What was your worst school experience as a teenager and how did you overcome it?
Colin (16), only average both academically and as a sportsman, made one crucial error when he was caught in possession of marijuana and was asked to leave the school.
His world began to fall apart, but he responded to support and encouragement from his sports coach, as well as his parents, enrolled at another school closer to home and performed successfully in all aspects of school life, vowing never to experiment with drugs again.
Peer pressure had been Colin’s downfall.
However, this was not an easy time for Colin, as he had to come to terms with a choice he had made. He had to learn how his choice determined his future.
6 Tips for Teenagers to overcome adversity
Reflecting on Colin’s journey, I recall six key decisions Colin made that helped him bounce back from adversity.
- At first Colin did not want to engage with anyone. He was embarrassed to speak to me (the sports coach) as he felt he had let both the team and me down. He felt he had been treated unfairly, as he had never been in trouble at school before. Then he agreed to talk.
- Colin chose to speak to me. I listened as he described what had happened. Decisions had been taken by school authorities and there was nothing I could do about this. Colin reluctantly understood this. We were honest with each other.
- Colin then had to decide what the way ahead would look like. He explored his options. A part of him wanted to give up completely, drop out of school and find any job. I encouraged him to look at other possibilities and suggested that he had so much potential that could still be realized.
- Colin realized that the choices he would make would be defining his future and he could blame no-one else for these choices. He chose to change his attitude, learn from the experience and enrol in another school. This took courage.
- Colin’s parents and I moved alongside him to support him as he settled into the new school. Fortunately, he knew a few students and his sport also helped him be quickly accepted. He had to deal with the peer pressure, as it did not take long for other students to find out what had happened to Colin.
- Colin chose not to quit. He took a new, positive attitude into his new school and, within a few months, was chasing new goals and making excellent progress.
Perhaps the defining moment for Colin was when he came to understand that we all experience failure in life. Rather than blame others for our poor decisions, we take ownership of those decisions, learn from these temporary setbacks and move on, determined to become the best we can be.
When teenagers allow other, more experienced adults to guide them along the life journey, they will find reassurance, as they appreciate that they are not walking alone. These adults are their non-judgmental Cheerleaders and, most important, they will come to understand that these people believe in them and will guide them through the confusing and challenging times.
How did you work through that tough time at school? You have a story to share with a young person.
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in New Zealand and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.