How to show teenagers that quitting is a choice

How to show teenagers that quitting is a choice

How many times did you quit as a teenager? What were the reasons for that choice? I have spent time in recent weeks thinking of times when I might have quit on something, especially as a teenager, and regretted it. I was an active sportsman and I distinctly remember quitting on trying to achieve a top place in a 1500 meter race during our School Athletics Day. I did not want to train and represent the School in another big Athletics meet. I was playing two other sports at the time and did not feel I could manage another. Funny, though, how I remember this so vividly over 40 years later. When I am out jogging in the morning, I replay those moments. Even though I could justify my decision, there is definitely a regret that I did not push myself to the limit in that race. I quit on school work from time to time. This was often because I either found the work boring or could not see the relevance of studying a particular subject and, therefore, was unmotivated to learn. Then I became a teacher and could share many stories with young people, from my personal experiences, how NOT to behave. What has all this to do with the spirit of mentoring? Well, I guess I was making choices at a young age, some of which were poor and others did not matter too much. With my academic studies I sometimes have regrets that I never actually pushed myself, so I have no idea how competent I really am. In my first year at University, I...
A Teenager’s 6 Lessons to become the best she could be

A Teenager’s 6 Lessons to become the best she could be

How many times, as a teenager, did you feel alone and battling the world? Angie (16) was battling with a serious personal issue. She was a boarder at the school. One afternoon she popped in to see me in my office. Students knew that, if my door was open, they could feel free to come in and chat. I was the School Principal at the time. Angie started talking in fairly general ways about school, life, her favorite subjects, things she enjoyed doing and so on. I listened with interest. After a while she shared that she was not looking forward to returning home during the school holidays. Her father was disabled as a result of a work accident. He had been left crippled and was confined to a wheelchair. Angie said that he was abusive towards her and had a violent temper. From the way she talked, the abuse was verbal and nothing else – still, tough for a teenager, whose brain is still developing and prone to emotional outbursts, to contend with. We talked about the different options open to Angie, one of which was to apply for a United World College Scholarship. This was a Scholarship that would cover her education and boarding for the final two years of her education journey.  She would study for the International Baccalaureate. If successful, she would be able to approach almost any university for entrance to further study. Winning such a scholarship would reduce the time she would have to spend at home and that meant less time possibly being abused by her father. During the following week I...
6 Tips for Teenagers to overcome adversity

6 Tips for Teenagers to overcome adversity

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...
4 Life Tips to become the best you can be

4 Life Tips to become the best you can be

I wonder if you ever hit the wall as a teenager and wanted to quit either school or a position you held in the school or a team or cultural group? Brad was in this situation. Brad was battling with his peers. He came from a different cultural and social background than most of his peers, though was strong academically and talented in a variety of areas, social and sporting. When he had had enough of the negative peer pressure and mocking, disillusionment set in. With less than six months until he completed his schooling, Brad was ready to give up a superb education because of the hypocrisy and racism he was being subjected to. He was a School Leader and wanted to step down from this role as well. Brad was a boarder and I was his Housemaster. We had a long discussion one Saturday night, exploring different ways he could approach the issues that were concerning him. I did a lot of listening and guiding of the conversation towards Brad suggesting some positive solutions. In the end, we agreed that Brad must be himself, continue working hard towards his academic goals – indeed, make academic achievement his number one priority. Once he was through with his schooling, the world of tertiary education would offer many alternatives. Brad made this choice and gained superb academic results. He went on to University, gained his Business Management Degree and soon found a top job in Human Resource Management. When I later became a School Principal, I invited Brad to come and talk to the senior students, to share his story...
Life lessons when you stumble and fall

Life lessons when you stumble and fall

How did you deal with a wobbly situation when you were a teenager? Jack (18) was a talented sportsman, revered by the younger students. He was a student leader and led with a rod of iron. He battled to understand the need to reason, talk through issues and negotiate when applying disciplinary procedures. Jack led more by fear than anything else. He did, however, work incredibly hard at his sport and deserved all the success he achieved in that area. Sadly, Jack failed to follow advice and encouragement offered on many occasions. He lost his temper once too often – during the last week of his school career – and destroyed school furniture. His leadership status was withdrawn. Jack battled to accept this. I actually wondered if I would ever see or hear from Jack again. Some 20 years later, I managed to link up with Jack, sending him a message via social media, and wondered if I would hear from him. Within 24 hours Jack had replied, saying how good it was to hear from me. We exchanged a few emails and I did say that I was surprised he wanted to communicate with me. After all, I had been the person responsible for withdrawing the leadership responsibilities of someone the students looked up to as a hero. Jack responded to my comments about this in an interesting way. He acknowledged that the incident had happened some years ago, yet he was by that time (when we were communicating) older and wiser. He was happily married and the proud father of a couple of kids. A day or...
You choose your attitude

You choose your attitude

What attitude did you choose when you woke up today? While young people might not be able to choose the circumstances in which they are living, they are able to choose their attitude towards the environment in which they are living. They are also able to choose their attitude towards their studies, friendships and other relationships, though having a non-judgmental Cheerleader by their side will probably assist most young people on their journey to become the best they can be. These thoughts, while reflecting about the power of mentoring relationships the other day, reminded me of a mentoring journey I undertook with Emma (not her real name), a while ago.When Emma popped in to my office to see me at the beginning of a new term, she appeared to be anxious and worried about how things were going in her final year at school. While she was talking, I looked at my watch and said, “Emma, I’m going to interrupt you.” She looked a little puzzled, even surprised. “You have only been sitting here for a few minutes. What one word have you used more than any other word?” Emma paused for a short while and then shook her head, “I don’t know.” “It begins with a W,” I responded, sharing a clue. “Work?” “No.” Emma smiled and shook her head again. “Worry. Almost every sentence has the word ‘worry’ in it and that is not healthy.” Emma was a top student who will go far. However, through her own admission, she was a perfectionist. I had vowed to myself and to her that, during the time we would...