Views From a Teacher's Desk
When I started BiO, I knew it had to resonate with our youth in order for it to stick. I started by working with pro athletes knowing that a lot of kids are watching, listening, and looking up to a lot of these higher-profile individuals. There came a time when that approach just wasn't enough to keep the connection strong.
I always wanted to be in a role in which I could counsel, mentor, coach, and/or teach but didn't want that to be my primary "job". I researched ways that I could go about those types of roles without having all the required schooling/degrees/financial output that came with those roles. In my mind, all I could think about was "how can I make these desired roles an extension of the Believe In One brand?" because the overall mission in the first place was to make a positive impact on any and everyone that was willing to receive it.
In most cases, it seems that the youth is the most direct way to make a difference since they're still impressionable, still learning, and I'd like to think that they're still willing to listen to guidance. Once adulthood hits, not much changes a human being unless it's something drastic or traumatic that allows them to have a "wake up call" situation.
All this has lead me on a path of adding substitute teaching to my resume. It's been a way that I can be a part of overall youth development but still be flexible as far as scheduling and logistics in order to continue to grow the brand.
At this point, I've worked with various schools for about 5 years in various capacities but officially substituting in classrooms for 2 years. Since I love to be active, I tend to gravitate towards P. E. when it's available. My overall goal is to be somewhere in which I can be useful and not just a body in a room. We can all probably agree that when we saw a substitute in a classroom growing up, we probably weren't doing much (if anything) that day. With that being known, I know that I have to get creative because a sub can get run over, taken advantage of, and lose the room in a hurry without the proper approach.
Usually in a classroom setting, the plans left for a substitute by the regular teacher are normally assignments just to pass the time and make it through the day. Rightfully so in most cases since some subs are truly there just to have "an easy day". I like to take it to another level...I thrive on "bigger picture" productivity so I try to incorporate something useful to the students' lives that they can consciously use.
I've been assigned to just about everything at least once during this process at just about every grade/age level. Typically for the elementary level kids, the structure of the day has to be pretty air tight since this age level is just getting used to the process of developing the foundation of their lives. At the youngest stages of elementary, the students are being introduced to the structure of a "work day" that consists of everything from time management, work ethic/habits, working with and around other students, and overall expectations of them as contributors to the classroom, community, and eventually, society. When I'm in these types of classrooms, it seems to me that a lot of the kids simply like connection. The connection can come in many forms. They tend to feel elated when they get rewarded with any type of positive reinforcement such as being called on when their hand is up, getting a high-five from the teacher, receiving compliments on their wardrobe, or even getting a sticker on their successfully completed work. The biggest challenge at this level is getting a young group of kids to stay on track with time and noise management. The main objective is to keep the room under control. If that can be done, the rest can be easy with the proper plans in place.
Then we have middle school...which now accounts for most of my school time...
This could possibly be the toughest time for all involved. The kids are starting to search for themselves as they're growing mentally and physically. They're trying to find their place in which they fit in or at least try to fit in...and then you have some that don't want any parts of fitting into anything whatsoever. Middle school truly houses it all. The students are exploring new friendship options, style choices, behavior choices, and exercising every little ounce of newly found freedom that they're now receiving. It seems like everyday is a "one day at a time" mentality for some. Middle school has been a love/hate scenario with me. I have a middle school age daughter so I have an extra interest in this level since this is the stage she is currently in. The majority of my time this year has been spent in gym or ISS (In-School Suspension). That's probably the absolute high/low scenario one could possibly be in. The gym scene is full of life, energy, and excitement while the ISS department has to be virtually silent and very isolated. It's two very contrasting environments that at first, I wanted no parts of.
The first few days that I was in the in-school suspension room, I questioned whether or not that I should even take the time to come back the following day. It was extremely rough to say the least. The majority of the students show little to no respect to adults in the building, fellow classmates, or themselves. Whatever can be done to gain any form of attention, that's the choice that the individual is probably going to go with. Most have the mentality of "they [teachers/administrators] can't/won't do anything to me so I'll do what I want". In my experience, that attitude starts at home. If the parents are or aren't driving a positive message followed by the proper actions to back it up at home, it will certainly be exposed at school. If there's no consequence at home that matters, there's not a single thing at school that can phase them. So I thought...
What if I can show up on a more consistent basis and make an effort to show them a different path? Even if something seems like it'll be a losing battle no matter what, we truly don't know until we TRY. Even if we reach ONE person.
We all have experienced things in life where we may hear a message for a long period of time but we may not fully understand it until it comes from a different person or source. We all send, receive, and connect to messages and people differently so that's enough reason to try and help these kids that need the guidance. Finding common ground is one of the best ways to connect and get people to really listen. At the end of the day, kids and adults are quite the same in a lot of ways. We all want to be loved, accepted, approved of, and essentially, just to be "good enough" to be a part of this world.
When we find a good person, place, or thing to connect to, we can start to become what we want to be. That, like anything, can have it's pros and cons depending on what type of outlet we're connecting to.
A lot of my youth connections have come through sports, music, or some form of creative art. Other connections have formed through various life experiences that I've had and I see the student currently going through something similar. Some people just need an outlet, an escape, someone to listen and understand, or someone to show them that there's light at the end of the tunnel. Everything is a test. How we handle those tests on a regular basis is what shapes and defines us as human beings. Be a light to someones darkness. We need to think about how our actions can effect those around us, positively or negatively.
How will you be remembered? What contributions are you making to better the world around you? One single person may not be able to solely change the world but that one person can change their own world which changes someone else's and so on and so on...the cycle never ends...
Be great. No matter what it takes or who tells you that you "can't"...you can.
Lying down and quitting is a choice. Rising up is also a CHOICE!