Elightenment in one week or less…

In the summer, I teach this amazing course with my good friend, Phil. I look forward to it every year. It’s called “Leadership and Teambuilding”, but it might well be called “Making a plan for your life 101”. It’s geared for kids between 16 and 19, and because it’s a summer school course at the vocational center, many of them are deficient in credits, among other things. In short, some of these kids have had a really rough time. Harder, perhaps, than you or I could imagine.

When they arrive, many of them have not ever made a plan more than three hours out, and have never bothered to really consider exactly what it is that they want their life to look like, or realized that it’s okay to have a dream and pursue it. Ideally, once they leave, they have the skills to not only think into the future, but to formulate a realistic plan for how to attain whatever it is they want (a job, a high school diploma, a college education, etc.) I get really excited for them when those plans include things like surrounding themselves with supportive people, staying out of trouble, moving to get away from a bad situation or influence. Especially when those goals are also mapped out in the form of a plan, and the kid believes they can do it. I love it because when the kids leave, I can see that it has affected how they view themselves, and how they view the world. They are more confident, and better able to communicate and pursue the things that they need. In just three weeks, I can visibly see that their lives have and will continue to improve. It is hands-down the most rewarding course I have ever taught.

This year is a little funny. While several of the students are moving toward that first primary goal, many are missing the second main purpose of the course. The second goal of the course is interpersonal skills, and working with others. This is the first group that I’ve had in which some students actively refuse to help others, even on team structured tasks. They see no personal gain whatsoever.We have four days left of class, so basically, we have 28 hours of class time remaining, and I am wracking my brain to figure out how I can get them to see the value in community and the assets that others can provide for them. I’m also, of course, swimming in the perpetual teacher’s prerogative of “what am I doing wrong?”.

So, I’m curious what you think. How have you seen the value in helping others while working as a team? How would you explain or illustrate the importance of patience and compassion? Got any good stories? Fantastic ideas?

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