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...
From teenage rebel to achiever – your choices matter

From teenage rebel to achiever – your choices matter

I have been reflecting on the stories of students I have worked with in years gone by and wondered where they are today. This tends to happen when I receive an email out of the blue from a student who left school a while ago and wants to connect about a personal matter they were dealing with, as happened with Sue (not her real name) a few weeks ago. Jess (15) was above average academically, usually did well in exams, but was unmotivated. She was not a great sportswoman, though a talented musician with the world at her feet. However, her parents had divorced and she began to rebel against her mother’s discipline. Indeed, she became something of a rebellious spirit at school. She initially rejected some goal-setting ideas. However, when really on the slide, she decided to seek some assistance, looked at her strengths and weaknesses and set some challenging goals for herself. Jess went from strength to strength, gained academic distinctions in four of her six subjects, was appointed to a position of leadership in the school, joined the school choir and became secretary to a number of school Clubs. Furthermore, Jess worked hard at improving her communication with her mother. Life lessons from Jess’ experience Looking back, what can be concluded from Jess’ experience to encourage you in your journey with young people? Jess was a normal teenager journeying through the challenging adolescent years while the brain was still developing. She was gifted in a number of areas and was probably fortunate in that she coped with her academic studies. Jess, though, was not happy within....
9 Lifelong Lessons from Swimming the English Channel for Youth Mentoring

9 Lifelong Lessons from Swimming the English Channel for Youth Mentoring

Have you ever chased a dream and succeeded in reaching it? I remember, as a 15-year-old, how I chased a dream to represent my State running Cross-Country, the sacrifices I made, the hard yards I put into training and the wonderful feeling of accomplishment when I was selected for the State team at the end of my most successful Cross-Country season and then achieved 6th place in the Inter-State race. Trent Grimsey’s story reminded me of those days, as well as the importance of sharing one’s stories with young people. They love true stories!It was a while ago that I listened to Trent, at that time the current world record holder of the English Channel swim, share his story with a group of impressionable young students. Trent described how, as an average swimmer (in his opinion) he had achieved medals and much more as a swimmer, yet narrowly missed out on selection for the 2008 Australian Olympic Team.  Wondering what he should do to stay motivated, Trent decided to swim the English Channel, not just to complete the swim, but to break the World Record. Listening to his story, I felt that there were at least nine lifelong lessons we can all learn from Trent’s experience planning and swimming the English Channel. Always have a clear goal and share it with someone you trust. Trent firmly believed that, when we have a sense of purpose, it is easier to stay motivated and inspired and to live a positive life. As a swimmer, he needed a Coach, someone who believed in him and what he was  setting out to achieve; someone...
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...
The Greatest Life Lesson I have learnt

The Greatest Life Lesson I have learnt

What is the most important or greatest life lesson you have learnt to date? This is a question I have thought a lot about during the past 12 months as I have adjusted to retirement after 42 years as an educator. My response to this question is obvious (to me!), yet equally challenging to live by in a 21st Century increasingly secular and politically correct global community.I pause and look at the current global situation. We are told that the level of poverty is decreasing, yet there are still millions of people living in poverty. The Middle East remains a powder keg which could explode any day. The number of authoritarian, egocentric rulers – dictators would be a better term – seems to be increasing. This means more and more people are likely to be living in oppression, some of whom, who know no other lifestyle, probably don’t even realise this. Ruling with fear is no way to bring about global peace. In 2016 I visited Terezin Concentration Camp outside Prague where I was deeply moved by the drawings by children, most of whom were put to death by the Nazis. I have studied the major world religions in an effort to better understand the make-up of our global community. What, therefore, is the Greatest Life Lesson I have learnt? Men or women with big egos are unlikely to bring peace to the world, as their motives lack the heart of the Great Teaching, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I have learnt that God is good and He is working out His plan; that I have no comprehension of...
How you can share messages of HOPE with teenagers

How you can share messages of HOPE with teenagers

Do you remember when you felt overwhelmed as a teenager?  Walled in? Unable to see your way into the future? Frustrated? Angry? Confused? A little lost? Maybe one of those days you just wanted to walk out of the home? Maybe you did walk out! That’s what Wendy (not her real name) did when she was about 15 or 16. This is her true story.I met Wendy, then in her early 20s, when I was running a mentoring program some years ago. Anyone interested in being considered as a volunteer adult mentor, having completed a fairly basic application form, met with me. This was an opportunity for me to see whether or not the person was suitable for moving alongside a confused, vulnerable adolescent for about nine months or longer as a volunteer mentor. It also gave the potential mentor, who would have completed a 21-hour mentor training program by the time we met, to hear more about the program and decide whether or not they really wanted to make this important commitment and investment in the life of a young person. Wendy took me to a large shopping centre and we sat down for a chat. However, after a few minutes Wendy, looking uncomfortable, asked if we could rather go back to her home to talk. While she was sharing some of her story a little later, it became clear to me why she wanted to speak privately. When Wendy was in her early teens her mother died suddenly. Wendy had no father with whom she could form any relationship, as he had departed her life a number...
A life lesson for you and me from a teenager

A life lesson for you and me from a teenager

How did you approach competition as a teenager? Prior to retiring and having stopped coaching sport as a result of my schedule as an Assistant Head of a large School, every Saturday I would head off to watch as many sports matches as I could – even if I watched a match for five minutes that was okay, as the students could see I was interested. I tried to watch matches of students I taught or informally mentored. A two minute conversation about a match, while a class was settling down for a lesson, could positively affirm or impact at least one life – I know this did happen! However, a memorable moment was watching Caitlyn (not her real name) playing a Netball match.The day before her match I had been having an informal chat with Caitlyn as we were passing one another on the school campus. I had noticed she had been wearing a brace on her hand the previous week and wondered if she was injured. As we parted company she asked me if I was going to be watching the match the next day. I assured her I would be cheering on the sidelines! Caitlyn’s team came close to winning. I know nothing about the rules of Netball, but I can see that it must be such a frustrating game to play when the shooters just can’t get the ball through the hoop consistently. While other mistakes inevitably occur for a variety of reasons, Caitlyn’s team lost the match in the final minutes. I decided simply to focus on watching Caitlyn for a period of time...