Thursday, October 18, 2007

Come On People, Fulfilling the Dream, & Let's Work!

Earlier this morning, I was "drafted" by my wife to volunteer at our oldest daughter Rachel's school.

Volunteering did not scare me since I was a former high school teacher of grades 9-12, a youth pastor and minister since 1996, a stockbroker with some the richest customers or deadbeat-foul-mood-because-my-buddy-told-me-a-bum-stock-tip-that-took-all-my-money-after-I-bought-it people that anyone will ever meet:)

Everything went as my wife indicated that it would but when I arrived in the classroom, I knew that rubber was going to meet the road in a 21st century way that I had never experienced before as a student or teacher.

The classroom was divided into smaller groups of 4 students on average.  My daughter attends a new charter school within our county by the way.

The smaller groups instantly had an advantage over other educational philosophies in that each student could receive special attention at a faster rate than having a single classroom mass of students.

But the smaller groups also have a dual-edge in that if the student wants to drift off mentally or has problems with learning, the tasks at which the group does not receive hands on instruction will find the student driving off a cliff without any chance of hitting a guard rail or safety net.

As a former teacher, I had a learning curve in that the groups were rotating faster than I thought they should but I later realized that it was for the better.

In today's culture, I now believe that the gaming world, entertainment companies, and education institutions had better get married shotgun-style if American youth will have a chance globally.  The attention span of American society today requires that the small groups change tasks faster than they would when my deceased mother taught school or when I was a teacher or student.

Only a three-way marriage is going to give the masses an opportunity to not appear in printed documents posted within post offices or facing three strikes nationwide.

It is now clear to me that even a charter school will not be able to save some who have not been adequately prepared at home intentionally or unconsciously.

I was assisting first graders with the task of locating vocabulary words within a dictionary and categorizing the words as nouns of either people, places, things or animals, or verb (not a noun).

Some words may have been both a noun and verb and a few words did not actually appear within the dictionary being used.

The first group assisted were already working when I got there.  Almost immediately, I found one young girl to be as equally a drama queen as my own girls whenever things were not flowing her way.

I almost thought it was a ploy to get more attention.  But wait, it was:)

The bell or beep to change tables and move to a new task came faster than I realized.  I kept wondering if they were going to have to leave the classroom for some reason.

Then it hit me like lightning during the second group I was assisting.

One young man came to the table without any tools as the other kids had, appeared to not have been present the previous day, and sat down in a position to watch the computer monitors of kids who were working in another group even though he could not hear the sounds they heard through headphones they were wearing.

The gentle way but slightly mocking tone another young boy spoke about him let me know that the first kid was not going to get the star for the day.

3 of the 4 students rapidly jumped in to locating words while the unfocused kid found other worlds to dwell within.

So I moved beside him and squatted down to get on everyone's level of eyesight and more doors started opening up.

Although I had heard it during the first group, I was surprised to see the children more focused on what page a word could be found versus knowing how to locate the words within the dictionary.  Working together in groups is one thing, but not knowing the process involved is weakness that subverts the teamwork.

The fight to get them to not call out the page numbers was gentle and nonviolent but highly irritating at the same time.

Since the young kid was more focused on the computer monitors I asked everyone the question, "How many of you have played video games before?"  Everyone said yes or raised their hands.

I then explained to them that looking up words within a dictionary was just like playing a video game and counting at the same time.

I confirmed that everyone knew how to count from one to ten.  I then asked them "How many letters are in the alphabet?"  The fork in the road was then reached at warp-nine light speed.

The kids who were bright and appeared in tune with everything kept calling out numbers either too high or too low.  Upon each recount, they reached a higher number surprisingly.

It was the unfocused kid who changed positions away from looking at the computer monitors and made the 180 degree turn that stunned me.

He simply and calmly counted the letters of the alphabet and gave me the correct answer on his first reply.

"26!" was his answer and the rest of the kids even within the other sections did not get it right on their first attempt.

I then explained that they had a code of 26 letters that they had to use just like numbers in order to locate the words by using the beginning letters of each word.

From this point on, those who used the system would find the words quickly and easily while those who focused on the page numbers spent more time starting over and wasting time.

But the correct answer did not sustain the kid and he went right back to looking at the monitors as he had done before.

I stayed beside him and kept asking him about the letters within the words.  He understood the logic involved but would not get to second base of actually looking for the words.

The sessions continued without any further difficulties and by the time the last group reached me, I was back in rare teaching form. 

One of the best things about today was that the comfort zone of only dealing with my own daughters was broken and meeting and working with kids other than your own will keep you more in tune with your own children and you will see some of the nuances that your own kids pick up while attending school.

The time went into fun zone and I really enjoyed it.

But the unfocused kid made me realize some things that I rather not have witnessed but now realize that I can help others like him who have grown up and attending college may not be a workable goal for them.

The kid made me realize that only through a video game or logical flowchart of a video game will American citizens regain the leadership in the quality of life.

Other countries have the lower health standards, higher crime levels and threats of violent wars, but America will slide into the same pits if the inequalities between the haves and have nots continue to multiply.

The creativity involved in creating a video game will capture and motivate youth and young adults above and beyond the criminal lifestyles that pop media is decaying into.

The criminal lifestyle appeared to be within this kid's future but we can flip his script early enough to keep him off that path.  I later thought to myself that the kid clearly has a future of being either Forrest Gump, Nino Brown, or the beautiful mind of a hedge fund quant if he can be reached.  Otherwise, somebody better get a football in his hands and show him a three-point position:)

But back to the breakthrough and turnaround.

People who have taken the paths of dirty money can and will finally see that they can lower their risks of being separated from their families and friends or the threat of being incarcerated if they begin to learn some simple, life-sustainable skills in how to earn clean money that can be taught to their circles of influence and descendants.

It still amazes me that rapper and music mogul Jay-Z and even deceased Biggie have been credited with the ability of not having to write down their lyrics before recording them.  This feat is nothing short of Shakespeare or Einstein in my opinion.

Clearly the skill has the seeds of mathematical finesse only commonly found within financial centers around the world.

Today's youth can turn the country around by learning these skills.

The primary downside or threat that I see is that without the proper guidance and selection of worthy values and moral compasses, earning generational wealth of such magnitude will more rapidly destroy them or be simply in vain.

My calling that was confirmed today is that I know how to share both requirements with them as a minister, teacher, and entrepreneur.

My 20th entrepreneurial anniversary is approaching on November 1st and with each day I am becoming more energized for this new task and the next level that it will usher in.

I realize that I have only a tip of the iceberg in skills to create such a video game.  I know that through the power of God as revealed within the internet and web 2.0 world that the remaining tools can and will be discovered.  I can start to compile the rest of the components that I have within my reach however.

It is indeed the dawning of brighter new world:)

So I am keeping hope alive when it comes to today's youth in spite of all the traps and negative opportunities that await them.  They can and will survive!


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