the power of believing in a student

Thomas Edison was once asked how he became such an incredible inventor.  

The follow story is a retelling of his answer.

When young Thomas, returned home from school one day, his mother noticed he had a piece of paper in his hand.  He told her it was a note from his teacher and she was the only one who was supposed to read it.  When she did, she grew tearful.  When Thomas asked what it said, his mom replied, "Your sone is a genius.  This school is too small for him and doesn't have enough good teachers to train him.  Please teach him yourself."  

From then on, Edison's mom removed him from school and he was self-taught.  She allowed him to curiously pursue what interested him and to devour it.  Years later, after his mom died, Edison was rummaging through her belongings, and came across that note from his teacher.  When he read it, he was stunned.  It read, "Your sone is addled (mentally ill).  We don't have the teachers to handle him.  You'll have to teach him yourself."

Edison wept and wept for hours, and since that time, gave his mother credit for cultivating his genius as an inventor.  She something others didn't in her boy.  What she read and what that not said ultimately led to the same result - Tom Edison had to learn at home.  But what was behind it meant everything to that kid.  Someone had believed in him.

Who knows?  There may just be another Thomas Edison in your Life Group!

8 Shifts we must make

to lead students well

The following is an excerpt from "Marching off the Map" by Tim Elmore

1. Don't think CONTROL, think CONNECT

Too often, our ambition as a parent, professional, or teacher is to seize control.  We want to govern every action and direct each step students take.  Studies show that parent's who over-program their child's schedule often breed students who rebel as teens.  Why?  They never got to truly be a kid.  Let me remind you: control is a myth.  None of us are actually "in control." Instead, good leaders work to connect with the next generation.  Why?  Because once we connect, we build a bridge of relationship that can bear the weight of truth.  We earn our right to genuinely influence them.

2.  Don't think INFORM think INTERPRET

Today's young people are the first generation that don't need adults to get information.  It's coming at them twenty-four hours a day.  What they need from us is interpretation.  Their knowledge has no context.  Adults must help them make sense of all they know; to help them interpret experiences, relationships, work and faith via a wise, balanced lens.  Discuss together what's behind movie plots, books, and technology.  Teach them how to think. 

3.  Don't think WHAT, think WHY

Students today have been told what to do, by all the adults in their lives since day one.  Authors Art Levine and Diane Dean say they've become addicted to an adult checklist.  We told them what to do 24/7.  The need of the hour is to tell them "why" something is important to do.  When we explain why, we get engagement at a deeper level.  We grab their hearts not just their heads or hands because now they have motivation for doing the "what."

4.  Don't think "DO IT FOR THEM", think "HELP THEM DO IT"

Adults have been committed to giving students a strong self-esteem for thirty years now.  We wrongly assumed, however, it would come from simply telling them they're special and awesome.  According to the American Psychological Association, healthy and robust self-esteem actually comes from achievement, not merely affirmation.  In our attempt to protect them, we've actually created a new "at risk" student: middle class and affluent students who are depressed because they didn't really do anything to earn the trophy.  Sure it's quicker to do it yourself - but it's better to transfer a skill.

5.  Don't think IMPOSE, think EXPOSE

When adults become scared their students are falling behind, we tend to impose a rule or a behavior on them.  While mandatory conduct is a part of life, it carries negative baggage with it.  When students feel forced to do it, they often don't take ownership of it; it's your idea, not theirs.  Why not think "expose" instead of "impose."  Give them an opportunity they can't pass up.  Make it enticing.  They then participate because they want to, not because they have to.  It feels like motivation, not manipulation.


So many students today have had everything mapped out for them by and adult.  Recitals, practices, playground time, lessons, phone games, and the list could go on and on.  Even Lego sets now have diagrams of what to build and how to build it.  We're removing the need for students to use their own imagination and creativity.  Instead of prescribing what they should do next, try "describing."  Describe an outcome or gaol, and let them figure out how to reach it with their own ingenuity.

7.  Don't think COOL, think REAL

So many adults - from parents, to teachers, to youth pastors - try so hard to be "hip" and emulate what students are doing.  They think that if they can just be like the students, they will be "liked" by the students.  In reality, grown adults can rarely pull this off without being laughable.  No doubt we want to be relevant with our style, but students do not look to us to be cool.  They need us to be authentic.  Learn to laugh at yourself.  Be self-aware.  Genuinely listen.  Speak in conversational one that's believable.  The only thing worse than being un-cool is being unreal.

8.  Don't think LECTURE, think LAB

When our young people do wrong, the first thing we usually want to do is lecture them.  It's the quickest way to transmit and idea, but it's not the best way to transform life.  Just like science class, students need a lecture AND a lab to learn.  We must create environments and experiences from which we can process ideas.  There are life lessons to be found everywhere - trips, meals with influential people, service projects.  The lab is where head knowledge is transformed into understanding.