How many of you opened this blog post looking forward to a challenge? A challenge…who can resist? People like challenges. It gives us the ability to see if we can rise up and take on something that others may not be able to do. Just the words, “I challenge you,” make people sit up straighter and listen more intently.
Yet at the same time, the word challenge can be scary. Challenge has an air of difficulty. It may involve risk. It may even include…gasp…failure! But we challenge our students every day…to stretch their minds, work with others, share their thoughts, make good choices, and be better people. We need to be okay with the fact that challenge is difficult, it is risky, and it can lead to failure. But failure is never the end. We can pick ourselves up, learn from it, and try again.
School is a time for students to learn how to learn, but school is also a time for students to learn how important relationships are. How to build them. How to keep them. How to trust. How to collaborate. How to interact. We adults need to be the best models for that learning, and it is challenging…perhaps one of the most complex things in life.
One of the best ways we can show students we care is to teach them principles to build relationships. There are so many, some more difficult than others. But, since this blog post is about challenges, I figure I might as well pose four of the more challenging ones to think about and put into practice as we model the way for our students.
Challenge #1: Time
“Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time if your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.” Rick Warren
People in this day and age come in and out of our life at the speed of light. Because of this, we tend to have more superficial connections with people. But in this age of connection, do we really know how long someone will be in our life? A person you meet in the grocery store could end up being your new best friend. An online Twitter acquaintance could end up being a future boss. What if we give everyone we meet the gift of our time? Would you look at people differently, act differently, invest more? Would our world be kinder, more empathetic, more understanding?
I challenge you to use your most precious gift, time, to teach students (even with the invention and importance of technology) how crucial true connections are in our world. Because now more than ever those connections are what make our world go round.
Challenge #2: Encouragement –
“And I realized it wasn’t my turn. It was that girl’s turn to get that job. My turn will come. So I never got discouraged.” Carol Brunette
Disappointment can be crippling. One of the hardest lessons I believe we face as humans. It can lead us to question ourselves, our talents and abilities, and other people. I first heard the quote above by Carol Brunette when I was watching student documentaries for National History Day. Carol had it right. We will have disappointment, but on the other side of the coin is someone’s joy. We may not get the job, part, house, or even shoes we want (arg…Kohls and your lack of sizes!) but that doesn’t have to prevent us from being happy for others.
I challenge you to encourage others even through your disappointment to show students that sometimes it isn’t our turn. Sometimes it is their turn. And that’s ok, because our turn will come.
Challenge #3: Appreciation
“Sometimes the people we count on the most are the ones who hear thank you the least.” Unknown
For those who have read my prior blog posts, you know I am a fan of appreciation. And honestly appreciation is not hard. It’s easy to say thank you. What is hard is finding those who really deserve it. I find that often the same people receive appreciation around us over and over. For whatever the reason, through visibility, advertising, or another means, we have people that often come to mind when we give thanks.
I challenge you to find a way to appreciate those that are quiet, those that don’t sing their own praises, those who work just as hard, those we count on and don’t realize. Show your students that everyone matters in our life. In a way, each person in our life has contributed to our success, our joy, our happiness, even if it is in a small way. Appreciate them too.
Challenge #4: Meaning
“I don’t want to live in the kind of world where we don’t look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody who needs a helping hand. I cant change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but I can do my bit.”
As we go through this thing called life, it’s easy to become complacent. But I truly believe that everyone that comes into our life is there for a reason. They may teach us something or they may make us better people. Shouldn’t we take the opportunity we have to be in other people’s lives and use it to add meaning?
I challenge you to optimize the time you have with the people who have entered your life and add meaning to theirs. Show your students how to be the reason that someone smiles, the helping hand, the reassuring voice, the comfort in sorrow. Because all we have in life are the relationships that we extend to one another, and those should be meaningful.
Did you notice that the four challenges spell out T-E-A-M? Pretty clever, I know. Together as a people we are all a team. We need each other. What’s better than modeling that for our students?
Will you accept the challenge?