The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great at whatever they want to do.

Kobe Bryant

As educators, we understand the difference that positive inspiration can make in a person’s life. After all, that is what we do. We strive to inspire others to change their lives in such a significant way that will leave them healthier, happier, smarter, and even more fulfilled. 

We can learn powerful lessons from those who inspire us that we can later use to encourage others.  Being inspired by people you admire makes you feel good, and it motivates you to do great things at work, home, school or in our communities. I am inspired everyday by the amazing individuals I work alongside, and I am so fortunate that I have the opportunity to coach, mentor, and inspire teachers.  In this role, I rarely have a chance to work individually with students, and because I am frequently around children, I had a deep desire to do more with them, which in fact what I, as eduConsultant. do every day, grow the people around me. So, in order to impact, influence, and inspire the people around me, the next generation that is, I set out to be a young adult mentor.

We all know that mentoring is a great way to make a positive impact in the life of a young adult. Research shows that children that are mentored do better in school, are less likely to get involved with drugs or other addictive behaviors, and spend their time participating in sports or other extracurricular activities.

I’ve had the pleasure of serving in several counties across North Carolina and wanted to also make a difference in my community.The Clayton Chamber of Commerce (CCOC) prides itself as being a champion of business advocacy, community enrichment, economic development, and education support. Quickly, I learned that the CCOC Education Committee was looking for community members who wanted to make a difference by supporting area youth as a mentors. Their mentoring program, aptly called INSPIRE, provides middle school students with positive, nurturing support and guidance designed to improve academics, personal responsibility, social skills, and self-awareness. 

School is often an inherently stressful and chaotic environment; almost anything can trigger kids.Traumatic childhood experiences can impact learning, behavior, and relationships at school. Trauma continues to be particularly challenging for educators to address because kids often don’t express the distress they are feeling in a way that’s easily recognizable: they may mask their pain with behavior that’s aggressive or off-putting. To better understand childhood trauma, and to prepare for mentoring, CCOC encouraged us to determine our Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs*) score by completing the ACEs Questionnaire.

What are ACEs? Adverse Childhood Experiences are stressful or traumatic experiences that can have huge influences on children throughout their lives. ACEs, which are common and affect all income levels, create harmful levels of stress, impact healthy brain development, and have long-term effects on learning, behavior and health. Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, author of The Deepest Well, suggest that our ACEs score is recorded in our nervous system and DNA, affecting every aspect of our bodies’ functions.  The higher your ACEs score, the more at risk you may be to health and social problems. Fortunately, there are opportunities for prevention and mitigation through mindfulness, exercise, relationships, caregivers, and so on. Research indicates that the presence of one stable, caring adult in a child’s is the key to building resilience. Having a relative who loves you, a teacher who understands and believes in you, or a trusted friend you can confide in may mitigate the long-term effects of early trauma.

In December 2019, the CDC released a report that emphasized the importance of relationships with caring adults and named the practice of mentoring and positive parenting supports as approaches that prevent and mitigate childhood trauma. Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful and positive effects on young people in a variety of personal and academic situations.

So, what can we, as mentors, teachers, and leaders do to help with childhood trauma? Simply INSPIRE.  

How can we inspire? 

  1. Build meaningful relationships
  2. Increase levels of support and encouragement
  3. Create a safe environment
  4. Maintain usual routines and provide choice when applicable
  5. Set clear limits for inappropriate behavior, by developing logical, rather than punitive, consequences

And finally, why should we inspire? Because inspiration is powerful and the world is challenging. It really does take a village to raise children into healthy and successful adults.

“No one raises children in isolation. We have a high amount of research of powerful impacts of teachers, coaches, mentors, and other adults in the community with whom children have the chance of building other relationships, who play that critical supporting role of building resilience.” Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

A great mentor doesn’t just provide guidance and answers, but he or she also provides motivation and inspiration to help the mentee fulfill his or her potential. A mentor’s role is to provide knowledge, inspiration, and feedback to help light the way. This role was meant for me; after all, I aim to inspire teachers everyday. 

Kevi Dixon, eduConsultant

 *The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being. The study is a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego. Research results were first published in 1998 and have been followed by more than 70 publications through 2019.

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