For the past 15 years, I have been mentoring high school students. It is through this experience that I learned of the enormous cyberbullying issue taking place in every teenage home in the world, via the internet. My dedication to being a positive mentor is what led me to creating ItsMyLocker.com, the “stepping stone” to Facebook. I’ve always had a connection with teenagers.
Maybe it’s because I am a good listener, maybe it’s because I don’t tell them what to do. I don’t pretend I am perfect. I teach by showing my vulnerabilities and explaining what I did or said to get through a difficult situation. No matter how mean or hurtful other people can be, my advice is to always do the right thing. We need to keep our side of the street clean. But who knows, maybe teens like me because I usually come bearing Doritos and candy!
People say it is hard to work with middle school students and that it takes a certain personality to work with pre-teens. I agree! In the past 4 years, my work with Generation Text Online has led me to many middle school auditoriums. I have 2 middle schoolers and while it is challenging to parent them, I find a natural connection with this age group as well. And while I teach anti-bullying, the lessons are really more geared toward character education. Middle school kids trust me. They respect me. Of course, lots of humor is an important component when working with this age group work. But the reason I can captivate an auditorium of middle school students is because I open the conversation by telling them that I am not there to tell them what to do. I tell them they will be responsible for making their own choices. I tell them what I feel is the right thing to do for me is, and most importantly, I welcome their questions and encourage them to challenge my thoughts and ideas.
It’s not that I am a genius when it comes to understanding teens. I am lucky. My role with teens is not one of authority; I’m not their parent or teacher. On the other hand, I am not their “equal" and I am not their friend. I think my role can be better described as “mentor” or “aunt” or “older sister.” Come to think of it, I have had this role my entire life.
From the time I was young, I have felt a responsibility to do the right thing in order to be a good role model for my 6 younger siblings. My parents always told me that I had a responsibility to make good decisions because my 6 sisters and brothers were watching my every move. 21st century style of teaching comes naturally to me. When I work with teens I use collaboration and participation. My relationship, combined with my communication style, is one that can influence the thought process and decision making of teens.
So how the heck is it that I LOVE working with elementary school-aged kids? I mean, isn’t it all runny noses and untied shoes? Ha! Elementary students are much more grown up than when we were in school. For starters, since Velcro came around, they don’t even have to learn how to tie shoes anymore!
Elementary aged kids are inquisitive; they ask a lot of questions. They notice things around them. One of the great things about this age group is that they haven’t reached a rebellious stage yet and they still think adults know more than they do!
I talk to elementary students just like I talk to teenagers. I ask their opinions and I listen to their answers. I encourage them to help me figure out the answers to their problems. I talk to them on their level. And what do I mean by that? I talk to them, not at them. I look at them, not down to them. Elementary kids are smart, especially when it comes to technology. Most elementary can navigate much better than I on my phone or computer. My work with kids is meant to empower them to make the right choices!
So what’s the key to teaching 21stCentury Character Education to elementary students?
Generation Text Online believes that a printed message on a poster, which is visually appealing is a good reminder to display good character. These posters, which are hung in classrooms, hallways, cafeterias and bathrooms, display good character, using a 21st Century style.
We believe that in order to guide children on what type of behavior we expect, requires 2 important components:
We need to create the exact scenario kids find themselves in. These situations must be things kids are exposed to on a daily basis…the exact location and the exact situation. This allows our child’s brain to identify and relate.
We must provide the exact words and actions they need to take!
So take down all the “No Bullying" posters in your school. Take down the signs that say things such as “Character Counts” or “RESPECT” or pictures of little frogs telling kids what to do. These common messages are too general!
Our goal is to guide kids in “what to do” to build character!
Generation Text Online