Archives For Generation iY

improving pedagogy

We live in a day when faculty, coaches, youth workers and speakers of all kinds are re-thinking their pedagogy.  We all believe in our “content” but we can see that the “context” of our students has changed. And many of us are learning the hard way that “context” must inform the delivery of our “content.” Conditioned by thirty-second sounds bites, Instagram and tweets with 140 characters, our listeners have short-attention spans and are more difficult to “wow” than ever before. After they watch YouTube for three hours, good luck with trying to engage them.

Teachers surveyed by Pew Research and Common Sense Media reported that technology has impacted the engagement of kids. Faculty said they felt they had to work harder to capture and hold students’ attention.

“I’m an entertainer. I have to do a song and dance to capture their attention,” said Hope Molina-Porter, 37, an English teacher at Troy High School in Fullerton, CA., who has taught for 14 years. She teaches accelerated students, but has noted a marked decline in the depth and analysis of their written work.

She said she did not want to shrink from the challenge of engaging them, nor did other teachers interviewed, but she also worried that technology was causing a deeper shift in how students learned. She also wondered if teachers were adding to the problem by adjusting their lessons to accommodate shorter attention spans.

“Are we contributing to this?” Ms. Molina-Porter said. “What’s going to happen when they don’t have constant entertainment?”

This is why we, at Growing Leaders, offer a Habitudes One-Day Intensive several times each year.  This is an all-day training experience, where I and our team equip you to update your teaching style and cover issues that really matter.

What are the benefits of this Habitudes One-Day Intensive?

  1. Attendees will discover current research on engaging today’s student.
  2. Attendees will ascertain student’s greatest needs.
  3. Attendees will learn to teach with images, conversations and experiences.
  4. Attendees will practice the principles we cover on this day.
  5. Attendees will become certified facilitators in the HabitudesÒ material.
  6. Attendees will receive a wholesale discount on all Habitudes resources for two years following the event.

We’d love to invite you to participate in our next One-Day Intensive, on Saturday, September 28, 2013 in Atlanta, GA.

If your teaching needs a tune-up, this will be empowering for you.

For Information or to register, CLICK HERE.

photo credit: billerickson via photopin cc

I just spent time with some middle school students, after an assembly. I’d spoken on the topic of how we must develop character to be trusted by others in life. The young teens I spoke with afterward were visibly confused. I could see it in their faces. I had given them a new “compass” and it didn’t fit their worldview.

The conversation was about the celebrities they follow, who’d exhibited “poor character” decisions. May I give you some examples?

* Johnny Manziel, quarterback from Texas A and M, had just been tossed out of a game because he couldn’t manage his emotions or his mouth. He’s been accused of signing autographs for money and he’s not handling the bad press very well. He was penalized in the game and may be penalized beyond that.

* My guess is—you heard about or even watched Miley Cyrus dance on the VMA’s. This Disney diva has now gone to another extreme, attempting so hard to be Lady Gaga, or Madonna. She obviously wants to strip off the Disney “nice girl” image, but when we saw her bump and grind on stage, it made most us feel sorry for her.

* Justin Bieber has been accused of smoking marijuana or using illegal drugs after posting a video on Instragram. He’s giggling like he’s drunk and can’t complete a paragraph. Why is it when new technology comes out, it happens on a day when a young celebrity is not fit to record?

* Lindsay Lohan is back in the news, sober this time, after spending time in jail. She confessed to addictive behavior on an Oprah interview. Drugs and alcohol make us behave badly. We all fell in love with this young actress in “The Parent Trap” fifteen years ago in 1998. Today, she is attempting to get control of her life again.

* Three years ago, we all heard about Tiger Woods’ multiple affairs with women. He was a married man, but decided he could live above the rules—as a lifestyle—and do whatever he wanted. He even said so. It’s been a while since his confession and he’s still trying to get his game back.

What Do You Say to Your Kids When Their Idol Goes Astray

As I listened to those young teens talk about these celebrities or “idols” I realized they needed help interpreting what was going on. They loved the talent in each of those idols, but were now seeing the “underbelly” of their lifestyle. Here’s what I said that might be helpful as you discuss this topic with kids:

1. We must separate the gift from the person.

This was the most helpful insight. We must always maintain the ability to separate a performer’s gift from their person. By this I mean, we can enjoy watching their gift for music or throwing a ball—without buying into it all; making them an “idol.”

2. We must develop a moral compass that enables us to evaluate conduct.

It’s key to keep our priorities straight. Most fallen celebrities failed to do this. They got caught up in the fame and fortune, and lost their way. Students must decide what their values are and not swerve from them as they watch others gain notoriety.

3. We can learn from their strengths, but not emulate their life.

I try to always appreciate and admire the strengths of others—and learn every lesson I can from how they leveraged it. However, this does not mean I imitate that person in other areas. We can learn something from any person if we try.

4. We must find mentors who can help us mature in well-rounded ways.

Especially when we’re prone to worship a celebrity, we must find mentors, older veterans who can help us as we grow, to provide perspective to us. Mentors can give us wisdom to think straight when everyone else is swooning over a fad.

5. We must remember that money can’t buy love or happiness.

Most of the celebrities who’ve gone astray would admit that they misplace a value they once embraced and now looked to money (or some other cosmetic tool) to furnish what they wanted. You cannot buy stuff that really matters in life.

6. We can celebrate their talent without endorsing their lifestyle.

I hope I never stop celebrating the talented people I meet. However, as I mentioned before, we must separate that from an endorsement of the lives of those people. This is why I can read books from authors I don’t agree with, or listen to speakers whose style I don’t completely appreciate. The key: eat the fish and spit out the bones.

I hope this sparks some of your own insights as you converse with students.

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

I recently wrote the blog, “How Adults Are Stealing Ambition From Kids”. Today, I want to expand on that article and talk about a variety of ways that we, as adults are rewarding our kids through prizes, and the negative consequences that result from our actions.


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My son, Jonathan was recently at a competition in a local theatre arts program. As he talked through the stories about what went on at the competition, he laughed as he discussed the awards ceremony. First off, every participant from age 8-26 years old received an award just for showing up. If that’s not bad enough, there were gold, high gold, and platinum tiers of awards that were distributed in a two-hour long awards ceremony. Meaning that gold was the lowest level of recognition. On top of all of that, if a kid did not receive the award he or she wanted, there were awards and trophies available for purchase in the lobby following the ceremony. Interesting.

It is apparent that we have developed a culture of consumerism. We want a return on investment for our kids’ efforts. By rewarding our kids with trophies and prizes, we are stealing their ambition to get up and try. While we may think that rewards help to build self-esteem, it actually leads to narcissism. Self-esteem is formed by identifying our gifts, using them for significance, and learning from their impact.

Incentive is one of the most important factors of child behavior. In fact our nation is built on incentive. Take the pioneers: They came to America for a better life, better opportunity. They received land as their incentive, to then cultivate ambition which leads to achievement. We became very great, very fast as a country. However, now we have become a country where we have removed incentive. Are we, kids and adults, now limiting our ambition?

What are examples of what may incentivize kids?

  • First Job (money): “I’m exchanging my time/effort in exchange for a paycheck. I earned it.”
  • Sports: Reaching home plate or scoring a basket is a tangible score to earn.
  • Scholarship: By earning a grade in school, that could lead to an academic achievement.
  • Relationship: Sometimes an attractive girl/guy was the reason to shower and look nice for a class that day.

There are always exceptions, but there is an increasing percentage of kids today who have lacked ambition as we, adults haven’t cultivated it. Kids are growing up with the unspoken notion that if they fail, an adult will swoop in and save the day.

Author Dan Pink, shared in his book called Drive, an experiment involving a group of preschool-age students. The results demonstrated how a reward, often puts the focus solely on the prize, and not on the process or the enjoyment in the actual activity. It’s important for a child to have satisfaction in just playing ball, or doing well on a math equation. This experiment illustrates how ambition and incentive are so influential in a child’s behavior.

I would summarize ambition by going back to the intrinsic factors that we need to recover in students:

  1. Autonomy and Independence: Every human being should have a growing sense of “I’m able to do this on my own.”
  2. Mastery: It’s important to help students find their primary gifts and strengths, and master them. “I am mastering this work. I do something better than the average guy.”
  3. Purpose and Mission: Inside of every human being, is a desire to follow their passion. “I’m doing something that really matters.”

How can you build autonomy, mastery, and purpose in your kids?

Next podcast, we’re going to share six tangible ideas to help you build incentive and ambition in your kids. One of our resources, Artificial Maturity, is a great resource to help you raise your kids to be authentic adults.


Did you hear?  A new record was just set off the coast of Florida. Diana Nyad just climbed out of the water after swimming more than 100 miles form Cuba to the U.S. Diana arrived on U.S. soil, at Key West, 53 hours after she slipped into the water at Havana’s Hemingway Marina. It was an amazing swim, and one for the record books. The swim was long and the swimmer is, well…Diana is 64 years old.

So much for our excuses for not doing something hard, right?

After reading the story—which I encourage you to do as well—here are six lessons I was reminded of as Diana emerged on the shores of Key West:

1. Don’t let your first attempt define you.

Diana Nyad had attempted this feat, swimming from Cuba to Florida, first in 1978. She made three other attempts in 2011 and 2012. Each time, she failed. This was her fifth try. Her achievement is remarkable and an inspiration to everyone, said MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. Nyad simply said, “Never, ever give up.”

2. Be willing to go first.

This was the first time anyone swam this long without flippers or a protective shark cage. With only a lubricant to repel jellyfish, Diana stayed in the water and endured difficulties and danger for two and a half days. This will inevitably open the door for others, just like Roger Bannister did when he ran a mile in under 4 minutes.

3. Learn from your past.

Diana succeeded this time because she learned lessons from attempts at 28 years old and swims from when she was in her fifties. She also became a student of great athletes and then a motivational speaker, challenging others to live at their best. This cultivated a life-long learner inside of her, which later paid off.

4. Embrace a greater cause.

When she finished, she reminded listeners she did this for a purpose. More than a mere athletic feat, the reason she did was to send a message of peace, love, friendship and happiness, between the people of Cuba and the U.S. The news story was a sort of link between the two countries.

5. Put up with the price tag if you believe in your work.

Diana was bloated from the salt water, after fifty hours of being in it. She never got out of the water, and only stopped to eat, as a boat came near and provided food. She swam through shark and jellyfish infested waters with only a wet suit. She had swollen lips, sore muscles and an aching body—but she said it was worth it.


6. Following a dream is not just for youth.

Diana is 64 years old, just one year away from Medicare eligibility. She showed us that physical achievement isn’t just about youthful strength, it’s about experience and mental toughness, which she had more of now than at twenty eight. She is tenacious and relentless when it comes to reaching goals she’s set for herself.

What a lesson for the three generations who are younger than her.

It seems everyone is talking about leadership these days. Everyone’s an expert and everyone wants to write a book. While there’s nothing wrong with that in itself, the more folks jump into the pond, the more muddy it becomes. Leadership now has a thousand definitions.

I’m convinced there are certain issues that cannot be separated from the practice of healthy leadership.  My blogs always surround the issue of leading the next generation well—so whether you’re parent, teacher, coach, employer or youth pastor—I’m hopeful this will be relevant to you. My topic today is inseparable from what it means to lead well.

I believe leadership cannot be separated from character.  Let me explain.

The word character is taken from an ancient Greek verb meaning “to engrave.” It’s related noun means “a mark” or “distinctive quality.” It’s who you are, good or bad. Regardless, you can’t separate your identity from how you lead. General Norman Schwarzkopf said, “The main ingredient in good leadership is good character. This is because leadership involves conduct and conduct is determined by values.”

Leadership and character

During the 1990s, when America experienced the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinski scandal, the big argument was: does it really matter what a leader does and believes in their own private life? It’s hard to believe we even debated that issue. Of course it does.  You cannot separate the two—unless the leader is an actor 24/7. Who you are eventually surfaces in your conduct.

Perhaps this is why Schwarzkopf once said, “Leadership is a potent combination of character and strategy.  But if you must be without one—be without strategy.”

A Sobering Discovery

This year, we had an unprecedented opportunity to survey and assess 8,500 high school students in 29 schools in our home state.  In many ways, they represent the typical demographic of today’s teen—attending public schools in urban, suburban or rural contexts.  We had just five months to expose them to Habitudes, but gained some significant takeaways afterward.

The clearest observation is that the Four Stages of Learning apply to Habitudes:

a. Unconscious Incompetence – I don’t know what I don’t know.

b. Conscious Incompetence – I know what I don’t know.

c. Conscious Competence – I know what I know.

d. Unconscious Competence – I naturally apply what I know.

Our greatest shock was to find a large percentage of students were unaware of the need for morals or ethics at all. For many, values are foreign. This is huge. It represents “Unconscious Incompetence” regarding the essential soft skills and character they’ll need in their career. The majority of students essentially reported: we see no need for character or morals. I do what I have to do to get what I want. It’s about expediency not ethics.

Somehow, the teens growing up in our homes today have not connected values like honesty, integrity, and justice to how they pursue their goals. We concluded:

a.  While basic, the principles of Habitudes are fundamental to personal growth.

b.  If graduates don’t possess them, employers must train for remedial life skills.

c.  Progress is made even when a student moves only from stage one to stage two.

If these 8,500 students are reflective of the teen population in the U.S. we have our work cut out for us. And change—must begin with us. Adults have frequently failed to model ethics for the next generation. Observing the leadership of our businesses, government, schools, and in the media, it’s no wonder character isn’t on their radar. So let’s examine our own depth of character with these questions:

  1. Do you have the unquestioned trust of your students?
  2. Do you embody those qualities you claim to have as values?
  3. Do you model ethics in your leadership, sending them clear messages?
  4. When you’re criticized, do others refuse to believe bad reports about you?

To address this issue, why not begin a fresh campaign to deepen your character?


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