Making a Difference – Part 2

Making a Difference as a Parent

As a parent building a close, loving relationship with our children is one of the most important things we can do.  When children feel loved, understood, accepted and safe they are able to thrive as it helps build their confidence, resilience and self-esteem, and it encourages them to try to do and be their best at all time.  As we all know feeling wanted and loved helps us navigate life’s challenges as we feel supported. The best way we can make a difference to our children is to spend time with them, talk with them and to do activities together.  In our house we have a rule that we always eat our meals at the dining room table, this way it allows us to talk about what we are up to, share ideas and laugh as a family.  In turn this helps to teach our child how to have caring relationships and open communication with other people like family members, friends, neighbours and teachers.  Importantly it makes it easier for them to reach out to others when they need help. Remember it is important to;

  • Comfort your child when they need support.
  • Be present with them and listen to what they are saying and show them you care about what they are saying and their opinion is valuable.
  • Acknowledge them and help them to identify how they are feeling.
  • Play with them, read with them and above all laugh with them.

Making a Difference as a Teacher

If we take time to reflect for most of us there was one teacher we remember who made a big difference in our lives.  For me, there are a few that I can still remember ……Mr Haydock in Grade 6, Mrs King (a stern, but inspiring English teacher) and Miss Matheson (the slightly heavy gym and physical education teacher) in high school.  Why, do I remember them, what made them special? Before I answer that, you need to understand who I was as a child……..when I was in 6th Grade I was 5’9” tall and a big girl, I was clumsy to say the least, not good a sport and the kids used to call me ‘Gronky’ after a caveman character in a TV series, but I cared about others and tried by very best in everything I did.  When I went to high school, I was just an average student, Mrs King the English teacher helped me see the world through very different eyes and encouraged my love of poetry and reading, she had such passion.  Being clumsy, I was always picked last at sport, was hopeless at gym, I could not jump the horse, I was scared of heights so no good at the beam or high and low bars and could manage a forward roll on the mat some days, but I tried, to my surprise Miss Matheson passed me, in fact, I got 70%, more than some of the kids that could do everything. So, getting back to what made these teachers special, simply they cared about me and bothered to establish a relationship with me.  They did not judge me for what I could or could not do, or who I was, they found my island of competence and encouraged me to try my best.  Due to that they helped shape my life that enabled me to become who I am today. As a teacher if you want to make a difference in the lives of your students, take time to develop a relationship with then, allow them to see you care, be present with them and really listen to them, help them identify how they are feeling, find their island of competence and build on it.

Students Making a Difference in the Classroom

Children need goals; they want to know what is expected of them.  They enjoy achieving, trying their best, doing a good job, having their efforts acknowledge and working together with others to get a job done.  They don’t understand their impact on others, nor how they can make a difference at home and in the classroom. Sometimes I don’t think we articulate to our children or to the students in our class what we expect of them, we just assume they know and have somehow absorbed the class expectations by osmosis.  I think the start of the school year offers a unique opportunity to have a discussion with your children and students as to what ‘doing their best means’.  Give the children an opportunity to set the standards that they want to live by.  Perhaps they could all prepare a ‘doing my best poster’ and present it to their peers.  I know it is not uncommon to set class rules, but rules and expectations, even the ones we place on ourselves can be very different. This year why not introduce the notion of ‘Make a Difference Monday’.  As a class review the previous week  and then decide how as a whole they are going to make a difference this week, either to themselves, each other, to you as a teacher and in the school community.  Remember, this can also be tied to projects or activities you are doing in the curriculum.  This is a great activity to work on as a team; it is setting a team goal and then learning to communicate to achieve this together.  There are endless ideas for this activity. Ultimately, we can all make a difference to each other, ourselves our community and our lives.  We just have to take the time to communicate with each other and to care!

New Year, New Start and Making a Difference

ImageNew Year, New Start and Make a Difference

Every year without fail many people decide to make new years’ resolutions.  The type of resolutions vary greatly; often they are about losing weight, getting more exercise, giving something up or making some kind of change.   Often these resolutions are broken even before the year has begun. 

A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. This begs the question, why?  I for one have never been overly successful at keeping new years’ resolutions, but I have had some success setting goals and working to achieve them, particularly when they are shared with others and articulated clearly to friends, family and colleagues.

In his new year’s resolution book “A course in happiness” author Frank Ra says : “Resolutions are more sustainable when shared, both in terms of with whom you share the benefits of your resolution, and with whom you share the path of maintaining your resolution. Peer-support makes a difference in success rate with new year’s resolutions”.  I would like to suggest this is the case with any resolution or goal we set for ourselves.

I think the best thing about any change be it a new year, a new job, a new school is that we have an opportunity to reflect on the past and consider what we want our future to be. I remember some years back I left a job I had held for a very long time, it was a job I loved, I had had many successes, learnt from the odd failure, grown enormously in skill and ability and respected those I worked with without question.  Leaving was a huge change and a challenge, I had to redefine myself, who I was, what I wanted out of life and above all else what was the next thing I wanted to do.  Needless to say this involved some period of contemplation, reflection and a resolve to start the next chapter in my life’s journey.

After taking a period of downtime I realised that the thing that I wanted to do most was to take all the skills I had learnt, all the abilities I had gained to date and to apply them to making a difference in the lives of others.  In deciding to choose this path and telling others this is what I wanted to do new doors opened that led me to where I am today, leading this wonderful organisation whose work effects the life of others on a daily basis.

The team here at Pathways to Resilience Trust is completely committed to our work and to making a difference to others.  When we all started working together a few years ago we came upon the starfish story and it resonated with all of us and very much became part of who we wanted to be as a team.  I thought I would share the story with you.

 The Starfish StoryImage

adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren Eiseley
1907 – 1977

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “I made a difference to that one!”

It is a wonderful story and one that we have referred to time and time again over the last few years….it is definitely important to us to know we made a difference.