There is not a single one of us who has not at one time or another hid behind the standard line, “I don’t have time to…..” The hard truth is we determine what we have time for and what we don’t have time for. All of us can dig deep down far enough to find the time when something matters a great deal to us. In this case, our efforts netted five students returning to school beginning January 6th. Like the starfish story, we may not have reached all of them, but I am hoping it will make a difference with these students and they in turn impact our lives and inspire us to continue to reach out to those who have given up.
In our line of work, every day brings on new challenges. I was reminded again this past week when dealing with a student who wanted to quit school. Here I was coming off the high of five students wanting to return to school and now I was in danger of losing one right back to the streets of lost hope. I had recently read a quote by Thomas Paine so I decided to share it with this particular student who was conflicted – “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph,” I told him. I wanted him to see past his current internal conflict and help him believe that from this turmoil would evolve perhaps an experience from which to grow from in order to serve a greater purpose. In the end, I explained to him that he had the power to determine which chapter he wanted to write to help him define his story. In other words, how he responded could help define his triumph.
- Bring your best to work every day, whatever your best may be that day. Be grateful that you get the opportunity to make a positive impact on a child every day!
- Give two minutes of your time to one student and one staff member every day. Be intentional with your time and then follow up with a quick word or note. The small things can make all the difference.
- Be empathetic. Taking the time to understand, share, and be sensitive to another person’s feelings is critical in building a culture of trust. Every student and staff member will face some sort of challenge at one time or another.
- Value the mistakes of others. Risk takers are born here. If you yourself make a mistake, own it, apologize, and work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
- Model forgiveness – if you want to be an effective leader, be willing to sincerely accept an apology and move on. Believe that most people’s intentions are good.
- Understand you will not always see immediate results when working with kids. Be patient and think long term. Many are just testing a system which has failed them many times over long before you came into the picture.
- Have high standards for all kids every day. Do not make excuses for kids based on race, socio-economic class, environment or poor parenting, etc. Believe in all kids all of the time (it also helps if you love them all of the time too!)
- Acknowledge inappropriate behavior of kids. By not doing so we are sending a message that they are not worth it or we have given up. If we hesitate to correct poor behavior based on their response to us, we have become part of the problem.
- Not be negative. Constant complaining and being negative about kids, staff, work environment, etc. without offering a solution says more about us than it does about those who we are complaining about. Bring positive energy every day.
- Take time to smile/laugh and encourage others to have fun. When it is no longer fun to go to work, it is time to do something else.
If we are doing the work worth doing, then how we respond begins and ends with us.