When you were a teenager, who, other than your parents and friends, had a significant influence on your life? Who was the light in a season of darkness? The go to person? The strength you were looking for? What qualities or positive attributes did this person or these people have that impacted you? HOW did they positively impact your life? How long did the relationship last?
Philip was my History teacher when I was aged about 14. He brought the subject alive, had a wonderful sense of humour and fired my interest in the subject that would finally lead to my decision to become a History teacher. He was reliable, consistent, had no favorites and was scrupulously fair and a man of integrity and a deep faith. I don’t recall ever having a 1:1 conversation with him outside the classroom – I might be wrong – though he always exchanged an affirming smile when we passed one another on the school campus. He probably does not know what a positive impact he had on my life at a time when I was seeking meaning and purpose having long since retired.
Reflecting on my own experiences motivated me to do more, made more urgent when I heard of the tragic passing of a young woman who had been such a wonderfully caring role model and diligent student at a school where I had been the school principal a few years earlier.
I have converted about 45 blogs to short video clips, all of which are linked to encouraging youth to reach their potential. These are available on YouTube https://www.youtube.
The lost, disconnected and lonely
Sometimes, sadly, students I taught, coached or mentored were living in homes that were not functioning too well for a variety of reasons, so positive parental influence might have been lacking. No matter what the situation, often when I had conversations with them, they would talk about a teacher or a Coach, a person who cared about them and believed in them and how much they appreciated the time that person dedicated to their lives.
The world mourns the death of so many innocent lives and the injuries others have sustained as a result of bomb blasts and shootings in different parts of the world in recent times, though we must never forget the tens of thousands, maybe millions of young people living in poverty or traumatized by war or some other traumatic event in their lives. Hardly a day goes by without some deeply troubling news about young people being shared through the media. They are scarred for life and need special people to mentor, nurture and encourage them to unleash their God-given potential.
How to motivate and inspire teenagers and young adults
It has spurred me to action. For many years I have been thinking of a way to inspire young people to reach their potential, the quiet ones who retreat into their shell, who perhaps lack confidence, who need to be reminded that they can take charge of their lives and be shown how to do this. I have been working on developing an App, which will have to be free, with an inspiring word each day, not a well known quote, but something more personal which I have written from my experiences working with young people for over 40 years – can’t hide my age! I actually began this project about 15 years ago!
I have written the 365 messages to inspire and am now on a journey to action my dream
What continued to inspire and motivate me were a number of quotes from 14 and 15 year-old students who participated in the GR8 Mates school-based mentoring program a while ago. Most of these students were showing signs of disconnecting from school before they joined the program, many of them in single parent families and from low socio-economic, often high risk environments.
All the mentors were thoroughly trained and received weekly encouragement and guidance when they were actively involved in the mentoring journey. The focus of the 6 to 9 month mentoring relationship – a pity we did not have more time – was on connecting, sharing ideas about goals and setting some personal goals. The students explored possible career options and researched information on careers that interested them with the support and encouragement of their mentor. Where possible, the mentor took the mentee to visit a Company or organization of interest to that young person from a career perspective or introduced them to a friend working in a particular career of interest.
Teenagers value non-judgmental relationships
As I read through the quotes below, I was again struck by the importance of RELATIONSHIPS in these young people’s lives, FACE TO FACE RELATIONSHIPS, not online communication.
With the development of the digital footprint, it is so easy for us to forget that the most meaningful relationships are developed around three key words: RESPECT, SINCERITY (AUTHENTICITY) and EMPATHY, qualities that are shouting out to me when I read these quotes.
“[My mentor] has helped me through good times and bad and has helped me cope. She has also helped me with what my goal is in life and things I need to do to achieve becoming a teacher…[the program] has heaps of different aspects and it is brilliant …it is perfect the way it is.”
“[My mentor] gave me a lot of confidence. He told me about my self-worth and my values. I was extremely lucky to get him as a mentor. I liked that I had someone to talk to whenever I needed to, through email and face to face. I realized throughout the journey my career goals and opportunities.”
“My mentor has helped me analyse myself and the careers I’m interested in and helped me to find better time managing skills. I liked having someone to talk to about life in general, and having someone who can relate to certain things has been helpful and fun.”
“She has really helped me with managing my time. She has also been a great help with finding information about my career and how to achieve it. I enjoyed the whole thing.”
“She has helped me find what I’d like to do when I’m older and set a goal, as well as helping me find work experience at good places 🙂”
“Because I am 100% sure about where I’m going in life and have gained many valuable skills that will help me achieve my goals… gained a friend.”
“It was just good to be able to talk to someone about anything.”
“He has helped sort through my life and make right decisions when it comes to work related things. Very awesome person. Really been good with him.”
“[She] helped me gain self-confidence, realize what I wanted to do in the future, how I was going to get there and has helped me achieve my goals.”
“She told me things I just wanted to hear.”
“Helped find the jobs I like …talking about jobs…”
“I now understand what I want to do in life…I enjoyed it all.”
“She has opened my mind to the opportunities and still has more I’d love to learn from her. She took me to a Career Psychologist showing me what I am best at. She has helped open my mind 🙂 …it is a good program.”
“[She] has helped me become more confident in myself and I hope that I have made a positive impact on her life as well. I wish her all the best …talking about each other’s lives, resolving issues and having a good laugh. I liked everything. I think it was a great idea. Thank you for allowing me to have this experience.”
“Helped me with job opportunities eg, work experience.”
“She has helped me write my Resume. She organized work experience. Good rapport.”
“[She] has helped me with a lot of things…having someone to talk to.”
“He has been there if I needed to talk …make it last longer.”
“[She] has taught me to control my anger and shown me the importance of a good career.”
I remember that one of these mentors went through personal difficulties a few years after this mentoring relationship began. On Facebook the mentee, by then a young adult, posted a comment to the effect that just as her mentor had been there for her during her confusing adolescent years, now she would be there to support her mentor.
The seeds of the Spirit of Mentoring had been successfully sown during these relationships.
There is a better solution
Limited funds and resources meant that the GR8 Mates program could not continue at a time when we had 19 local schools wanting to participate.
How do we meet the needs of these young people?
We must change the teaching narrative and implement Vertical Tutoring Systems in all high or secondary schools. I have seen how this transforms the culture of a school, reduces bullying, gives every student a Tutor and Co-Tutor to journey alongside them through the later years of their school lives, forces the parents to become part of a positive and collaborative team (the Tutor, the student and the parent/s) with a focus on the health and wellbeing of the student embraced by a holistic approach to learning.
Vertical Tutoring has been around for decades, but, in most schools it is operating within an outdated hierarchical system of leadership.
The skills and talents of Senior leadership team members in schools are utilised in innovative and creative ways and each Tutor and Co-Tutor are responsible for the health and wellbeing of no more than 20 students whom they interact with for at least 20 minutes every school day.
Vertical Tutoring Systems Thinking
Why are more and more schools not embracing the Vertical Tutoring System?
Principals and other staff in management only know what they know. There is a need for some transformative leadership from governments, teaching and other school associations to catch and develop a proven vision which will totally transform the education journey of young people and allow teachers a chance to return to a play where they genuinely enjoy going to school and interacting with students every day.
It is one of the ironies of too many educators in leadership and influential positions that, when the global community is desperate for creative, innovative and critical thinking, the very people who should be inspiring and motivating these young people are stuck in an outdated factory model and show little desire to change their thinking.
And we continue to wonder why we have ongoing issues with antisocial behaviour, the tragedy of youth suicide and the failure of too many parents to embrace the educational journey of their children and be responsible, positive parents and role models to their children.
Have you remembered who, other than your parents, made a significant and POSITIVE impact on your life when you were a teenager?
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 Facebook 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. About 45 blogs have been converted to short video clips, all of which are linked to encouraging youth to reach their potential. These are available on YouTube https://www.youtube.