Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a student about his future plans. The young man shared how he desires to be a professional athlete yet, isn’t on any of our teams (junior varsity, varsity) for that particular sport. In his favor, he is an underclassman. Of course, I asked about other interests; he answered that he is only interested in being an athlete. He felt that having an alternative equated to doubt and that is why some youth don’t achieve such lofty goals as becoming a professional athlete or musician.
I told him I agree you must have faith in yourself in achieving your dreams; however, this must be balanced out with knowledge of what it will take to achieve that dream. Understanding the challenges can help in making good decisions in the process of achieving goals. I explained to him how every professional athlete, even benchwarmers and journeymen, was probably a star on their team in high school or college. Developing a goal or interest outside of his goal of being a professional athlete won’t detract from it; it can actually enhance it. The same holds true for adult life; expanding our knowledge is beneficial and increases our value to ourselves and others.
Change is such a weird concept. It is probably one of the most difficult things to do, yet it can be easy once we make up our minds to do it. Most of us have probably heard someone say, “Boy, I used to __________, but got tired of getting caught up, in trouble, etc.; I decided to change and never looked back.” Wow, when people truly commit themselves to change, it seems to happen so easily. Granted, the process of change is not always comfortable, but being committed can somewhat ease the transition. One of my favorite motivational speakers, Les Brown, talks of “reinventing” yourself. To some, this may suggest that he is saying to forget where you came from. That is far from the truth. He is essentially talking about change. We must do things differently, such as changing habits, improving health, embracing a philosophy/spirituality, etc. Your life is like chapters in a book. It may take several chapters to get to the climax of your story. Reinventing yourself is the beginning of a new chapter and puts you one chapter closer toward the climax of your story!
The Holiday Season is a time for spiritual appreciation and fellowship with friends and family. Unfortunately, popular culture is transforming the Holiday Season into a yearly occurrence of heightened consumerism. The pressure to purchase and give seems to be increasing with each year that passes.
This Holiday Season, I have been encouraged to reflect upon how these pressures impact the high school students I teach. I work at a school with an economically disadvantaged population of approximately 65%. This means 65% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunches because their family income is near or below the poverty level. I also have students whose families are considered homeless. Fortunately, these families have shelter and working parents; unfortunately, they are unable to pay for their own residences due to circumstances.
My principal communicated to the faculty the need to have an increased awareness for “acting out” behaviors from our students during the Holiday Season. I understand how a disadvantaged teen would feel highly frustrated during this time of year. Teens are highly self-conscious and have a growing awareness of their circumstances compared to younger children. Younger children tend to only “know what they know.” Their world is very much parent centered and controlled; in many ways, this is beneficial in limiting influences, yet is harmful if the child has abusive parents. On the other hand, teens are beginning to realize there is a much bigger world out there. However, their ability to immediately improve their situations may be limited due to age and maturity. The constant cycle of ads on television, radio, and online can impact impressionable minds. Obviously, this leads to feelings of helplessness and frustration, resulting in certain moods and behaviors. I’m sure we have a number of students who look forward to the holidays being over and returning to the routine of school. Those of us who interact with youth need to have a heightened awareness for these issues during this time of year and be a light.