Another Revelation

one of the most profound observations from the book, “dark star safari” was on my mind as the 84 year-old master (sensei fusaro – 9th dan) was schooling us in karate this week. he had to sit down once or twice, but no one was bellyaching about having to work too hard or being tired or being frustrated with our inability to do what he was doing–not with that guy out there, no way! gall dang inspiring!

what all older people know, what had taken me almost sixty years to learn, is that an aged face is misleading. i did not want to be the classic bore, the reminiscing geezer, yet i now knew: the old are not as frail as you think, and they are insulted to be regarded as feeble. they are full of ideas, hidden powers, even sexual energy. don’t be fooled by the thin hair and battered features and skepticism. the older traveler knows it best: in our hearts we are youthful, and we are insulted to be treated as old men and burdens, for we have come to know that the years have made us more powerful and streetwise. years are not an affliction. old age is strength.  

-paul theroux

tradecraft…non-verbals (part II)

when you’re doing this kind of work…herding cats…a good question to ask yourself is…what message am i sending?

i remember one day in class…when i was angry with a couple of students…they asked me, are you alright? 

i said, i’m fine…as “i sorted some papers” on my desk…by “sorted some papers”, i mean… furiously rustled and stacked three separate piles of handouts (for about 15 seconds), with jaw clenched and vein bulged–the one that runs across my right temple…

the next day, a student called me out on it…saying, hey, mr. d., you were kind of upset with us yesterday, weren’t you?  the student who was asking the question had a slight smile on his face and the climate in the classroom was “lighter”…

so, i asked him, what do you mean?

he replied, well, when we asked you “how you were?”…you said, “fine”…but then stacked your papers…”real angry-like”…

a couple of other students giggled at that…and after a short pause, i laughed myself…it was all i could do…because i knew they “had me”, i knew they were right…my actions, my gestures…my non-verbals had betrayed my words…my non-verbals had told the truth…

like me, you may have some “signs” that show your true feelings…physical gestures that are quite powerful…

sometimes they are things you can laugh about, like in the above example…other times, they can work against you…especially, if you’re not paying attention to your body language…sometimes they can ‘escalate’ a situation when combined with an aggressive/aggravated voice…

we see this happen in the following situations (and more) all the time…

  • getting too close to someone (proximity) who is agitated (when you’re agitated) may trigger their defensive/anger/fight or flight responses;
  • crossing your arms over your chest may send a defensive, defiant, or uncooperative signal;
  • clenching your fists when you are interacting someone may show them how angry you are;
  • pointing fingers and hands at someone’s face (proximity) may set them off (verbally or physically);
  • facing someone down (as opposed to talking to them ‘at their side’) may be perceived as a threat;
  • rolling your eyes at someone may be taken as disrespect

in our high-speed, high-stress society we can all go from zero to “big green monster” in a snap…but, as my friend craig says, even in a seemingly instant/knee-jerk moment…there is a chance, a window of opportunity…to pause, to breathe

to stop ourselves before “the other guy shows up” and we hulk-smash the world around us…

teacher man

when you are in the middle of a moment that is a bit tougher than what you expected (like the one i described in the post titled hard lessons) you tend to reflect, contemplate, and ponder…

now, how did i end up here? why did i decide to pursue this job?

it’s only natural…

for years…my sister (who’s a teacher as well) had been telling me, you should be a teacher

so, after working with kids in a variety of settings (for years), i finally went to a career counselor (about 8 years ago)…the end result of the conversations and questionnaires was–you should be a teacher–it was my highest scoring category…i remember voicing aloud, if i could just teach criminal justice to high school students–i would like that…

about six months later, there was an ad in the paper...criminal justice instructor, career and technical high school program…so, i applied and interviewed…

and then, the call came…

they offered me the position!  i still remember when/where that happened…i was driving (and yes, i took the call) and en route to my job as a youth work supervisor at a screen-printing shop (during one of the hottest summers in minnesota, ever!)…after a couple of minutes, i pulled to a parking lot alongside highway 100 and talked with the principal…i was excited…to do the job i wanted to do–they were going to pay me $40,000+ and provide health insurance!!!  i thought i had hit the jackpot…heh, heh…that should tell you something about what i was getting paid in those other youth positions:)

since my past jobs often required day, swing, overnight, weekend and holiday shifts, i knew there was one more significant benefit–a good amount of time off to spend with the wife (who’s also a teacher–junior high!!!) and twins (now)…the chance to live a more balanced life!  work hard, yet play hard with the family!  the quality of life factor was/is a big deal!

i was 35 when i became a teacher…it took me a while to find my career (it was a great and strange journey…my friends and family can vouch for that) …sometimes it takes a while to find your place in the world and while i don’t think i’ll be here forever…i do think i finally found my place in the world, the big time (for me, at least)…maybe, a better way to put it would be to say, i finally found my best right place–where i’m at the point of convergence for my vocation…where everything i’ve done (truly) comes into play, where it “all comes toghther”…

and, i’m here…for as long this wild ride lasts…

it should be noted that…while this job holds its share of struggles, there are a lot of rewards that come with it–meeting and influencing young people…being influenced by them–it’s a great gig (most of the time)…so, maybe this kind of work could be your right place, too…

if you’re looking for your best hard time…we can always use a few more good teachers…

i mean, you could be this guy…

tradecraft…your voice (part I)

i remember inviting my parents to come to a soccer game that i was coaching…

i had visited my parents at their jobs, and i thought it was ‘pretty eye-opening’ to see them in action–they worked hard, enjoyed what they did and had the respect of their colleagues…nowadays they’re retired and living in a retirement community that caters to veterans/ex-service men and women–so they spend their days driving the posted speed limit-“13 mph” (they live in one of the colonies), drinking margaritas at the daily happy hour event, and loungin’ in their soft clothes🙂

anyways…back then…i wondered what they would think of me as a coach…

they showed up before kick-off and stayed for the whole game; afterwards, my mom said (wide-eyed), they really listened and responded to you?! …it was a compliment, but she sounded incredulous, almost like she couldn’t believe what she saw:)

truth be told, i didn’t know i had it in me either…i didn’t know that i was capable of “coaching” until i started doing it…interestingly, she identified one of the most important tools available to someone who herds cats for a living…

communication

at that moment, i realized that i had this tool in my toolbox–i could talk to kids, i could encourage them, i could motivate them…i could use my words, i could use my voice–to influence them (and i liked it)…

i think apollo creed liked it too…

tradecraft…processing

for the readers out there that are just beginning to practice youth work of some sort or might be interested in pursuing this kind of work as a career…this one’s for you!:)

let’s get one thing straight, this kind of work isn’t rocket science–but it’s not exactly common sense either…it is a trade..like carpentry or auto repair or hvac or being a jedi knight..and like any trade, there is an art and a science to what we’re doing here…there are skills and tactics–tradecraft–that can take you from apprentice to journeyman to–well, a tradesman in search of mastery

it can take you from padowan to jedi master

anyways…this entry highlights “the next steps” regarding skills/tactics following a disciplinary action…like the one i mentioned in the last post, where i sent a kid to the CLAS program for pickin’ on another student…

q: what do you do when that kid you sent out comes back?

one: follow-up with the dismissed student and ask them some questions…do you know why i sent you out? ask them what they plan to do from here on out; …how could you do things differently next time?

two: welcome them back and put what ‘went down’ in the past, this can be tough… especially, when the kid has demonstrated a knack for ‘getting under your skin’ and ‘pushing your buttons’…but, this is what it means to be a professional–a skilled laborer in this field…in the past, i’ve told kids glad you’re back, today is a new day, the past is the past, we’re movin’ on, etc…

this is known as processing

and it is a way to get them thinking about what they did and why they should do it differently next time…it is also a healthy/positive way to assimilate them back into the group, to “mend fences”, to let them know yeah, i sent you out–i’ll hold you accountable…but i’m also willing to give you another chance…it’s a way to restore the relationship…

90% of the time, it takes between 5-10 minutes to “process” with a kid…

may the force be with you…

present day: lookin’ out

not long after the “spiderman entry”…

i sent a kid to the CLAS program (for an hour)–our version of ISS…for messin’ with another student…i had warned him, “keep your hands to yourself”…but, he wasn’t getting the message…and continued his troublesome ways–pickin’ on a  student, instigating and aggravating…so…

take a walk, son

it’s important that…once you get a whiff of something like that…harassment/bullying…as a teacher, counselor, youth director, coach, juvenile justice worker, etc…you take action (right away)…in this case, my response says/reinforces don’t do that, not around me

tradecraft: the “ten attitude”

one of the first paid youth positions i held was as a soccer coach with skyhawk’s sports academy in washington state…(it was a summer sports camp organization)…

i was nineteen when i first started working with this organization, and at the time…i didn’t know jack about working with kids…green as could be…a complete and total rookie!

looking back, i realize that this was a great place to start what has now become a life-long career for me, what has become my profession…honestly, i owe a lot to this organization and to the people i worked with during those summers (4)…it was soooooo influential for me–it still impacts my work today…more than 20 years later!!!

i had played soccer since i was five, i loved it, so this job was fun for that reason and also because i worked with a lot of guys i played soccer with in high school…i worked with quite a few friends…jeff, tuan, “ghandi”, john, hugh, ben and others–guys who loved soccer and loved the job!  we would travel around the state together, lead soccer camps (to kids aged 5-12 years old), scrimmage after camp times, and hang-out…what more could you ask for in a job?! working here (6 hours a day, 5 days a week), i learned how to motivate, inspire, encourage, train, coach, listen and talk to kids…i also learned a lot of great games and stories and “how to tell stories” (each day after lunch, the camp director would tell crazy-funny stories to the entire camp of kids–anywhere from 20-100 kids–keeping their attention and entertaining them for up to 30 minutes–so great)!!!

of all the things i learned working here, the most important was “the attitude you bring to the job”…i still remember the first time i met the vice president of skyhawk’s…his name was dave…and he led us in some games and drills (just like he would do if he were leading a group of kids) and he was extremely positive, enthusiastic and engaging…and in leading us in that way, he was teaching us about the energy and enthusiasm that he (and the organization)  expected us to bring to camp each and every day…

and he asked us, “where are you, on a scale of 1-10, today?!” (ten being the highest, best/most positive attitude you can have)…”do you have a ‘ten attitude’???”…the lesson here was simple…your attitude matters; it is vitally important to how you relate, motivate and coach these young people–it is a choice, choose to be a ten!!! 

further reading: if you have an interest in this kind of thing, attitude and motivation…you should check out the book in the side-bar titled, “make the big time where you are” by frosty westering…one of the most successful college football coaches (ever) and a great human being!

cheers!

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