Yes, we had a reason behind all of our questions. Your answers are neither right nor wrong, but they will give you insight into your self and your teaching. Just as students always want to know, “Why do we have to know History?” and we give the answer, “Because history will help you make better decisions in the future,” so too will the questions in the previous post help you to better facilitate your YSS experience. We break down the method behind our madness below:
Question #1: Almost everyone we know has a special teacher memory, someone who either inspired them or made a difference in their lives. At heart, those teachers made a connection with your self. They made you feel good about being you. That’s what inspiring teachers do, especially when working with teens. Think about the last time you went to a lecture and nearly drooled on your shirt from boredom – the lecturer may have had fantastic content but the delivery did nothing to inspire or connect with your self. Most people do not remember the content of their early teen classes (the what) but they remember the person who shared content with them (the who). When leading YSS, connection with your students is of paramount importance. As such, we ask that you think about how your special teacher inspired you and how you can bring that inspiration into your own teaching with each of your students.
Question #2: Do you remember what it was like to be a young teen? Do you remember feeling secure? Or feeling shy? Timid? Happy? Confused? You probably remember a range of different emotions but we can tell you that whenever we ask people if they would like to go back to their middle school years, no one says, “Yes! Totally! i was so secure back then.” Adolescence is by definition a time when teens are searching for them selves and that search can make them feel very vulnerable.
What would have made you feel more successful back then? A smile every once in a while? Eye contact? Praise? Clear rules? Defined expectations? You can’t go back in time and change your experience but you can use that knowledge of how you felt to support your students during this challenging time. We can so easily get caught up in the day to day frustrations of the student that disrupts class, or the student that always forgets his homework, or the student who twirls her hair while sitting in the back corner desk. But we find remembering our own struggles as a teen often helps us to soften our approach with the teens in front of us, and moreover, to catch ourselves from using the same techniques on them that some of our teachers used on us… and only pushed us away further.
Question #3: We all have strengths and weaknesses – you do, and so do your students. The YSS journey that your teens are about to take will highlight both their strengths and their weaknesses. Your job, as their facilitator, is to help them recognize and embrace them both. Yes, embrace. Because only by embracing the things that we don’t do so well, by taking responsibility for them, can we begin to change them, or manage them, and not feel ashamed of them. Likewise, rare is the teen that fully embraces and celebrates her strengths. Many teens wear “blinders” placed there through their unique histories that tell them they are not good enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough, or fast enough. The YSS approach aims to recognize that whatever they have is “enough” and to celebrate all aspects of themselves.
Question #4: We all have goals in our teaching and sometimes reflecting on them and re-evaluating them is important. When you teach, are you hoping to simply give your students information or are you hoping to give them information they will be inspired to use? Are you hoping to give them new ideas as well as the confidence to allow their own creativity to unfold? Are you hoping to help them pass the next test as well as hoping to teach them well enough so that they can pass whatever test life throws at them? No matter what your goals are (and they may not be the same as ours!), your students are well served when a clear vision and purpose in teaching is provided. When you have that in mind, you are in position to ask yourself, “Is what I am doing, and how I am connecting with my students, helping me achieve that goal?” Our goal at Your Self Series is to help each and every teen BE who he/she wishes to be – confidently. When you facilitate YSS in your setting, we ask that from time to time you reflect upon that goal. Is your approach helping them gain confidence? Vision? Purpose? A true sense of their own self? These are the goals set forth in the YSS program. It is our vision that your goals are in alignment.
Question #5: Connection is fundamental to human existence – from birth, we define ourselves through connections with others. Indeed, babies who do not have connections – who are not held, spoken to and cared for – will fail to thrive. So too will your students. The more connected students feel to friends, family and school the more likely they will succeed not only academically but in life. Strong connections allow the self to feel safe to express itself and explore the world. As such, we ask that as you facilitate the YSS process, you continually reflect upon the various connections in your setting. Are the students feeling connected to each other (if not maybe another icebreaker is in store)? Does one student seem to be dis-connected from the group (if so, how can you subtly re-connect that student)? With whom have you not connected lately? (If you can name someone, make a plan to connect with that person for the next class.) Connection is such a big issue for us, we are going to keep this short and hit you with it again in the next section.
Feeling fabulously informed and freakishly self-aware? Good. Then you’re ready to move on to the next step!