -The power of simple—they’re easy to understand.
    -The power of short—they can be digested quickly.
    -The power of sticky—they’re memorable for everyone.
    -The power of sharable—they’re transferable ideas for readers. Location 3431-3436
  • The role of images in vision is paramount. You cannot discover what you cannot imagine or see. Location 3437-3438
  • If you think our future will require better schools, you’re wrong. The future of education calls for entirely new learning environments. If you think we’ll need better teachers, you’re wrong. Tomorrow’s learners will need guides who take on fundamentally different roles. —Dr. Wayne Hammond Location 3443-3446
  • In 1952 Rev. Everett Swanson, an American missionary living in South Korea, came across thirty-five children who were orphaned by the Korean conflict. Realizing this was a need he should meet, Swanson decided to create a ministry for children living in poverty.5 Today, this effort continues as Compassion International, and it serves millions of children all over the world. Compassion’s business model is for individuals with means to “adopt” impoverished children, just as their founder did almost seventy years ago. This adoption requires just $38 a month, and provides the child with food and supplies for his or her family. This month-to-month strategy is now expertly executed to solve a problem in our world. Location 3542-3547
  • Social media offers us…
    P—PERSONAL PLATFORM. This has fostered a narcissistic culture of selfies.
    R—REACTIONARY OPINIONS. This induces a preoccupation with others’ judgments.
    I—INSTANT UPDATES. This can make us impulsive with short attention spans.
    C—CONSTANT INFORMATION. This has caused angst and depression in users.
    E—EXTERNAL STIMULI. This can lead to addictive lifestyles with the phone. Location 3902-3912
  • Our culture is marked by:
    -Resistance to judgment
    -Uncensored acceptance
    -Exchanging certainty for ambiguity
    -Embracing plurality
    -Stretching the boundaries of belief and behavior. Location 4073-4078
  • In a 2016 commencement speech, Michael Bloomberg gave an interesting summary of the changes in our vocations that have happened over centuries of time. Pause and consider how different a typical job is today than it was centuries ago. “For the first time in human history, the majority of people in the developed world are being asked to make a living with their minds, rather than their muscles. For 3,000 years, humankind had an economy based on farming: till the soil, plant the seed, harvest the crop. Hard to do, but fairly easy to learn. Then, for 300 years, we had an economy based on industry: mold the parts, turn the crank, assemble the product. Hard to do, but also fairly easy to learn. Now, we have an economy based on information: acquire the knowledge, apply the analytics, use your creativity. Hard to do, hard to learn, and even once you’ve mastered it, you’ll have to start learning all over again, pretty much every day.” Location 4452-4460
  • Historical Era How People Differentiate Themselves
    -Agricultural Age > Stronger muscles
    -Industrial Age > Stronger machines
    Information Age >  Stronger minds
    Intelligence Age > Stronger morals. Location 4466-4473
  • Ask Better Questions
    What do you want to major in?  > What problem do you want to solve?
    What do you want out of life? > What is life asking of you?
    How much money can you make? > What do you have to give?
    How can you achieve something great? > How can you add value in this context?
    What do you possess inside? > What are the needs or opportunities?
    What will make you happy? > What are you being summoned to do? Location 4550-4558
  • Be the person you needed when you were young. —Ayesha Saddiqi Location 4602-4603
  • The Motivation of Belief Belief is the right path. In a challenging situation, we must lead out of belief in the potential of the student. We pull out the best in them when we believe the best about them. Research from psychologist Diana Baumrind at the University of California Berkeley reminds us that students are most productive when we are both: • Responsive. We are attentive to them, supportive and caring. We love them and believe in them. • Demanding. Because we believe in them, we won’t let them settle for less than their best. We hold them to standards. Location 4650-4656
  • When we lead out of “belief” we: • Call out the very best in the students we are leading. • Cultivate a new level of expectation and excellence in everyone. • Produce superior results in student performance as well as ours. Location 4675-4678
  • Taking the Path of Belief In order to motivate and inspire a student, try this path:
  1. Get Clarity. Before speaking, figure out what’s going on inside of you. Are you frustrated? Are you afraid for them? Are you ashamed or disappointed? Or, do you simply not know what’s going on in their life? Before talking, get clarity on your emotions and goals. This will foster a clearheaded conversation.
  2. Take initiative. Don’t assume the issue will automatically resolve itself or that because it’s not your problem directly you can tend to other things. While the problem is likely theirs, avoiding it will just cause emotional build up inside of you. Don’t assume your student will initiate and resolve the issue. Get the ball rolling.
  3. Begin with empathy. We’re always more effective when we see life from our listener’s angle. “Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood,” says Stephen Covey. This enables students to be less defensive, believing we “get them.” Express empathy for their challenging situation. This is foundational to proceed.
  4. Ask the right questions. Instead of drawing conclusions or offering imperatives—try leading with questions. Ask about their needs. Do they need direction? Support? Steps to be broken down? Be sure the questions communicate you care and that you’re confident in their abilities. Ask questions that evoke values or dreams, like: “What are you hoping for at the end of your applications?” Or, “How do you think you’ll feel when you get that scholarship?”
  5. Seek to help. Don’t blame or shame them. Even when it’s totally their fault, let that responsibility surface later. If it appears you want to “fix the blame” more than “fix the problem” it will become a negative interaction, and they’ll usually become defensive. Find out what they need. Sometimes I’ll simply say: “How can I best cheer you on?”
  6. Express belief. This is the key action on your part. Be sure what you say and do relays belief in them as an emerging adult. Discern what would communicate confidence in them, high expectations of them and hope for them. Strong belief inspires strong behavior.
  7. Talk about “equations” not “rules.” No kid likes rules. Equations, however, are how life works: if you do this, then that is the benefit. If you do that, then this is the consequence. (You live by equations every day—just try neglecting to pay your mortgage.) Relay the equation in a positive way to incentivize them. Then, be consistent in helping them live by it.
  8. Follow through. Finally, whatever belief you’ve communicated, follow through in demonstrating its credibility. Don’t undo what you’ve said with a poor attitude or contradictory words. Be sure your actions match your words. This will help them “own” their life. Location 4758-4792
  • Generation Z’s constant connection to information and media is causing them to preemptively think about death, pain, suffering, and the world’s problems as early as middle school. Location 4952-4953
  • Four Components to Healthy Identity Let’s discuss their application of these four components of identity:
  1. Awareness: I need to know my personality, traits and gifts that make me unique.
  2. Association: I need to feel connected to a family or community. I need to belong.
  3. Achievement: I need to face challenges and see I can add value through my gifts.
  4. Affirmation: I need to hear others affirm my value and learn to affirm myself. Location 5103-5109
  • Taking the Path of Belief In order to motivate and inspire a student, try this path:
  1. Get Clarity. Before speaking, figure out what’s going on inside of you. Are you frustrated? Are you afraid for them? Are you ashamed or disappointed? Or, do you simply not know what’s going on in their life? Before talking, get clarity on your emotions and goals. This will foster a clearheaded conversation.
  2. Take initiative. Don’t assume the issue will automatically resolve itself or that because it’s not your problem directly you can tend to other things. While the problem is likely theirs, avoiding it will just cause emotional build up inside of you. Don’t assume your student will initiate and resolve the issue. Get the ball rolling.
  3. Begin with empathy. We’re always more effective when we see life from our listener’s angle. “Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood,” says Stephen Covey. This enables students to be less defensive, believing we “get them.” Express empathy for their challenging situation. This is foundational to proceed.
  4. Ask the right questions. Instead of drawing conclusions or offering imperatives—try leading with questions. Ask about their needs. Do they need direction? Support? Steps to be broken down? Be sure the questions communicate you care and that you’re confident in their abilities. Ask questions that evoke values or dreams, like: “What are you hoping for at the end of your applications?” Or, “How do you think you’ll feel when you get that scholarship?”
  5. Seek to help. Don’t blame or shame them. Even when it’s totally their fault, let that responsibility surface later. If it appears you want to “fix the blame” more than “fix the problem” it will become a negative interaction, and they’ll usually become defensive. Find out what they need. Sometimes I’ll simply say: “How can I best cheer you on?”
  6. Express belief. This is the key action on your part. Be sure what you say and do relays belief in them as an emerging adult. Discern what would communicate confidence in them, high expectations of them and hope for them. Strong belief inspires strong behavior.
  7. Talk about “equations” not “rules.” No kid likes rules. Equations, however, are how life works: if you do this, then that is the benefit. If you do that, then this is the consequence. (You live by equations every day—just try neglecting to pay your mortgage.) Relay the equation in a positive way to incentivize them. Then, be consistent in helping them live by it.
  8. Follow through. Finally, whatever belief you’ve communicated, follow through in demonstrating its credibility. Don’t undo what you’ve said with a poor attitude or contradictory words. Be sure your actions match your words. This will help them “own” their life. Location 4758-4792

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