Reading You Like a Book

The research supports that behavior is strengthened, weakened or maintained by the modeling of behavior by others. When a person imitates the behavior of another, modeling has taken place. It’s a kind of vicarious learning by which direct instruction may not have even occurred.

Just about any type of behavior can be modeled, including both positive and negative. Adults serve as models to kids and kids serve as models to each other. You are a model to your students as to what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. It’s important for you to view yourself as a model whenever you are around students, whether or not modeling is even your intent.

Your students learn from you. They watch how you behave. They observe how you interact with others, how you deal with conflict and how you deal with making mistakes and apologies. They see how you respond and react to certain situations. They listen to what you say and hear how you say it. They can sense if you care about what you are doing and about them. They begin “reading you like a book” on the very first day of school and it doesn’t take them long to come to a conclusion as to whether you are a positive or a negative role model.

One way for you to ensure you are modeling in a positive way is to “practice what you preach.” Whatever behavior you expect from your students your students should be able to expect the same from you. For example, if you don’t want the students to interrupt you when you are talking then you should not interrupt them when they talk. Whatever expectations or rules you have for your students and their behaviors you need to be willing to live by the same. Kids are quick to see when this isn’t the case and they can use it as an opportunity to do as you do.

Make time to do a self-assessment. Better yet, ask someone to observe you teaching or interacting with your students to see if you are living up to your own classroom rules and expectations of behaviors. If you are, good job! Keep up the great work.

If you fall short, then come up with a self-improvement plan. Identify the problem, brainstorm solutions, choose one thing you can begin doing differently or better and then practice doing it. Sometimes, it’s helpful to share with your students what you are trying to do better and how. It’s an opportunity to be a positive role model to them on how they can do the same. Being fully aware of our shortcomings, acknowledging them and working to change for the positive is important and can have a long lasting influence on our kids.

Another way you can model positive behavior is through positive reinforcement. When you observe a student imitating another student’s positive behavior, reinforce this. You will increase the likelihood the behavior will be repeated again. You need the students who are exhibiting positive behaviors in your classroom or group to continue doing what they are doing. Reinforcement will ensure this.

You can also use reinforcement vicariously. For example, when you say, “Thank you, Renee, for helping Melanie with her work today”, not only is Renee being reinforced, but other students, for whom praise is reinforcing, are likely to imitate this same behavior in order to get reinforcement themselves.

In the same way, modeling can decrease behaviors. When you redirect a student from an inappropriate to an appropriate behavior, other students learn what is unacceptable behavior. Telling a student that what they are doing is wrong and not telling them what they need to do differently isn’t helpful. You can’t assume that all students who act out negatively really know what to do differently or better. Use this time as a “teachable moment” for the student and all the other students who are watching, listening and learning from them.

The bottom line is…Your students want your attention and affirmation. Send them a message that the way they will get it from you is when their behaviors are positive. You can send this message by noticing, acknowledging and affirming the positive behaviors of your students much more than the negative. What you notice the most and call out the most will be what you get the most of. Make sure it is the most positive!

Modeling is one of the many methods you need to use to manage your student behaviors. It’s something you can do all the time – no matter where you are at or what you are teaching. Remember, they are watching you. They are learning from you. They are reading you like a book. Make sure they have a book worth reading and one with a happy and positive ending!

Why 1 in 3 Teachers Consider Quitting the Profession

Starting a new school year on a positive note with a classroom or group of students is important. It’s important for learning. It’s important for teamwork. It’s important for enjoyment. Let’s just say, it’s important for everything!

One way to start the year on a positive note is creating an environment that minimizes negative student behavior and maximizes the positive. Unfortunately, too many students are losing critical opportunities for learning – and too many teachers are leaving the profession – because of the negative behavior of a few students. Student discipline is and continues to be a major concern to teachers and parents that affects both teacher morale and student learning.

I recently came across The Teaching Interrupted: Do Discipline Problems in Today’s Public Schools Foster the Common Good? study, conducted by Public Agenda in 2004. While the study was done quite a few years ago, I believe the story it tells still resonates in 2019. The study was based on a national random sample of 725 middle and high school teachers and 600 parents of middle and high school students. The results of the survey are insightful and alarming…

The vast majority of both teachers (85%) and parents (73%) say the school experience of most students suffers at the expense of a few chronic offenders.

  • Nearly 8 in 10 teachers (78%) said students are quick to remind them they have rights or that their parents can sue.
  • Nearly half of teachers (49%) complain they have been accused of unfairly disciplining a student.
  • More than half of teachers (55%) said that districts backing down from assertive parents causes discipline problems.
  • Nearly 8 in 10 teachers (78%) say there are persistent behavior problem students in their school who should be removed from the regular classroom.
  • More than 1 in 3 teachers say they have seriously considered quitting the profession – or know of a colleague who has left – because student discipline and behavior became so intolerable. And 85% believe new teachers are particularly unprepared for dealing with behavior problems.

The study found that, although problems are more severe in urban and lower income area schools, student behavior and discipline is a pervasive problem that extends to schools across the country, regardless of demographics.

When asked to identify the causes of such widespread misbehavior, 82% of teachers and 74% of parents cited ‘parents’ failure to teach their children discipline as the primary reason. The “disrespect everywhere in our culture” that “students absorb” and bring to school was second on the list (73% of teachers, 68% of parents). Other factors cited included overcrowded schools and classrooms, parents who are too hasty in challenging school decisions on discipline, districts that back down from assertive parents and teachers who ease up on discipline because they worry they may not get support.

There is no quick and easy answer or solution on how to deal with student behavior problems. We can’t ignore it either. The stakes have never been higher for student achievement. We can’t continue to allow a minority of students from keeping a majority of students from learning and teachers from teaching. We also can’t allow quality, skilled and caring teachers – including you – from leaving the profession over it.

As an individual teacher, you can’t always control how your school administrators or district will handle student discipline problems. However, there are things you can control and do in your own classroom that can make a positive difference for the students and you. Over the next several weeks I will be sharing classroom management tips and techniques you can experiment with. What works for one teacher may not work for all teachers. What works for one student may not work for all students. The methods I offer are intended to be used by you with that in mind. If anything, I hope they offer you hope and insight as you begin a new school year.

I would love to hear from you also as to what you have found works for you. Email me your tips and I would be happy to share them in future blog posts!

Wishing you a school year that starts on a positive note and stays that way throughout the year!


Making The Transition

Kids seem to always be in transition. They go from being infants to toddlers to preschoolers to school age to teenagers and to young adults with a blink of an eye. Some transitions are easier than others. The most challenging transition is moving from elementary to middle school.

Going to middle school creates many first-time anxieties, apprehensions and fears for children. They are concerned about changing classes, getting to class on time, having multiple teachers, keeping up with homework, opening their locker, getting on the right bus to get home, making new friends and being around older and bigger students.

The transition to middle school is accompanied by other changes with kids. They will start pushing for independence, be more concerned about peer acceptance, experience rapid physical growth, face challenges in planning ahead and staying organized, have hormonal changes causing an increased interest in the opposite gender and mood swings, take more risks without thinking about the consequences and desire their parent’s guidance, love, and support one minute and the next wish they would disappear.

Going from elementary to middle school is just as difficult of a transition for parents. They don’t always appreciate the changes they see with their child. There is a tendency to want to give up or step away from parenting. They forget that what their child is going through is normal and necessary. Parents play a critical role in successfully guiding their child from elementary to middle school. It is a time when parenting most needs to be “knocked up a notch”.

Here are a few tips you can offer to help them do it:

  • Encourage their child to be involved in school activities. It’s a great way to meet friends with similar interests.
  • Make sure their child has supervised afterschool hours. These are the hours kids are most likely to become involved in risky behaviors.
  • Get and stay involved as a parent. Encourage them to get to know their child’s teachers and attend school functions like open houses and parent-teacher nights. Volunteer for activities at schools.
  • Continue regular family routines and activities. This gives their child a sense of stability at a time that may be very overwhelming to them.
  • Help their child stay organized. Designate a study space and set a consistent study time. Buy them folders or binders to organize homework. Teach them to use a planner to remember important dates and deadlines.
  • Set clear boundaries, limits and rules for their child’s behavior and communicate them clearly with their child.
  • Keep the lines of communication open between them and their child. Do more listening than talking.

With a new school year beginning many parents will be making the transition to middle school with their child. It will be a time of many changes, but also an exciting, fun and rewarding time for both. Remind them to always be the parent before being their child’s friend. That’s what their kids most want and need from them. Don’t let their kids convince them otherwise. I know it’s easier said than done. But who ever said parenting was easy.

Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together

I met PJ in one of my classes a number of years ago. He was a 7th grader at the time. As he was going through the All Stars program, his vision of a future for himself became more obvious and clear.

In one of the All Stars activities PJ was asked to choose four words he most wanted to see or have in an ideal future for himself. The four words he choose were education, achievement, strength and health.

In a later activity, PJ had to draw a symbol or a picture for each word he wanted that would visually tell him and others what he wanted those four words to look like or mean in his future.

Here’s the picture that PJ drew…

When you look at the symbols or pictures PJ drew for each word it’s easy to see what PJ wants from those words in his future.

The word education in his future means going to college. He identified a specific college he want to go to – Southeast Community College. He wants achievement in his future to be in football. Strength for PJ means being physically strong. And, health for PJ is eating the right foods (even if it is milk right from the carton!).

The overall vision for PJ and his future is quite clear. But, it’s when PJ spoke about his vision to me and the class that I knew PJ was going to very likely get what he wants in his future. Why? Because when PJ spoke about his vision for the future this is what he said:

“These four things are like four puzzle pieces that fit together to create the vision of my future. If I have good health in my future, then I will have the physical strength I need and want to achieve in football that will, hopefully, then lead to scholarships for me to go to college.”

Wow! All four pictures or pieces of the puzzle did all fit together! But, then I asked PJ…

“But, what happens to your vision and these four things if you drink alcohol someday or use tobacco?”

Of which he quickly replied, “It won’t happen.”

I followed up by asking, “What won’t happen?”, and he said, “My future.”

Of course, I asked him, “How?”

And again, he was quick to say, “Because if I drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, then I won’t have good health, which will hurt my physical strength, which could keep me from achieving in football and that could keep me from going to college.”

I asked one final question of PJ. “Then, PJ, will drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes help you or hurt you in your future?”

And he looked at me like I was one dumb teacher and emphatically said, “It’ll hurt my future!”

I had a good sense of PJ, but he certainly confirmed it for me with his answers. He is a person with idealism!

Research shows that young people who have a vision for their future and see risky behaviors as getting in the way of what they want are less likely to participate in the behaviors. This is what idealism is as a prevention strategy. Kids who have idealism have something important to lose if they drink, smoke, fight or have sex. What do they have to lose? Whatever it is they want in their future!

Young people who have lost sight of what they want to have or be in their future are more likely to participate in risky behaviors. From their perspective, there’s nothing on the line for them to lose.

Middle school students are developmentally more likely to think and act “in the moment”. Thinking and planning ahead isn’t something they can or will naturally do on their own. You play an important role in keeping middle school students focused on their future.

Here are a few ideas for you to consider:

  • Talk with each of them about personal qualities they want to best be known for in their future. Ask, “What words would you want others to use to describe you?” Help them identify a reputation they most want to earn and what they need to do to get it.
  • Encourage them in the things they do well. Visit with them about how their talents and skills can turn into personal achievements or a specific career someday.
  • Make a list of what they need to do to get what they want in their future. Set short and long-term goals with them so they can see the progress they are making towards their future.
  • Offer praise, encouragement and rewards when you see them doing something to support their future.
  • Talk with them about how risky behaviors can get in the way of their future goals.

If you want to learn more about Idealism as a prevention strategy, watch my masterclass on idealism! It offers an in-depth understanding of it and tips for implementing it with your kids.

Each child’s future is an incomplete puzzle. Assist them in putting the pieces together to complete the picture. When a piece doesn’t fit, let them know or see it. When there’s a missing piece, help them find it. Most importantly, always remind them of what the puzzle picture will look like when it is complete.

To learn more about the All Stars program and how it builds idealism with middle and high school students, visit All Stars Prevention or KNS Learning Solutions.

One Thing You Can Do To Instill Hope and Prevent Vaping With Your Students

There’s been a lot of stories in the news lately about the vaping epidemic with adolescents. You’ve probably heard or read them yourself.

It’s very concerning. It’s likely why my recent blog, Vaping Surges…Largest Year to Year Increase Ever Recorded was one of the most highly read blog posts among my readers. It’s a concern of many. And, it should be. A 2018 study indicated that one in five 12th grade students vaped nicotine in the last 30 days.

I recently came across an online story from NBC News about how vaping is hurting teenage athletes and dashing their futures in sports. You can read the full story yourself, but it was another reminder to me of how vaping (and other risky behaviors for that matter!) is changing the course of kids’ futures.

The NBC News story introduces Cade, an 18-year-old student in Newburyport, MA. Cade fell in love with the sport of hockey at a very young age. Hockey was his life and his future. Hockey coaches and recruiters had their eyes on him starting in middle school.

Cade was a promising young hockey player.

Cade was introduced to e-cigarettes at a sleepover in 8th grade. Within a year he was addicted and it affected his hockey performance. He couldn’t stay on the ice for more than 90 minutes as his lungs hurt and he couldn’t get enough air into them to play.

Cade was eventually caught vaping in school and was stripped of his role as captain of the school hockey team and had to sit out a quarter of the season his senior year. The result? Missed opportunities to be recruited by a college and advance in the sport. His dreams of playing hockey beyond high school were shattered.

Cade’s story makes me think about the blog series I have also been writing these past several weeks about instilling hope with your students.

Cade had been dreaming and visualizing a future in hockey since he was a little boy. He was doing what he needed to do to make it happen – going to practice, working hard and getting good grades. Until…

He made the decision to start vaping in 8th grade.

Having kids dream and visualize what they want in their future and set goals and develop a plan of action to get it is important for instilling hope. But, what happens when one decision undermines everything they wanted and were doing to get it – like the decision to vape? It could easily lead a hopeful student, like Cade, towards a future they did not want or dream of. Or worse yet, a path of hopelessness.

I believe if you are going to build hope with your students you need to also integrate a bit of prevention into the process. If you don’t, then you can have a lot of kids with big dreams and plans for their future, but who are one drink, one e-cigarette or one sexual encounter away from losing it all. Keeping your kids from engaging in risky behaviors is important if you want to increase the likelihood their future aspirations will be fulfilled.

There is a prevention strategy that research has identified as having a strong influence on middle and high school student behavior when it comes to risky behaviors. It’s a strategy that encourages kids to dream and plan for their future while also thinking about how risky behaviors can either help or hurt them and their future. It challenges their sense of invincibility and need to do risky things to fit in with their peers.

You need to know what this prevention strategy is. Why? Because it can make a BIG difference in whether your students engage in risky behaviors AND get the futures they most want!

So, I have a brand new (and free!) masterclass!

In my “One Thing You Can Do To Instill Hope AND Prevent Vaping With Your Students” Masterclass, I will…

  • Give you a deep understanding of what the strategy is all about and the benefits to your students when you integrate it into your work with them.
  • Showcase research-based activities you can do with your students that incorporates the strategy. Best of all, these activities are hands-on, highly engaging and easy for you to integrate into a classroom setting or any community-based setting, like an afterschool program, recreation or faith-based program, community center and so many more!
  • Offer tips & insights to increase your effectiveness with the strategy. For example, what do you do with a student who can’t imagine a future for themselves and says, “I don’t know”, when you ask them what they want for their future? We’ll tackle this question (and so many others) in the class!


So, here’s the deal…

If you’re willing to invest just 60 minutes of your time to this masterclass, I promise you will walk away with hands-on ideas, practical tips and insights you can use with your students and that WILL make a positive difference in their lives. Most importantly, give them hope for the future and reasons to not engage in risky behaviors – like vaping!

The masterclass is especially important if you work with middle and high school students! So, if this is you, then I can’t wait to see you in the class!

~ Kathleen

P.S. One more thing…If you want to start the new school year with a sense of energy, purpose and hope, then this masterclass is also for you!


Measuring Hope With Your Students

Last week I promised to share with you in this week’s blog proven research-based activities you can use to instill hope with your students. But, after hearing from some of my readers about their interest in also knowing how they can measure hope with their students, I decided to focus on this topic instead. 

I am going to share information with you about two valid survey tools for measuring hope. This doesn’t mean there aren’t other tools available for you to use or that I am endorsing these two. It simply means that I am more familiar with these two surveys than others, and from my experience in working with schools and community organizations over the years, they seem to be the most widely used.

1. Gallup Student Poll

The 24 core items in the Gallup Survey Poll measure several dimensions of student success, including engagement with school, hope for the future, entrepreneurial aspiration and career/financial literacy.

The Gallup Student Poll measures factors with links to student success and gives educators a tool beyond test scores to engage students today and make them ready for tomorrow. The Gallup Student Poll is designed to aid educators in providing an education that builds engagement, creates hope for the future, fosters talent and prepares students to participate meaningfully in our nation’s economy by finding or creating a good job one day.

The Gallup Student Poll is provided at a nominal fee and is confidential. The poll is conducted once per year with students in grades 5 through 12, in the fall, and is available in English or Spanish. (Survey dates for this coming school year are September 23-October 25, 2019.) The survey takes the average student about 10 minutes to complete. Gallup administers the poll and aggregates and analyzes the results within two to three weeks of the close of the poll. Primary account users for the district, school or organization are provided access to their results online. You can learn more details about the Gallup survey at

2. The Hope Survey for Students

The Hope Survey for Students consists of a series of online surveys which ask students their perceptions of autonomy, belongingness, goal orientation, academic press, engagement and hope.

The survey is geared for middle school and high school students, consists of a “New Student” version for incoming students, and an “Ongoing Student” survey for students who have been in the school or district for 1+ years. Elementary schools may use the surveys for 4-6 grade students with valid results. The survey is not recommended for 3rd grade or younger students. The surveys take 20-30 minutes.

There is also a second survey you can administer. The Hope Survey for Staff is geared for the adults that have impact on students. The survey indicates the level of hope in the adults who work with students in some capacity. There is a belief that a higher level of hope among teachers has a positive effect on the hope of the students in their care. It can be given to teachers only, or to any staff member, determined by the administration of the school. The surveys measure teacher self-efficacy, collective self-efficacy, job satisfaction, teacher autonomy, outside influences and engagement. The survey takes 10-15 minutes.

There is a cost to administer the Hope Survey. For more information, go to

No matter which hope measurement tool you use, obtaining results on your students’ level of hope is important. It offers you results that can lead to future actions and strategies specific for your school or organization’s needs. It can initiate much-needed conversations between your staff, parents and students. And, most importantly, it gives students a voice on topics that are very critical, but are rarely asked of them or measured.

Creating a Ripple Effect of Hope With Your Students

by Kathleen Nelson-Simley

In last week’s blog, I shared the good news that hope is something that can be cultivated with all of your students – even those who are at risk for losing it or have already lost it.

First, it’s important to be on the same page in our understanding of what hope is. Hope doesn’t mean wishful thinking, as in “I hope I win the lottery!”. Instead a person who is high in hope knows how to do the following things:

  • Set clear and attainable goals.
  • Develop multiple strategies to reach those goals.
  • Stay motivated to use the strategies to attain the goals – even when the going gets tough.

Developing hope is a process. Hopeless students can learn to be hopeful. Here are practical and proven research-based strategies you can use to instill hope with your kids:

  • Build a future focus with your students. Talk often with your students about their possible futures. What do they want to achieve, be, do or have in their future? And, why? Encourage dreaming. Have them imagine their potential best selves. Let kids know that nothing is “off limits” for them to imagine for themselves in their future. Have them visualize a “big picture” for themselves and their future. Allow kids to draw pictures or write words that describe what they are visualizing. Have you ever heard that phrase, “If you can imagine it, then you can achieve it?” So, let them imagine.
  • Students should then rank what they want or are visualizing for their future in order of importance. Researchers have found that this is particularly vital for students with little hope as they often attempt anything that comes to mind. This can distract their energy and focus from the things that are the most important to them and that can have the greatest impact on their overall well-being.
  • Teach them how to create a goal by taking the most important thing they want in their future and writing a goal for it that is both specific and takes a positive, solutions-oriented approach. Their goal needs to focus on accomplishing something in the future, rather than avoiding something now. For instance, “I want to play on the basketball team” is a more effective, motivating goal than “I will stop drinking soda.”
  • Have students create plans or pathways to achieve their goal. When a student says, “I want to be a veternarian”, be encouraging and then ask them, “What do you need to do to make that happen?” Discuss pathways, options and possibilities to make the goal happen. Breakdown the goal, especially if it’s long-term, into steps. Research has suggested that students with low hope frequently think goals have to be accomplished all-at-once. Teaching them how to see their goals as a series of steps will give them reasons to celebrate their successes along the way and keep their motivation high.
  • Teach students there is more than one way to reach a goal. Studies show that one of the greatest challenges for students with low hope is their inability to move past obstacles. They often lack key problem-solving skills causing them to abandon the quest for their goals. Teaching them to visualize different paths to their goals will help them get beyond insurmountable barriers. Most importantly, help them see that barriers to reaching goals is inevitable. Let them know that everyone faces obstacles. Knowing this ahead of time won’t surprise or throw them off course when an obstacle appears. And, if they are prepared for an obstacle they are more likely going to know what to do when faced with it.
  • When students face a challenge and get stuck, ask them, “What do you think is the next best thing to do? Don’t be quick to give them an answer or offer a solution. We don’t want them to rely on us for all the answers. Teach them how to rely on themselves and their own intuition, resourcefulness and initiative.
  • Keep it light and positive. It’s important to teach students to enjoy the process of attaining their goals. Laughing at themselves when they face obstacles and make mistakes is healthy! Above all, do not allow self pity! Research has found that students who use positive self-talk, rather than beating themselves up, are more likely to reach their goals. Saying things like, “I can do this,” and “I am not going to let this stop me” can move them forward instead of throwing in the towel and giving up.
  • Tell stories of success. Scientists have found that hopeful students draw on memories of their successes when they face an obstacle. However, students with low hope often don’t have these kinds of memories. That’s why it’s vital to read stories, watch movies or share stories of people, especially kids, who have overcome adversity to reach their goals. (One of my favorite movies about someone who had a goal in their life and faced many adversities to achieve it is the movie, Rudy!)
  • Remind students they can always ask an adult for help. Research shows the importance of having at least one positive adult in a student’s life that can cheer, guide, coach, support and challenge them towards their future goals. While it is important for you to always be this kind of an adult in your work with kids, do not assume the sole responsibility with each of your students. Your kids need to have an adult in their life who will be there for them long-term. You are in their life today, but will you be one year, five years or ten years from now when your students are still working on achieving their life goal(s)? Taking the time to talk with students one-on-one to determine who that one adult might be for them is crucial. And, remember, it can be any adult!
  • Monitor and celebrate. Make time to have students review their progress towards their goals. Are they on track with their original plan of action? Do they need to do something different than originally planned? What have they accomplished? Celebrate their achievements, no matter how big or small they are. Find ways to privately and publicly acknowledge and celebrate student successes!

Keep in mind, that through this entire process the goals students are working towards must be what they want and not what their parents or you want for them. Students will only summon the energy and willpower to work on goals and persevere the challenges and barriers if the goals are ones important to them.

Helping every student have just one positive experience in achieving a goal important to them can create a ripple effect of more positive experiences. This ripple effect over a lifetime can have a profound impact on your kids’ lives. And, this ripple effect starts with you!

In next week’s blog I will share specific research-based activities you can do to teach hope with your students and integrates many of the research-based strategies mentioned in this article.

Hopeful vs. Stuck

I want you to think about two kids you work with…one who is resilient and happy and the other who is struggling and discouraged. Imagine if you interviewed each of them and you ask them to respond to each of these statements with a “yes” or a “no.”I can think of many ways to get the things in life that are important to me.I think I am doing pretty well.

I am doing just as well as other kids my age.

When I have a problem I can come up with lots of ways to solve it.

I believe the things I have done in the past will help me in my future.

Even when others want to quit, I want to keep trying.

Chances are the child who is resilient will respond with a “yes” to these items. The child who is struggling is more likely to say, “no”.

These items are from the Children’s Hope Scale and assess the hopefulness of adolescents.

Hopeful kids are energetic and happier. They are more satisfied with life. They do better with things like academics and achievements in sports. Hopeful kids have better relationships. They can develop many strategies to reach goals and have backup plans should they face problems along the way. Obstacles are seen as challenges to overcome by seeking support and finding alternative strategies. They are more optimistic and they tell themselves, “I can do this. I won’t give up.” These students expect good outcomes and focus on success and because of it they experience greater positive affect. They are kids who don’t take failure personally. Instead, they use it to improve their performance next time.

Stuck or discouraged kids tend to not try, have poor relationships and feel helpless. They lack energy to get things done. They don’t achieve goals primarily because they don’t set any. And, when they do set them, that’s where it stops. Why? Because they don’t have enough hope to find ways to achieve those goals or they give up when encountering barriers because they can’t think of other pathways around the obstacles or can’t get the support they need. This often results in frustration, a loss of confidence and lower self-esteem. Stuck or discouraged students don’t use past failures to improve their performance in the future.

Can you think of a hopeful student you are working with? Can you also think of a stuck or discouraged student?

Thankfully, researchers have found the majority of students in the United States are very hopeful. But what about those who aren’t? They are in your classroom, afterschool program, community center and sports team. You worry about them. You want to help them, but you don’t know how to or you’ve tried, but nothing seems to have made a difference. Worse yet, you may have given up hope on some of them.

The good news is that hope CAN BE cultivated even among students who are at risk for losing it. Developing hope is a process and students who are currently hopeless can learn to be hopeful. Next week’s blog will offer practical and proven strategies you can use to instill hope with your kids.

Helping your students cultivate hope might be one of the most important things you do for them and can significantly impact their lives for the better far into the future.

Vaping Surges…Largest Year-to-Year Increase Ever Recorded

Since 1975, the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study of substance use among U.S. adolescents has been conducted annually by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

For the past 20 years, I have turned to the MTF study to see what the national trends are with adolescent substance use from one year to the next. I’ve seen a lot of trends with different substances over the years – trends that primarily show a decrease in use while other trends have raised some concerns.

I recently read the summary of the 2018 MTF survey which involved about 44,500 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades enrolled in 392 secondary schools nationwide. I must say…I was alarmed. I’ve never read a summary of a MTF survey that raised concerns as this one did.

Increases in adolescent vaping from 2017 to 2018 were the largest EVER recorded in the past 43 years for any adolescent substance use outcome in the U.S.

Vaping involves the use of a battery-powered device to heat a liquid or plant material that releases chemicals in an inhalable aerosol. Examples of vaping devices include e-cigarettes, such as the popular brand JUUL and “mods.” The aerosol may contain nicotine, the active ingredients of marijuana, flavored propylene glycol, and/or flavored vegetable glycerin. The liquid that is vaporized comes in hundreds of flavors, many of which are likely to be attractive to teens (e.g., bubble gum and milk chocolate cream).

The percentage of 12th grade students who reported vaping nicotine in the past 30 days nearly doubled, rising from 11% in 2017 to 21% in 2018. As a result of the increase, one in five 12th grade students vaped nicotine in the last 30 days in 2018. For secondary students in grades 9 through 12 the increases in nicotine vaping translate into at least 1.3 million additional nicotine vapers in 2018 as compared to 2017.

To put the nicotine vaping increase in context, it is the largest out of more than one thousand reported year-to-year changes since 1975 for use of substances within the 30 days prior to the survey among 12th grade students.

In addition, the percent of 12th grade students who reported use of nicotine in the past 30 days significantly increased to 28.5% in 2018 from 23.7% in 2017. Nicotine use is indicated by any use of cigarettes, large cigars, flavored or regular small cigars, hookah, smokeless tobacco or a vaping device with nicotine. This increase was driven entirely by vaping.

What do these findings mean for you and for me in our work with kids?

  • We need to personally recognize the harmful effects of vaping. It is not a safer option that cigarette smoking.
  •  We need to use proven, research-based prevention strategies to address vaping and other substances with adolescents.
  • We need to equip parents with the tools to recognize and address vaping use with their children.
  • We need to advocate for more research on vaping and its adverse effects and more regulation of the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to kids.

Since nicotine is involved in most vaping and it is a highly addictive substance, these findings present a serious threat to all of the hard-won progress we have made in the past 25 years in reducing cigarette smoking among adolescents.

If there was ever a trend we need to turn around, this is the one. I don’t want to read the 2019 MTF summary next year and be alarmed again and write another blog with news like this one. Let’s all do the work we need to do for the sake of our kids.

P.S. Did you know that our All Stars middle school series – Core, Booster and Plus – now addresses vaping as a risky behavior? Be sure to purchase the most up-to-date copyrighted materials every time you teach the program so you are giving your students the best the program has to offer!

How Your Kids Will Remember You

You are a leader. You are a leader of children. You are creating a legacy every day you come to work. You are leaving your mark – an indelible impression upon the kids entrusted to your care. How will your kids remember you?

I wonder…

They may not remember what your educational degree was.

They may not remember how many diplomas hung on your wall.

They may not remember the amazing lesson plans you created.

They may not remember how organized your bulletin boards were.

They may not remember how straight and neat the desk rows were.

They may not remember what their final grade was in your class.

There are plenty of things your kids will remember.

They will remember you listened and you always had time to listen.

They will remember that you expected the best for them and of them.

They will remember that you gave your time to them when you probably had other things to do.

They will remember that you were happy to be at work and seemed to really enjoy being there.

They will remember that you could be silly, you appreciated practical jokes and you never took yourself too seriously.

They will remember you asked them about their family members because you were genuinely interested.

They will remember that you cared enough to talk with them when they weren’t being or acting their best – and challenged them to be and do better.

They will remember that you gave them a second chance when no one else would.

They will remember you always had their back.

They will remember you noticed when they were absent and that you told them, “We missed you.”

They will remember how much you encouraged them and that you were one of their biggest cheerleaders.

They will remember that you treated each one of them like they were important.

They will remember that you always tried to give them the benefit of the doubt.

They will remember when you gave them a “shout out” and how good it made them feel.

They will remember you were always upbeat… even on days when it was hard to be.

They will remember that you didn’t ask them to do anything you weren’t willing to do yourself.

They will remember that you had fun and enjoyed being with them.

They will remember that you noticed when they were having a bad day and took the time to ask, “What’s wrong? Can I help?”

Kids can see through the flashy stuff and while it might impress them initially, it’s the  relationships we build with them that will leave a lasting impression. It’s the time we invest. It’s all the little ways we stop and show concern. It’s the love we share with them of learning, of life, and most importantly, of people.

So go back to your students and really take a look. As pressing as it may be, see past the behaviors, the issues and the concerns. Look beyond the stack of papers on your desk, the list of emails in your Inbox and the long “to do” list in your planner. Look. And you will see that it’s there – right inside you. The ability to make an impact. The chance of a lifetime to make a difference in a child’s life. And you can do it. It’s in you. I know it is.

Remember, you are leaving a legacy that surpasses test scores, lesson plans, outcomes, reports, budgets and even bulletin boards. Your kids will remember you for all the little things you did to show you cared about them. You were their leader and you encouraged them, supported them and inspired them. They will remember you because YOU made a difference and you knew THEY made a difference, too!