What makes the light bulb click for a student? This past week I asked a group of teens to jot down the challenges that impede their learning. They quickly began to yell out the following words:

  1. Bullying
  2. Gossip
  3. Hormones
  4. Peer Pressure
  5. Cyber Bullying
  6. School Auditions

Some of these terms were no shock to me because I had seen some of these aspects of school play out when I was an enrolled student. Of course the mention of cyber-bullying shocked me because I only thought about this in terms of corporate business. We have been bombarded by allegations and challenges that public officials have had in the past with balancing their personal and private lives. It was interesting to realize that social media is very much a part of the younger generation as well. They have multi-faceted angles of maturity to reach. They have access to so much information beyond the classroom that brick & mortar cannot contain the social cognition of this new generation. I asked the participants what they thought could be done. They looked at me with eyes that were lost. I felt in a sense that they felt a level of disconnect from the parents who were happy that they had finally started Facebook profiles. I left thinking that learning has truly shifted. I wondered what my role would be in it. It’s interesting. As I am writing this piece I can recall some research I was conducting where an educational scholar thought that having too much colors in a textbook would stop a child from learning. This was a comment that was made back in the seventies. I wonder what that scholar would think if he were alive.


Recently I have been volunteering my time at a local library to guide young girls through a series of self-esteem workshops. So far the journey has been wonderful and I have enjoyed exchanging ideas with these young adults. On some days there are four young ladies present. On busy days there may be as much as eight or nine. Either way my goal is to inspire these girls to make sound choices.


One particular day I was discussing the importance of understanding strengths and weaknesses. The girls listed three areas of their academic lives that they wanted to enhance. Some girls responded by saying they wanted to do well in certain subjects (ex. Mathematics, Science, English…). Others mentioned that they wanted to focus more and not be distracted by raging hormones or anger. The workshop continued and I mentioned the importance of avoiding the challenges that thwart success.


Apparently there were two young ladies that were not part of the program that would peek into the discussion as we hit on key points. In the discussion I mentioned that there may be moments when friends and loved ones may become a distraction. I shared that there may be moments when words spoken from relatives or peers can shatter the desire that an individual has to succeed. The ideas of being labeled as “Dumb” or “Incapable” can rob a student from attempting anything new. To conclude the workshop I had the girls participate in an interactive role-play to discuss strategies for overcoming challenges in their lives. At the end of this workshop the two girls who were merely sitting at the computers pulled two chairs up to ask me about the program. One of the ladies said,


“I could not help but listen to the words that you were saying. Everything you said is everything I am going through right now. My cousin also needs this because she hates looking at herself in the mirror. She has no friends, and she dreads going to school on a daily basis. What can we do?”


To Be Continued.

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