Kids These Days

…are simply amazing.

Last week, I had the honor and privilege of delivering a keynote presentation at Wilson Elementary School in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. Prior to sharing my message about JOY and making an impact, I spent some time walking around the building saying hi to students and staff. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, and I was inspired by the number of students who went out of their way to encourage me when I said I was feeling nervous.

Honestly, I was really nervous. The good kind of nervous you get what you are excited about what you are doing and believe it matters. As students entered the gymnasium, many of them smiled and waved at me. Others complimented my outfit or earrings. Some of them gave me a reassuring thumbs up while others told me, “You’re going to be great!” My goodness, the empathy in these students was off the charts.

During my presentation, we laughed together. We smiled together. We did some thinking together. There was a sense of togetherness. Upon exiting the gym, a 6th grade student walked up to me. It was the same student who was asked to show me around the school and had done so with such grace and care. I had told her about how I was nervous before my presentation began. When she walked up to me at the end, she said, “You did amazing! And she asked if she could hug me.” It was such a sweet moment and makes me tear up a little bit thinking about it.

A good friend of mine, George Couros, had encouraged me to connect with students as much as possible before starting the keynote. As a former elementary principal, walking around and smiling and talking to kids is my jam, but it hadn’t dawned on me just how critical it would be in moments like these. You see, it’s really easy to think that you can’t build rapport and relationships when you have a limited amount of time with someone. Certainly, while the level of relationship might not be quite as deep, but it’s amazing how quickly you can build rapport when you show up excited to spend time with and learn about people. It’s really that simple.

I showed interest in students and respect for them prior to the keynote and in turn, they showed interest in me and respect for my message during the presentation.

There’s a lot being said about kids these days, but it seems to me, it is our professional responsibility to amplify the valuable gifts and talents they bring into our schools every day. Assets such as empathy and a desire to impact positive change. The world could use a lot more empathy.

Yes, the world they are growing up in has been hard. Yes, they’ve had more access to technology which in turn, can also result in an access to more stressful information. But they are kids. None of this is on them. It’s on us.

One of the best things we can do for students is to spend time being truly present with them. Enjoy them, connect with them, encourage them, grow their skills, and celebrate them. Nourish their unique gifts and talents and help them believe deeply in themselves and their ability to make a positive difference. Our students are our hope. But they need hope themselves. Hope that tomorrow can be better than today and belief that they have the skills necessary to make tomorrow better than today.

The time I’ve spent working on my book revisions has got me thinking this:

One of the most meaningful ways we can make a positive impact is to positively impact others.

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