Aged 9 – 2 years to live: 10 Life Tips from a Cancer Survivor

Aged 9 – 2 years to live: 10 Life Tips from a Cancer Survivor

Do you know anyone who has been struck down with Cancer? Anyone who might be on that journey at the moment? A young person needing encouragement? I was struck down with cancer at the age of nine and underwent some radiation treatment (2.5 times the adult dose), followed by significant major surgery during the next couple of years and then again when I was 18. My parents were told that I probably had two years to live and, during these two years, my mother died suddenly. Thankfully, I survived the Cancer and now, 50 years later, reflecting on my life journey to date, I happily share 10 Life Tips that I have learnt, through trial and error, highs and lows, over the years and which helped me through challenging adolescent years as I came to terms with my disfigurement and responded to it. I share these experiences with teenagers I mentor, encouraging them to keep on keeping on through the confusing adolescent years, especially when the odds are stacked against them. Following these key tips has taught me the importance of living a positive life journey filled with HOPE, experiencing unconditional love and care from those closest to me, whilst also feeling valued and, ultimately, leading a life of meaning and purpose with a strong sense of serving others. Renowned Basketball Coach, John Wooden, defined success as, “peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” It’s a great message to share with all who are trying to find...
Life can be like a Cross Country run for adolescents – guide them!

Life can be like a Cross Country run for adolescents – guide them!

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” (Epictetus) “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, they make them.”  (George Bernard Shaw) Read through those two quotes a couple of times and think about your response to them. There is a strong message here about the way we choose our future pathways. In many discussions I have had with teenagers over the years, there have always been students who will make excuses for not reaching their potential, especially when they do something wrong and are found out. Some of the more popular comments would be: • “It’s my parents’ fault. they’re always fighting. Life at home sucks!” • Or maybe a parent has an addiction of some sort which makes life at home tough to cope with. • Or they want to keep their circle of friends. These friends keep breaking rules, but being with those friends is more important than reaching their potential? Negative peer pressure tends to lead to negative behavior. We drag ourselves down. Why? • “It’s the teacher’s fault. He/she doesn’t like me!” • Or, one of the classic comments: “I didn’t think about the consequences of my actions.” (Brain research tells us that this can be a genuine situation, as the Pre-Frontal Cortex, the Chief Executive area of the brain, where decision-making is taking place, is still developing until the mid-20s) Do...
10 Ways Youth Mentoring Can Inspire Young People – a true story

10 Ways Youth Mentoring Can Inspire Young People – a true story

Can you remember times during your adolescent years when life seemed to be particularly hard; you jumped one hurdle and then something else occurred and knocked you down; up you got again and something else happened? Small rocks to stumble over, bigger rocks to obstruct your pathway.  How did you respond? Thinking about this led me to some work I did a while ago looking at how youth mentoring programs help young people coming from a high risk environment, reminding me of a check-list, if you like, that would be invaluable to anyone mentoring such a young person. As I thought some more, I was reminded of the years I spent informally mentoring Walter (not his real name), a teenager from a high risk, volatile environment in South Africa during the dark days of apartheid. I learnt so much about life from many interactions with Walter – an amazing young man. Walter arrived at the School where I was teaching at the time and was placed in the Boarding House of which I was the Housemaster. Walter’s mother was a domestic servant and he was, in his own words: “.. a young man from the townships who could not even speak English. I was scared but excited. I had to prove myself. Here were the white boys who had privileged positions all their lives. Their primary education was preparing them to be the bosses, whilst mine was to serve their interests. Here I had to compete with them on the same footing. I can tell you it was not easy.” There were approximately 60 to 70 boys, aged between 12 and 18 in each...
16 of the best Mentoring quotes

16 of the best Mentoring quotes

“If you really want to give your children [mentees] a few worthwhile gifts in this life, leave them with a sense of curiosity, good manners and a considerate nature. You will have made a bequest of inestimable value.” (Clive Simpkins) If you were asked to describe in 100 or so words the mentor who has most impacted your life to date and why you have chosen that person, what would you write? While going through my mentoring resources, I highlighted 16 possible responses to that question.The quotes come from a variety of resources and further details for the majority of them can be found in the extensive Bibliography on my website. I have given a short heading to each quote to further reinforce important aspects of mentoring: The Mentor’s Spirit “We seem to need mentors – wise and faithful guides, advisers or teachers – the wisdom keepers of an entire family, a sprawling corporation or a community. Much more, we need the mentor’s spirit, an unseen affirming influence and positive energy. The mentor’s spirit is the heart’s posture pervading healthy relationships in every family, classroom, organization and town … When the mentor’s spirit is absent, we find dependency, an erosion of optimism and impaired problem solving.” (Marsha Sinetar) This is Mentoring “Mentoring is a lifelong relationship, in which a mentor helps a protégé reach her or his God-given potential. Mentoring is like having an ideal aunt or uncle whom you respect deeply, who loves you at a family level, cares for you at a close friend level, supports you at a sacrificial level, and offers wisdom at a modern...
Adolescents share truths about the impact mentors had on their lives

Adolescents share truths about the impact mentors had on their lives

I often ask adults the question: when you were a teenager, who, other than your parents and friends, had a significant or POSITIVE influence on your life? Sometimes, sadly, people 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, so many young people will talk about a teacher or a Coach, a person who cared about them and believed in them. The world mourns the death of many innocent lives and the injuries others have sustained as a result of the bomb blast in Manchester earlier this week, 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.  It has spurred me to action. For many years I have been thinking of a way to inspire young people to become the best they can be, 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 being shown how to do this. I am working on developing an App, which will have to be free, with an inspiring message each day; not a well known quote, but something more personal, which links to common themes linked to adolescent development and resiliency and 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 and there have been a number of rewrites! I have...
Guiding adolescents away from Internet addiction to become the best they can be

Guiding adolescents away from Internet addiction to become the best they can be

“If they fail, we fail together, so it’s our problem not their problem and one we can solve together – children should not feel left alone with failure?” (Jennifer Fox Eades) Can you remember, as an adolescent, how you dealt with self-doubt or friendship issues? I remember building a wall around myself for a while, not wanting to communicate, except at a superficial level, with my peers, even my family, faking illness because I didn’t want to go to school, trying unsuccessfully to be ‘cool’, so I could join a peer group and have that important sense of belonging that all adolescents crave, occasionally wishing I was someone else and not liking myself. When psychologists and neuroscientists describe the adolescent years as confusing, I can easily identify with that word from my own adolescent experiences and, of course, having been a teacher for so many years and mentored hundreds and hundreds of adolescents in that place of confusion, observing the highs and lows of their journeys through adolescence to adulthood, I probably have many stories to share. 16-year old Annie (not her real name) shared with me issues she was having with her best friend. Annie was confused and also said she was finding all the gossip and friendship issues draining.Annie and I shared some strategies she could use to help her through the issues, most especially understanding that, when approached with an open and positive mind, it is possible to look at conflict as having a positive value. When handled constructively, conflict can help us to: learn new problems build better and more durable relationships learn more about ourselves and others, including...
18 Rules on using Social Media to discuss with your adolescent mentee

18 Rules on using Social Media to discuss with your adolescent mentee

Neither a computer nor a mobile phone can take the place of a person – build meaningful relationships face to face. How many adolescents do you know who have ended up in trouble because their online behavior has been inappropriate? I heard of yet another case the other day. A teenager lent her phone to another boy who discovered an inappropriate photograph of the girl and forwarded it on to a friend of his, who then passed it around. It had a sad ending, as the school expelled the students involved, not a decision I would support in most cases, as schools and families should see themselves as people tasked with educating young people on how to use technology responsibly. This is but one of way too many stories that I have heard and so I decided to do a bit of research about the responsible use of technology, specifically computers and mobile phones.One of the things I have learnt over the years is that many young people are not as technologically savvy as we think they are. Indeed, many are fairly ignorant of some fairly basic common sense behaviors one should follow when using technology. It is also worth remembering that the adolescent brain is at a key point of development and the Pre-Frontal Cortex, the Chief Executive area of the brain, where planning and decision-making occurs, is still maturing and will continue to do so until the mid-20s. Thus, adolescents tend to react more emotionally to issues going on in their lives than adults would and that partly explains why one witnesses hurtful, emotional outbursts on social media....
15 Practical ways to support mentees from high risk environments

15 Practical ways to support mentees from high risk environments

“Kids don’t need independence, they need interdependence. People are homeless because they have no functioning human relationships in their lives. Who in this society can live independently? All human beings want to belong somewhere.” (Pat O’Brien – founder of You Gotta Believe Program for older foster teens in New York) Were you abused as a young person? Do you know someone who was abused as a young person? Having been an educator for 40 years, I did cross paths with some young people who had been physically and/or emotionally abused as children and was often in awe of their resiliency as they worked through life challenges. At the moment I am reading a deeply disturbing true story by Carrie Bailee, born and raised in Canada and the trauma she underwent as a child and even as a young adult.Flying On Broken Wings is not for the faint-hearted, as Carrie shares the raw brutality of her experiences mostly at the hands of her father. Yet what has struck me as I have been reading this book is how Carrie found mentors to guide her through much of her adolescent life after she had finally run away from home, eventually ending up at the home of a single mum with experience working with troubled teens, many of whom were children off the streets. Tami responded to Carrie’s emotional and psychological needs. Carrie writes: “Tami and I had many conversations during the five years I would float in and out of her life. She would always go to great lengths to assure me that she loved me unconditionally and, no matter what I...
How effective Mentoring sows the seeds of HOPE

How effective Mentoring sows the seeds of HOPE

“When it comes down to it, we all just want to be loved.” (John Yellin (14)) What is it that tugs at your heart strings and wants you to interact with adolescents? This is a question I have been asking myself during the past week as I collate my research on the adolescent brain and interact with a couple of adolescents who have asked me to mentor them. There are days when I wish I had a magic wand and could connect with every young person who just wants to feel loved and cared for, reach out to them and encourage them to become the best they can be. It’s this passion that is deeply rooted in my heart and soul that led me to become a teacher, sports coach, set up youth mentoring programs, peer mentoring programs, train student leaders and run Life Skills workshops for adolescents. During the past week I have experienced four different moments that have pulled at my heart strings and reminded me of the massive global need for mentoring programs. I follow a fairly self-disciplined daily routine these days. I wake up and, enjoying a cup of tea, do my Quiet Time before heading off on a 6km old man’s jog along the sea front, a good opportunity to reflect and enjoy the beauty of the sunrise. After a shower I head off to the local News Agent to purchase the daily newspaper. I am a newspaper addict, not wanting the electronic version, rather the hard copy tabloid, which, I am sure is better for my aging eyes. Last week, while returning from the News...
Celebrate the power of mentoring relationships

Celebrate the power of mentoring relationships

Can you think of just one teacher that positively impacted your life? That’s a question I asked myself while my teaching career was coming to a close and I entered retirement. I ended up reflecting on my whole education journey as a child through to becoming a young adult and was amazed at what I came up with. While I was a child recovering from Cancer, I am sure that resulted in some teachers being sympathetic and kind towards me. Of course I appreciated their support, but that’s not really what I was considering. Which teachers shaped me, molded me, refined me, disciplined me, coached me, mentored me and nurtured me?From my entry to Pre-primary School to finishing my school days, I could think of at least 15 teachers who positively impacted my life. Quite amazing, really! Sometimes it might have been a sport coach for six months, a class teacher for a year, another coach for a year or two, a subject teacher for a couple of years, the equivalent of a House Tutor for about three or four years, so many people to whom I am indebted for becoming the person I am today. Indeed, I was also fortunate that I was able to attend a Pre-School and then attended the same School for my Junior and Senior Schooling experience. My key point, though, is that we all have opportunities to find a teacher who can mentor and encourage us, no matter what the situation might be. That word RELATIONSHIPS is a key to how we develop as young people. In a November 2002 study, Finding Out What Matters...