"Immediate necessity makes many things convenient, which if continued would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are different things."--Jefferson

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Writing Inspirements

I wrote the following for our group and I thought it might be useful for others, so I'm posting it here:

I hope we can help each other find ways to come up with powerful, motivating, meaningful inspirements.  These inspirements are an invitation to the youth to act. As they act on their knowledge, they will be blessed with the spirit and a higher capacity for truth and understanding.  Following is the process I go through when writing inspirements. Feel free to share more insights and ideas as you learn them.

1. Get an overview of the subject
F.A.C.E. talks about the importance of whole to part leaning.  It is important that we understand how this subject (history/geograhy, art/imaginative literature, math/science or government/leadership) fits into building of the kingdom of God.
Some good books for this are:
How Should We Then Live?
Gateway to the Great Books introduction
The Noah Plan books: History and Geography for Geo Conquest
          Literature and Stonebridge Art for Imaginative Arts
          Science and Mathematics for Face to Face with Einstein
         The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States (also explains how other             cultures and time periods have contributed to forming a country of freedom) for Leadership Academy

2. Get an overview of the time period:
The above books or
The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bower

3. Find seven points of focus - events, people, creations (by God or by people), or ideas that I want to focus on - one for each month.

4. Find and read a classic and some background that pertains to that event, person, etc.

5. For each focus, as I read, I ask myself what would Heavenly Father want me to take away from this event, person, etc.?   What might he want the youth to take away from it?  What truths about how we ought to live are found here?  The answers to these questions help me find principles and ideas to focus on.

For example, when I was getting ready to teach Confucius, I was inspired by how hard he tried to get into a position of influence, but never could.  People knew he spoke truth, but did not want to give up their power.  He died having never achieved his dream of governing a people in the government he envisioned.  However, we, thousands of years later, know who he is and the truths he spoke.  There were several principles I could have taken from this, but I believe the principle for the month was "citizenship" so I decided to focus on the impact that one person can have when they are honestly seeking and applying truth, even if it seems like the impact is small.  (It is not necessary to always have the principle you teach be related to the principle of the month, but it can help them draw connections if it can be).  

6. Decide what readings to assign for the apprentice, journeyman and master levels.

For example, for Confucius, I might assign a short section from the Analects for the apprentice level as well as some background reading material (like a children's biography on Confucius).  For Journeyman I might assign some reading about China and some of the wars and types of governmental systems that were taking place at the time (maybe from an original source or a good text book that sites and quotes original sources like Bauer's History of the Ancient World).  For Master, I might assign more or all of the Analects.

7. I think of the goals for the inspirements for each level:

For the Apprentice level the goal is to spark the fire within them for learning more.  Projects will not be too time consuming so the youth will feel like they can accomplish them, but they will be worth-while and interesting so that as they do them, they will be inspired to take more time and go into a deeper level of learning about this person, event, etc.

For the Journeyman level the goal is to give them some skills and background, as well as some more curiosity about the focus so that they feel ready, competent and excited to read the master level book.

For the Master level, the goal is to read the ideas and thoughts of great people and to make them their own by applying what they learn to their lives.  As they start to taste the fruits of doing this in their education, they will hunger for it and be willing to work for it in the future.

8. I start to write some inspirements in each level about each reading. For all levels, I try to have an interesting, personal question (Why do you think about...? What is your favorite...? What would you do if...? What choice would you have made if you...?) that accompanies each inspirement as well as an invitation to apply it.

Apprentice level inspirements might include (with the assigned reading for this level) writing a favorite Confucius quote in Calligraphy, acting out or drawing a graphic summary of an event in his life that impacted others, or making a model of how one thing can impact something else - all with a personal question and application.

Example: "Write your favorite Confucius quote(s) in calligraphy and come prepared to share with us why you liked it.  See if you can find a way to apply it to your day."

Journeyman level inspirements might include (along with the assigned reading for this level)labeling China on a map, drawing the weapons that were used at the time of Confucius, drawing a picture of a major landmark in China, writing a report or making a slide show about what they would like to see if they were to visit China, or doing some research about the forbidden city and the events that led to that government after Confucius's death, for example.  All would be accompanied by a personal question and application.

The Master level inspirements could include (along with the assigned reading for this level) such things as writing a poem or composing a musical number that describes how one person can impact the world, giving an oral presentation about an experience they've had with one person changing a life, writing a report about their experience in reading Confucius's words and trying to apply them, a piece of art that represents what they learned from the book, or doing a word study on impact and presenting what they learned. Again, all would have a personal question and application.

9. I look to see if my inspirements are appealing to both genders.  Young men might be more interested in the action, weapons, achievements, for example.  Girls might be more interested in the feelings involved, in the daily life of the people, or the conversations that took place. (See Why Gender Matters)

10. I see if the inspirements appeal to different learning styles.  If I find there is not enough variety, I might add some art, drama, a logic problem, writing, graphic summaries, word studies, projects or other learning methods that appeal to the different youth. (See Multiple Intelligences)

That is an overview of the process as I see it.  It may need to be refined as we learn what works and what does not.  I also think it is better to have just a few well-thought out inspirements than a lot of them just for the sake of variety (I also think sometimes the youth get tired of reading them when there are too many options). I think the order of these steps is important since I have tried writing inspirements when one of my first priorities was incorporating learning styles, and those inspirements were not as effective or purposeful.

I hope this is helpful. I welcome your feedback!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Master Class

PRINCIPLE: The youth, having acquired the skills in different areas, are now ready to actively participate in their education, and apply it in a world-changing way.  They have learned about the world and its needs, true principles for human interaction, and ways to creatively try to solve problems.  These come together as they discuss great works of literature, debate, plan, and learn in an intense environment.  I see this as a three hour discussion/experience at least, whether it is once a week, or once a month.

With a Master class, it is difficult to be specific. It is an intense one-on-one mentoring experience with a mentor for the youth, surrounded by others who are passionate and ready to do something with their knowledge.  Ideally, a few mentors need to be involved: a speech one to help with oral presentations and simulation feedback; a writing one to give feedback on writing style, efficacy, etc; and then a main one who is the main mentor for the class. This can rotate from week to week if it is based upon the lens, or month to month, if it is a once a month class where the principles of the month are shared.  Other mentors can be brought in according to the needs of the youth in the group.  Guest presenters or outside-class mentoring experiences (like a field trip) would also be very effective. (For instance, on mentor arranged for the youth in her group to get trained in CPR.)

The following is an idea for the format if the Master class was once a month:

-As much as the individual lenses apply to the book or article of the month, offer master-level inspirements that tie them together (i.e.  "The Count of Monte Cristo" the Master-level class; Europe Geography project--Draw a detailed map of the places mentioned in Monte Cristo)
-The youth will share briefly their projects in Core class

Master class itself: I would include some type of opening spiritual exercise--hymns, scriptures, devotional...however, I anticipate that, because the youth will have been educated to seek for the spiritual in their learning, that connections with scriptures and the spiritual will be a regular part of the discussion.

30-45 min:            Sharing time of master-level projects throughout month that don't directly relate 
                               to book
2-2 1/2  hours:      Begin immersion in book, article, or concept for the month.  Possible 
                               approaches:(with break, as necessary)
        -pre-assigned oral presentation or essay: share and present--discuss, give feedback, evaluate

        -simulation based upon book: i.e.  The Count is on trial: have a jury, prosecutor, judge, and defending lawyer present, first, the crimes he is accused of, and then determine if he is guilty of them or not.

        -hand's on activity of recreating the Chateau D'If (?) and possible escape routes

       -brainstorm mentors/people that remind them of the old fellow in the prison...write letters to them to have them present to their group in the upcoming months, or plan on visits to see them

       -Explore and discuss the penal system of various countries.  Determine what they can do to help, correct, or compliment  these systems.

       -Evaluate the justice system of the United States and compare it to the case of the Count.  Schedule a field trip to watch a court in session and draw comparisons and conclusions.

30-45 minute wrap-up: Decide on action to do during next month, either based upon book, or based upon a massive service project for the summer that they are deciding upon.  For instance, they could decide to schedule a field trip to the courthouse, and then brainstorm about possible areas for service around the world.  

Application is a huge part of this level.  They need to do something with what they are learning.  I think it would be powerful for them to not only have "smaller" projects that are specifically book based, but also plan through-out the year on how to put together a summer service project, either locally or in other parts of the world.

For instance,
Sept: Each participant share with the others at least 2-5 video presentations and articles about service groups or people doing service around the world online the week before class the first time you meet (to give everyone time to review them) Discuss in class which ones impressed them, what they liked and didn't like about them.  Have everyone select one they would like to contact and find out more about for the next month, or come up with a new plan of action inspired by them or their own ideas to bring back next month and report on.

Oct: Review people's plans of actions...discuss feasibility (cost, time frame, etc.) and narrow it down to two or three.  Make committees for each one, making lists of action that would need to happen to make it come to pass to bring for next month.

Nov:  Determine which project they are going to move forward with and get things like sponsors, fundraising, and timing planned out, delegated, and committed to.

The succeeding months will be assignments come up with by the group, by themselves, to make it happen.  Vision will be essential (along with a refresher about "team building dynamics"--excitement to frustration to discouragement to determination to success!), so a monthly "shot-in-the-arm" of vision (ideally supplied by the youth, taking turns perhaps?) would be helpful.

Good summer reads to prepare for this class would be "Do Hard Things," "The One Minute Manager" (formerly part of the 5 Pillar reading, now replaced with "The One Minute Teacher"), and "TJEd for Teens."

I feel that inspiration and synergy will be critical for the efficacy of this class, and that will be unique to the groups involved.  This is meant to be an intense class--to push scholars and challenge them.  If they are ready for the Master class, they will be ready for this.  Do not be limited by adult's perceptions of limitations.  The youth will rise to it.  The DeMilles stress the necessity for individualization of education: "Even in Scholar phase, they (the youth) only enter a proram at their own choosing and or a relatively short time period.  Overall, their entire education is personalized." (Leadership Education, pg 162)
EXAMPLE: Independent Project
Here is an example of a group in a public school that has a lot of great ideas for mentoring and is a great example of the synergy and excitement that can be generated in such a group.
The Independent Project  (One lady in it said that every group that does this will take on a different look and a different feel...amen!)  Obviously, this is a group that gets together daily, so it works a little differently, but something to get ideas from!
They have a blog similar to what some Vanguard groups have started to post ideas and work on.  Check it out! :)  I would recommend having your master-level youth look at this before planning out their year.  Start with one plan and don't be afraid to re-evaluate and tweak it!

An example of a master class can be taken from my own experience:
Tova and I were able to sit down in December of 2012 and really look at what she wanted to do and accomplish. We essentially had a Master class as she took everything to a deep level of understanding, knowing she would have time sufficient in class to share and use all that she learned. 

She made powerpoints, Jeopardy games for topics, studied Latin, taught from youth Leadership books (TJEd for Teens, 7 Habits of Teens) and read the books on the TJEd for Teens list that she wanted to catch up on. We continue to follow the 7 month principle outline, as always, and it has been AMAZING to see the connections Tova is now making in her reading and as we talk about things we see in society.

Mentors to match our message...

 This is a presentation I put together with valuable thoughts about mentoring (I am good at plagiarizing others' thoughts...)

Mentors to Match our Message

Julie had some great thoughts on mentoring as well and how it fits into Vanguard:

Need to have a passion for their subject
Need to have a passion for their students
Ideally same mentor at apprentice and journeyman level
Individual mentoring (especially at journeyman level). Individual study plans..pushing some further when ready. For example some students have a learning style that they favor...reading, writing, digital media, drawing, etc. A wise mentor allows them to express themself often using that learning style but also inspires them to become proficient in all of the learning styles by encouraging growth in new areas.

Oliver demille said a scholar looks like a youth reading classics and discussing them and writing about them (and I'll add applying them...)we should whenever possible have the student actually be engaged in reading a classic for their class preparation...both at journeyman level and in vanguard

Simple curriculum (classics)...discussion and reading environments
Simple structure (individual mentoring plan)...this is the coaching environment
Simple reporting (individual mentoring time)..oral and written (this is the testing environment)

This may feel more complex in ways since it puts more squarely on the shoulders of the youth the responsibility to plan, prepare and choose along with the mentors guidance, but that is what scholar phase is...especially at 14-15.  Self directed scholars should be choosing their own study plans because they are engaging deeply in their own education rather than being led into their own education

Inspiration and ability to choose what they want to study deeply about...early scholar phase is not the time to fill in all the gaps, it is the time to learn study skills and habits and to change and grow and become as well as study deeply into things you are passionate about

What is your calling in life? -article

This is a great article to help mentors and parents (especially) appreciate that not all youth know what they want to be, but that they each have different talents and strengths that they have already demonstrated that help them have a little direction.

There is so much more to it, but I will leave that for you to enjoy!


Inspirational Chicken and Eagle story about potential

Everytime I see something like this, I think of those youth of ours, and our sacred responsibility to teach them that they are eagles, not chickens
This is a story I love to share at things like the Vision Hike:

At the edge of the woods, near a small farm, a baby eagle fell out of the nest.   The farmer found the eagle, and thinking it was one of his own, brought him to the chicken coop with his other chickens.   As time passed, the baby eagle grew up learning to do what chickens do.  He clucked, he strutted around the coop pecking at the corn and even tried his voice at the morning wake-up call.
A neighbor came to visit his friend the chicken farmer.  He was surprised to see the eagle strutting around the chicken coop, pecking at the ground, and acting like a chicken.  The farmer explained to him that he had brought the bird to the coop as a chick and only later discovered that it was an eagle.  He further told his friend that since the bird had been raised a chicken that the bird actually believed himself to be a chicken.
The neighbor knew there was more to this noble bird than his behavior showed as a chicken.  He was born an eagle and had the heart of an eagle, and nothing could change that.  The neighbor reached down and lifted the eagle onto the fence surrounding the chicken coop and said,  “Eagle, you are an eagle.  Stretch your wings and fly.”  The eagle only look blankly at the man and clucked.  He jumped off the fence and continued doing what chicken do.  The farmer was satisfied. “I told you - he thinks he’s a chicken,” he said.
The neighbor couldn’t sleep that night and returned the next day to convince the farmer that the eagle was born for something greater.  The man took the eagle from the dirty coop and carried him to the top of the farmhouse.  Setting the bird down on the roof, the neighbor spoke to him: “Eagle, you are an eagle.  You therefore belong to the sky and not to the earth.  Stretch your wings and fly.” The large bird blinked at the man, clucked, and then jumped down into the chicken coop.
After another restless night, the friend returned the next morning to the chicken farm and took the eagle and the farmer away from the chicken coop to the foot of a high mountain.  They could not see the farm nor the chicken coop from this great height.  The man lifted the eagle on his outstretched arm and pointed high into the sky where the bright sun was beckoning above.  He spoke: “Eagle, you are an eagle!  You therefore belong to the sky and not to the earth.  Stretch your wings and fly.” This time the eagle stared skyward into the bright sun, straightened his large body, and stretched his massive wings.  His wings moved, slowly at first, then surely and powerfully.
With the mighty screech of an eagle, he flew away.

Guidelines for mentors about classes

As we create this scholar environment for our youth, let us be mindful of the following:

Oliver DeMille, in his article “Force vs. Rigor” :
The tone of youth seminars for those 13 and above could be summed up as:

-You have important things to accomplish in your life, and you need a world-class education

-Push yourselves a lot harder!  Work! Work!  Work!

-What you have to contribute is unique and world-altering

-A great education is a fabulous thing, and it us up to you to go earn one!

-Study, study, prepare!  The world needs what you were born to do.

-Learn more about the areas that interest you, and dig so much deeper into the areas that haven't yet excited you.  You just haven't learned enough about them yet.

-All knowledge is fun, Study a lot more!  How exciting!

What each class should contain:
-At least one scripture
-At least one piece of information to add to their time-line
-your testimony about truth and the Savior

What each class can also contain:
-A Word study
-Music that is wholesome, uplifting, and inspiring
-Reflection moment after particularly impactful experience
-connection to the leadership theme for the month
-something that references the period of history we are studying for the year.

I would like to see us use a method I learned about called “the four R's” either in reflections or word studies:
-Research: study it out using scriptures, words of the prophets, the Noah 1828 dictionary, and other sources of truth
-Reason: write/verbalize your own conclusion of what the truth of that matter is based upon your research
-Relate: figure out how it relates to you in your life
-Record: write or draw your conclusions in your commonplace book

Please try to keep your material within the time frame allotted...going over often makes students restless and makes it harder to learn.

Julie had these great thoughts:
Purpose?   Why does the student need to learn this?  As a mentor am I teaching to the purpose or am I just teaching to the subject?  For example if the purpose of constitution is to Help the student understand and apply the principles of freedom in their own life then every time we should be discussing how what we are learning applies to self...how rewriting the emancipation proclamation teaches us about freedom....perhaps by specifically looking for principles of freedom in the document, perhaps by writing a essay after about how the proclamation applies to you.   It gives the student and the subject purpose...rather than just work to be done.  We should always teach to the purpose.    Each class should have a specifically stated purpose and a wise mentor would reflect upon that purpose while planning and preparing for class time
Example...In speech my purpose is to help them be used to public speaking so that it is not so intimidating to them, to help them be better at speaking in public and to help them learn to think quickly and to have virtuous thought so that they always have something important to say.  I teach to the purpose by giving them time to speak, by giving them feedback about their speaking, by sharing scriptures that relate to speaking and elevating our thoughts, and by giving short lessons about skills such as eye contact and projection, etc.  as mentors we should always teach to the purpose or we loose or focus and become knowledge based rather than principle based

Value?  This goes along with purpose, but the youth need to see the value in the things they are learning.  This is really the application part.  At some points in our lives it is good to get knowledge just for knowledges sake, but it is so much more valuable to have knowledge for wisdoms sake.  If I can't apply what I'm learning to my life right now, my mission, or my foreseeable future I have a hard time motivating myself to want to continue gaining knowledge.  This is both the job of the mentor and the student to find value.  I think value comes from reading classics and from discussion of them with peers who are finding their own value.

Engagement? Are the student engaging?  Are they participating, are they sharing ah has, are they excited to learn, are they cheating, are they skimming the surface, are they just doing the minimums to get by?  As mentor we need to look at the level of engagement to see when we may have lost our purpose or our value.  Are the students responding by doing more than is required because we have given purpose and they have found value and are now willing to do the hard work.  

Example...Megan has mentioned that sometimes in the geography game there is cheating.  I mentioned that maybe that it was okay with the mentors to keep the game moving.  I was upset with myself later for saying this to her as I don't ever want to teach my children that it is okay to cheat or okay to allow others to cheat.  If students are compromising their virtue...and even just meeting minimums sometimes can be compromising virtue....then we may need to go back to purpose and value....please don't take this as an attack on geography :). That was not my intent only to show that engagement is a reflection of the level of purpose and value being discussed in the class.

I think if we are seeking always for purpose and value in the things we are teaching and looking for signs of engagement from the students then we are truly growing in light and truth not just knowledge.