In football, there is a thing called the red zone. It is the last twenty yards you have to cross in order to score your touchdown. It is by far the hardest part of the field to cross. In a way, it is a paradox. You are so close to your goal you can almost touch it, yet the opposition is so fierce within the red zone that many people are unable to score.
In life, the red zone is our comfort zone. At first glance, you may think, “That can’t be true.” Yet, I believe the comfort zone is the hardest zone of our life to break through. The reason is: fear is the imaginary barbed wire that surrounds the comfort zone. Everything we really want is on the other side: peace, joy, fulfillment, and reaching our goals.
If you are stuck in the red zone of life, how can you reach your goal?
- If what you have been doing is not working, try a different strategy. Think about it this way. You are on the opponent’s twenty-yard line and you keep giving the ball to your star running back every play, and every time you do he gets crunched in the backfield. Does it make any sense to keep running that play and expecting a different outcome? You might get lucky and score, but the odds are not with you, particularly if the opposition knows your game plan. Have a plan b, c, and d if necessary.
- You have to believe you can reach your goal if you ever expect to do it. Don’t allow negative people to keep you in the red zone. There are many people who don’t want you to succeed for a variety of reasons. Don’t listen to them. Have enough confidence in yourself and your team (if you have one) that you KNOW you are going to score. You just have to figure out the right strategy and do it.
- Have a well thought out game plan BEFORE you start the game. Can you imagine going into a game without a playbook? Of course not. And yet…that is what people do day in and day out when it comes to playing the game of life. They just wing it, and that is usually a recipe for disaster. You have to think through what will and won’t work. You have to figure out what the cost is to reach your goal and anticipate opposition. You will get opposition from many sources, but the greatest opposition may very well be the voice in your head telling you, “This is never going to happen.” Take those thoughts captive and don’t let them take root in what you believe. Have a playbook and know it by heart, then implement.
- Improvise when you have to. Just because you are stuck and the odds seem overwhelming at the moment does not mean you are going to get sacked again. Pivot and play. Watch the great quarterbacks and how they respond to pressure. When the pocket begins to collapse, they pivot and play. They either look for an alternate receiver or they find a hole in the line and run through it themselves. They keep their mind on the goal and their eye on the ball.
I pray that you find a way to reach the end zone and not let anything deter you from fulfilling your dreams.
One of the great challenges we have as educators is to help kids think outside the box…to think creatively. Critical thinking does not come naturally for most people, but it can be learned. Many kids and even adults get stuck with linear thinking and if it does not fit into the mold of how they think it should work, then in their mind it won’t work.
This is why I love riddles and kids love them too. It makes us think beyond the obvious and dig for clues as to how it could work. The Nine Dot Riddle is great for this purpose. You have to draw four straight lines without ever lifting your pencil and cross every dot. You literally have to think outside the box to do it.
I showed my kids at school the one below just to see if they could figure it out:
What has four letters
Never has five letters
And sometimes has nine letters
I am not going to tell you the answer. You have to figure it out!
I was pleasantly surprised that many kids figured this out themselves, and they are in 3rd grade! Sometimes I wonder if I am smarter than a 3rd grader. LOL. These kids are not gifted and talented for the most part. There might be one or two in the class of 27 that fit into that category, and they DID get the answer first, but the rest are average or below average students and many of them got in on their own fairly quickly.
If you have not used riddles in your class to help kids develop critical thinking skills, try it. It works extremely well and the kids LOVE them. They were asking me if I knew anymore when they got this one right. I use riddles as a reward if they get their assignments done and everyone stays on task. There is a great sense of accomplishment that goes with figuring out something on your own, particularly if it is not readily apparent. You can have them work individually or in pairs…or even in small groups if it is a challenging riddle.
Feel free to use this forum for exchanging riddle ideas…as long as they are appropriate for kids.
Thank you Lord for the opportunity you have given me to coach others. I recognize the sacred responsibility I have to encourage, inspire, and motivate others to succeed. I also recognize that it is not just about winning a game, but winning the game of life. I pray that I am able to help those I coach identify and capitalize on their strengths, minimize their weaknesses, and learn from them both. I pray that I am able to be a role model for them at all times, knowing that what I do far outweighs what I say. Help those I coach learn that failing is not fatal unless they quit and that stumbling blocks can become their stepping stones to success. I pray that the preparation and perspiration required to succeed are coupled with perseverance and common sense. I ask that you help them condition their minds and bodies to excel and that you protect them from harm. I pray Lord that you help them compete with integrity, character, and humility, and not worry about what their critics or competitors say, but to let their actions put the words of those that oppose them to rest. Help us remember that to be the best requires time, determination, being secure in yourself, and having a teachable spirit. Let us always honor those who have helped us succeed, whether it is our parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, or friends. Teamwork is vital in sports, business, and home life. Help us each do our part to succeed in the game of life. Amen.
One of the greatest things you can do in your life is to learn the power of perseverance. This applies to businesses, education, relationships, and your own personal development. Perseverance is the grit and glue that binds us to our destiny.
I was speaking with a waitress this past weekend. I asked her what she planned to do with her life. She was in her early 20s. She smiled and said she was in her last semester of college and was planning on going on to get her masters…but she was afraid she could not continue even getting her bachelor’s degree because she did not have the money. She had to work so many hours that she could not dedicate time to studying.
That is a dilemma for a lot of kids, isn’t it? We discussed options briefly, but I encouraged her to finish getting her degree, and if she REALLY wanted to get her Master’s degree…get it now. Don’t try to go back later in life when you are married and have kids. It can be done but is incredibly difficult to manage all of that.
This is the point that many young people face in getting their education these days. They know they need it, they want it, but can’t afford it. She said she had family that could help her financially, but she did not want to ask them for help. I just told her (kindly) that she needed to lose the pride and ask for help. Her family could help her in multiple ways including getting loans and grants.
One of the greatest things we learn from getting an education is perseverance. We learn to persevere when there is no money, when we are juggling school and work hours, or balancing social activities. We learn to persevere because we know that the price we pay now will pay off for us down the road. That is an incredibly important lesson for everyone to learn. Life is not about instant gratification. It is about sticking with it when things get hard. Perseverance is the thing that helps us take the next step towards our destiny. Don’t give up because things are tough. Life is tough, but it gets a lot tougher if you don’t persevere.
(Dedicated to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting)
Here are some of the lyrics from a song with that title penned by Elvis Costello:
“As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity.
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain, hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside
There’s one thing I wanna know:
What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love, and understanding? Ohhhhh
What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love, and understanding?”
The truth is: it is not funny at all. It is sadly lacking in our world today. Everywhere I look I see people caught up in evil and going crazy on each other. Here is what I believe WILL change the world for the better: We have to see other people through God’s eyes. What would that look like?
- We would love each other despite our differences in politics, religion, ethnic origin, or any other prejudice.
- We would seek to understand those that are different from us rather than fear, hate, or judge them.
- We would put others before ourselves and learn to be givers instead of takers.
- We would truly care about people who are suffering, poor, widowed, orphaned, or in prison.
I know this may seem like the impossible dream, but if I don’t do it, who will? If I can set the proper example, then maybe those that God brings across my path will be inspired to love, understand, and be at peace with one another, but it has to start with me.
Lord, I come to you today first of all to give thanks. Thank you for your love, your grace, and your mercy on me. Thank you for my family, friends, and co-workers. Thank you for my job. Help me, Lord, in the decisions I make today. I pray that my decisions are not selfish but for the good of all and that I make them for the right reasons. Help me to remember to lead by serving. Help me to discern what is important and what is wasting my time. Help me to face my fears and not let them keep me from making the hard decisions. Help me to know who to trust, who to watch, who to empower, and who to let go. I pray for those that work with me, that I will encourage them, for I know that many of them are carrying heavy loads at work and at home. Bless each of them and their families, Father. Give them strength for the day, and help them not to worry about tomorrow, but to learn to trust you regardless of the circumstances. Help me be a reflection of you and your love to those I encounter this day. Amen
To be fully present in the moment is the essence of learning. As a teacher I constantly watch kids to see who is on task and who is off in their own little world. It can be challenging for even the most skilled teacher to keep a class of 27 or more kids all focused and in the moment.
I happen to be a visual learner, so I know firsthand that if I see something done I will learn much more quickly than just hearing how to do it. If I can hear how it’s done, see how it’s done, then do it myself…even better! I think sometimes we as teachers forget that kids are all different. Some come to school with no sleep, no breakfast, and dysfunctional homes that could wreck anyone’s day. Some have learning disabilities that may not have been diagnosed yet. It is a lot to handle, and my heart goes out to the teachers who do this day in and day out without losing their patience or their minds.
Here are a few things that might help you as a teacher to get students attentive in class:
- First and foremost, it starts with you. If you are grumpy, sleepy, or hungry, you will not be at your best. You have to be ready from the ring of the bell to come out with energy and excitement. You may have to tell yourself, “I think I can, I think I can.” LOL.
- Try to figure out what learning style works with each child. I know that is a lot to ask when you have that many kids, but the sooner you do, the sooner you can speak to them in ways that will engage them. Get to know your kids individually. Make a concerted effort to spend some time with each child and see what works and what doesn’t. It will make the day less stressful for you both if you do.
- Get creative and think outside the box. When I take over a class for a teacher the kids love it. You know why? I make it fun. I laugh with them. I sing! I walk funny on purpose just to get their attention. I am not afraid of looking silly because I know the kids need to laugh too. They need to lighten the burden they are carrying like we all do. I am not saying you have to be like me. You be you. Just get creative and do things from time to time they don’t expect. Music is a great ice breaker with kids. Use it, and by all means use visual aids whenever possible.
- When you see much of the class is off task it is time to take a brain break. Use GoNoodle or some other fun video to just give the kids a few minutes to get the blood flowing to their brains again. I love GoNoodle for the creative and fun songs and dances that they do…and the kids absolutely LOVE them.
- You will figure out pretty quickly which kids are the ones who need extra help. Can I suggest something? Concentrate on READING. If they can’t read, they can’t do any other subject well. Help them read first and foremost. Get them tutoring and get the parents involved if possible. Start a book club. Make it fun. Give them a challenge and if they reach it they get a pizza party or something exciting to them.
School does not have to be dreaded. If your kids come to your class day in and day out with dread on their faces, you need to look in the mirror and change what you are doing. Most of you that read this are dedicated teachers who love teaching and love kids. Hopefully, whatever category you fall into, you gained a tip or two that will help you get even the most challenged students on task.
P.S. Don’t give up on them. They need to know that at least YOU believe in them. You can be the one who helps them get on course and reach their potential. Begin by teaching them to read, and by all means, love them through the process.
Let’s face it: We are born selfish. “MINE” is one of the first things you hear coming out of a kid’s mouth, and many of us seem to hang on to that mentality throughout our lives. The funny thing is how we judge others for being self-centered without really looking in the mirror. We all have that tendency…even me. OK…I said it! LOL.
Selfishness is an inborn trait but does not have to define who we are. When I am teaching kids I constantly look for ways to get kids to help one another and share ideas and things. I teach them the power of serving. Yesterday I was tying a shoe for a kindergarten kid. Later in the day when I asked a kid to tie his shoes, he said he did not know how. A friend of his immediately knelt down and tied it for him. It was a very cool moment and reminded me to model what I expect.
Kids are like little sponges and they are continually soaking up information. Their little brains are going 90 miles an hour putting facts together and figuring out what this thing called life is all about. Here is one thing I know for sure about kids: if you tell them something it may have a punch, but if you model it for them it has lasting power. When you show them how to serve, give, and love one another it will transform them.
Isn’t that what we want as teachers? Don’t we want to transform kids into productive, healthy, and happy human beings? Of course we do. It starts with showing them…modeling for them how it is supposed to be. They may or may not get it at home, but at least I know they will get it in my class. Part of that process is being genuine and admitting when you make a mistake. That has great power as well. Let kids know when you mess up and if you offend someone, let them see you apologize for it. They WILL remember that lesson, trust me.
Next time you see someone being really selfish, you can correct them, but take time to look in the mirror and make sure you are not guilty of the thing you are correcting in others.