The power of story-telling to change lives

The power of story-telling to change lives

“I nearly died, but I wanted to speak to you …” Saturday evening a couple of weeks ago. My cellphone rings. A Whatsapp call. Jabu, calling from Los Angeles. I am in New Zealand! Jabu had been a student at the school in South Africa where I was principal in the early 1990’s. Although we had communicated via social media a few times during the past year or so, we had not spoken for over twenty-five years. Jabu had a story to share. Jabu’s story Jabu spent the next hour sharing some of his story with me. He had a tough upbringing and, as he reminded me, was behind his peers academically when he arrived at the school because of a disrupted education. We discovered quite quickly that Jabu had a talent and a passion for art, so an extra special effort was made to encourage him with his artwork. Jabu would later travel to the USA to continue his self-learning and personal development and to forge a career using his art. He also became a talented boxer, following the example of his hero Nelson Mandela. A couple of years ago he was involved in a serious car accident from which he recovered. However, he continued to experience some back issues as a result of the accident and reluctantly agreed to have an operation to fix the problem a few months ago. Complications followed the operation. Jabu was flown by helicopter  to hospital from the remote place where he had been recuperating. His condition was critical, but he pulled through and is now well on the road to a...
10 tips to nurture resilient youth (new book)

10 tips to nurture resilient youth (new book)

Have you ever wanted some quick tips and ideas to encourage your work with teenagers – as a teacher, coach, parent, grandparent, or youth worker? During the past couple of weeks I have been going through the final proof of my new book: Mentoring Minutes: Weekly Messages to Encourage Anyone Working with Youth. There are 260 daily messages – five each week of the year – covering many topics: self-image, communication, positively resolving conflicts, resiliency, goal setting and more. I have woven true mentoring stories throughout the book to encourage anyone working with young people never to quit on them. This blog is an example of one daily message. Tips to nurture resilient mentees A key role of an effective volunteer adult mentor is to develop resilient mentees. How can you do this? Here are a few ideas and strategies that I have used effectively for many years. The key point is that they are non-threatening, motivating and even, in some instances, inspiring. Focus on the development of a caring, trusting relationship with your mentees, and not on saving them. Have fun. Have positive, high, realistic expectations for your mentees. Never quit on your mentees. Meet your mentees’ emotional safety needs by being available to talk. Sustain kindness, for example, with a touch on the shoulder, a smile, or a genuine greeting. Get to know your mentees’ strengths, dreams, and gifts. Help them to develop the skills and resources to unlock these. You convey the message: You matter. Be reliable and accessible, and turn up for the agreed meetings with your mentees. Encourage your mentees to create positive peer...
12 points every adult working with youth can remember

12 points every adult working with youth can remember

How often, when you are chatting to teenagers and trying to understand them do you reflect on your adolescent journey? Can you remember any high and low points of your teenage years? Can you remember the significant people who impacted you either positively or negatively? Sometimes it helps our relationships with youth when we show empathy and try harder to understand how they might be feeling to help us understand why a seemingly crazy or irresponsible decision was made. We know that the brain is developing in crucial ways until the mid-twenties. All the developing brain research should assist our relationship building skills with youth. Psychologist David Walsh shared some thoughts about the key challenges facing adolescents and I have added another. 12 points every adult working with youth can remember As we move alongside youth, encourage them to become happy and positive people – despite major mood swings, which is normal – and work hard to speak to the potential you can see in them and which they often cannot see.  That is where your calm, reassuring presence is genuinely appreciated even if they do not communicate this to you – yet! Adolescents have to: figure out how to get sufficient sleep – a minimum of nine hours every night is highly recommended; handle sexually maturing bodies that give rise to strong urges which they can learn how to manage; try and figure out and manage volatile and powerful emotions; fit into a complex social network; deal with immense peer pressure – both positive and negative; deal with wildly changing moods; decide how they are going to respond...
How would you describe your IDEAL teacher?

How would you describe your IDEAL teacher?

Can you think of a teacher who had a positive impact on your life? Have you ever thought what your ideal teacher would be like? I have been thinking about this topic in recent days while writing a new book: The Barnabas Prayer – Becoming an encourager in your community. I wrote the first draft of this book during our COVID-19 lockdown, sent it to my publisher and, a couple of weeks later, was surprised to receive the offer of a publishing contract. Surprised? Well, who would have thought I would be offered three publishing contracts within twelve months? I am embraced in this big bubble called ‘humility’. What, you might justifiably ask, has this to do with my ideal teacher? Well, it has made me appreciate even more that most adults are parents, or teachers, or coaches, or mentors – in reality, a combination of these. In other words, whether we like it or not, we will either positively or negatively impact the young people with whom we interact. Eight positive signs of my ideal teacher They affirm life and further its potential, and always share messages of hope. They enter into real discussions with their students because, at heart, they are genuine and emotionally available. They set clear boundaries – negotiated with older students – for themselves and others. They embody values and virtues that others merely admire. They walk the talk. They always make sure their students feel safe and secure in their company. They look to identify their students’ strengths, name them and encourage these young people to use these strengths in positive ways to...
What is the most important life lesson you learnt from COVID-19?

What is the most important life lesson you learnt from COVID-19?

What is the most important life lesson you learnt from COVID-19? Will you do things differently now? This might be a hard question to answer. Much will depend on your experiences to date. Lost a loved one during this time? Lost a job or business? School closed down for a while? Spent time in a lock down and isolation situation? Could not complete a course you wanted to finish off? Unable to travel, so lost an opportunity to pursue a dream or possible job opportunity? As I have followed the media, had to experience lock down and was unable to see my other family members, including my grandchildren, the most important lesson I have been reminded of again and again is how important relationships are – face to face relationships. And it has been interesting to listen to young people. All the majority of our youth wanted was to get back to school to be with their friends. How will the global community emerging from COVID-19 respond to this reality? More of the same? Seek to become a more compassionate, caring community? I am already reading many articles about online learning gaining momentum, shorter working weeks or more people working from home and so on. Yet, we have a chance to reimagine what our global community could be like. I have written elsewhere how I observed a Vertical Tutoring System transform a school and the time is surely right for schools to explore this system. It transforms school cultures in so many positive ways and there is a significant focus on how to build meaningful relationships. However, I digress....
10 top motivators for employers of young adults

10 top motivators for employers of young adults

Can you remember the people who influenced you the most when you joined the work force? How has the work place today differed from when you entered it for the first time? How would you motivate and encourage a young adult joining your team in their first career move? These are interesting questions to consider. They are questions I have been reflecting upon as I think about how COVID-19 will impact economic development in the months ahead. Neuroscience research continually reminds us that the brains of youth are only fully developed when they are in their mid-twenties. This highlights how important it is for empathetic employers to guide and navigate new young employees entering the work force for the first time. Here is what I learned.Research I spent some time researching employer and employee relationships, exploring what social researchers say and reading general articles in which employers share their experiences working with youth. I saw over the years how the advent of technology seemed to change the mindset of young employees. In some cases I saw youth unafraid to be creative and innovative. In other situations I observed young people unable to empathize with others, severely lacking teamwork and often with questionable management of time skills. I saw others who took life so seriously, were unable to laugh at themselves, and whose perfectionist attitude led to heightened stress levels. And, I observed others who lacked a healthy and balanced lifestyle which had a negative effect on their output. 10 top motivators  Here are ten of the top motivators employers can reflect on as they employ today’s youth, always remembering...