I remember the story of a seven-year-old boy who loved parades. One Saturday he heard about a local parade that would march on the street just behind his house. In excitement, he scampered out to see the band, the majorettes, the clowns and the floats—but there was just one huge problem. His backyard had a tall fence around it, preventing the boy from seeing over the top of it. In fact, the only way he could see the parade was through a tiny knothole in the fence. Unfortunately, this small hole only allowed him to watch what was directly in front of him at any given moment. It was very limiting.
In time, the boy’s dad noticed him trying to watch the parade and decided to offer a little help. He picked his son up, placed him on his shoulders and for the first time, the boy could see the panorama of the entire parade. He saw the big picture.
That’s what I’d like to do for you, in this article.
A Big Picture Vision as You Begin a New School Year
We are about to launch into another extremely busy school year, both in colleges and in K-12 education. I have already spoken at some faculty “kick off” events and seen excited educators commenting on how fast the summer flew by. In a matter of weeks, we’ll all get lost in the grind of our day-to-day work.
I’d like to offer a reminder of the big picture of why we all do what we do with young people, regardless of whether we’re parents, teachers, coaches, employers or youth workers. I’d like to place you on my shoulders to see a panorama of your work.
The Four Gifts Your Students Need from You
In order to grow and flourish, students need four gifts from the adults in their lives. These four may look slightly different to you, depending on your role in their lives. These four represent the fundamentals good leaders provide young people each year:
I recognize this sounds very syrupy. But students perform best when under a leader they believe genuinely cares about them—as a person, not just a student or athlete. A growing body of research demonstrates that teens develop best when learning from someone they have a relationship with and from someone they believe likes them. When there is no relationship or the student doesn’t think you even like them, learning is diminished. Love makes a difference between employers and team members; coaches and athletes; teachers and students, and between parents and kids. It’s been said, “Today there are so many broken children living in grown bodies, mimicking adult lives.” When love is absent, growth is hindered. This is why social-emotional learning plays such a vital role in education. Forget reading, writing and arithmetic if a kid is struggling to feel they belong. Love is the first ingredient to growth.
Students need leaders in their lives to provide boundaries and limits. This is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Without limits, kids develop insecurities and begin pushing against any boundaries, just to gain attention. As they grow into adults, limits offer guidelines for students to follow. Providing limits actually communicates we care for them. Think about it: if you didn’t care, you wouldn’t bother to furnish any limits. Limits harness their energy and channel it in a positive direction. Author Ravi Zacharias writes, “The loneliest people in the world are amongst the wealthiest and most famous who found no boundaries within which to live. That is a fact I’ve seen again and again.” Limits for students may include technology and social media, budgets and spending, time with certain people, etc. Limits help us mature well.
While this may sound paradoxical to the item above, it is not. While I believe all emerging adults need leaders to give them limits, I believe our limits should have limits. To fully mature, young people need latitude: the ability to spread their wings and fly in the direction they believe is right. Limits should guide them away from unhealthy movement, but latitude empowers them to move. All genuine maturity includes two ingredients: autonomy and responsibility. The purpose of limits is to foster responsible living. The purpose of autonomy is to foster risk-taking and decision-making. With autonomy, adolescents explore possibilities, learn the benefits and consequences of their choices and develop their own sense of identity. Without latitude, they simply borrow the decisions of others. There is nothing more pitiful than a grown adult still requiring their parents to tell them what to do. Growth requires freedom along with responsibility.
By this I mean someone who provides high expectations. Most young people do not push themselves to their limits without someone they respect communicating their belief in the student’s capabilities. Effective leaders are both supportive and demanding, challenging students to rise to the expectations that are possible with their best effort—not unrealistic, but definitely stretching. When a caring adult communicates love, limits and latitude to students, they are in a position of respect and can furnish high expectations for the student—expectations that are seen as belief in them, not punishment. Students rise or fall to the expectations we place on them.
These four items are the pass, dribble and shoot our students need. I’ll let you stay on my shoulders if you’ll promise to keep these in view.
Order Now: Marching Off the Map
Our new book is now available! Leading today’s students often feels like being in a new country with old maps that don’t work. Understanding and connecting with the generation in this land is often times frustrating and draining. We need new strategies on how to march off our old maps and create new ones.
From decades of research and hands-on experience, Dr. Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak collate their conclusions into one resource that helps adults:
- Inspire students to own their education and their future
- Lead students from an attitude of apathy to one of passion through metacognition
- Enable students to push back from the constant digital distractions and practice mindfulness
- Raise kids who make healthy progress, both emotionally and mentally, through their teenage years
- Give students the tools to handle the complexities of an ever-changing world
- Understand and practically apply the latest research on Generation Z