I will confess that I likely spend more time on Facebook than I need to. I am careful to curate my newsfeed regularly so that what I see is, for the most part, what I want to see: important or meaningful updates from the lives of my friends, inspiring and uplifting stories, and news from agencies and groups that I believe in and support.
Occasionally though, an ad will pop up, or someone I know will like something and I will see the ad/group because of that. That’s what happened this morning; I saw an ad for an organization that someone I know liked.
I don’t think I liked it. Just the post not the organization – they do good work. Maybe not even that I disliked it so much as that I was disappointed by it because it makes kind of a sad statement on our life and our society today.
It was one of those ‘is this career for you’ type of ads.
It said, “Do you want to be a Life Coach for children?”
And my first thought was, “Don’t we call those parents?”
And my second thought was, “And if the parents aren’t doing it, isn’t that what teachers do?”
*Sports coaches, dance instructors, music teachers, Cub Scout/Girl Guide/4H leaders, et cetera … are important figures in this equation as well.
I was lucky. I had both an incredible mother who encouraged my interests and my dreams, and I had some truly gifted teachers who also helped me by recognizing and encouraging my talents.
Reading and writing and a love of words and books has been my ‘thing’ for as long as I can remember. Even my mother has said she has no idea how I learned to read at 4 years old, but I did. (I’m sure she read to me but my mother was a busy woman and she had three other children, a home, a yard, a garden, a coop full of chickens, and a farm to take care of. How she found time to do anything with us is a testament to her efficiency, her dedication as a parent, and her love.) Mom made sure I had plenty of books around and as long as my chores were done, I was always allowed to read as much as I wanted. She might have sent me outside to get some fresh air, but she never said to leave my precious book inside.
My Grade 3 teacher recognized my ability to read aloud and anytime she was called out of the classroom or had a pile of marking to do, I was called up to the front of the class to read aloud from whatever novel she had chosen to share with the class. It helped my shyness and my reading ability. (I still love to read aloud.)
When I was in Grade 5, our School District decided to publish a collection of student work – poems and stories. My teacher made it possible for me to submit my story after the deadline because she believed in my ability to write something worthy of the book. It was late because I needed it to be perfect. When the book was published, my story not only appeared on page 1, but the gold, embossed title of the book was the title of my story. It was a pretty proud moment for a 12 year old.
Through my upper elementary years, my mother cheered me from the sidelines as I took part in public speaking competitions, winning trophies for my efforts. When my stage fright threatened to overwhelm me, it was my mother who talked me down off my proverbial ledge and reminded me of what she knew I was capable of.
In high school, when my teenage angst was at an all-time high, it was my French and English teacher who pulled me aside and made sure I wasn’t about to go off the rails. It was that same teacher, along with another who encouraged me to consider writing as a profession. While I might not be making money with my writing (yet), I believe there is value in what I am doing now and I also believe my musings make a difference to someone out there reading them.
I don’t recount those things to brag, only to demonstrate that support can come from many places and it doesn’t always have to be a big deal, just encouraging the development of an ability, some kind words, or a bit of recognition. Without the encouragement and support of my mother (and my father at times as well) and my teachers, I’m sure my life would look very different.
So what has changed that we now need professional Life Coaches for children? Are today’s parents so busy or ill-equipped that they can’t provide the encouragement and support their children need to succeed? Are today’s teachers so overwhelmed with producing data for School Boards or delivering individualized education plans to 20 of the 30 students in their classes that they no longer have time to encourage students?
I’m not asking these questions from a place of ignorance. I’ve parented two children, I’m grand-parenting three more, and I worked in education for over a decade. I still have some former students in my life, although I now consider them friends, whom I offer guidance and my services as a cheerleader when needed. I have always been a firm believer in the notion that no one is good at everything, but everyone is good at something. It’s hard to see your own strengths when you’re young (even when you’re not) and I often told my students, “I wish you could see what I see! I see *insert skill/quality/ability* and the world needs more of that!”
Encouragement, support, motivation – small things with immense potential for positive impact. Have we become so disconnected that we no longer take the time to be there for each other, for our children?
We must be if there is a place and a need for professional Life Coaches for children, but I don’t think I will ever be convinced that a professional Life Coach can ever mean as much or have as the same impact as the presence of a supportive parent in the audience of a Christmas concert or a soccer game or a dance recital or ooh-ing at a new lego construction or laying down at night to share a bedtime story.
But in the spirit of encouragement –
To all the parents I know who are there for their children, doing their level best to let their kids know they are loved and valuable and important, encouraging them to keep trying, to practice, and to persist – keep it up! To the teachers who smile at each face in each desk, who make phone calls home to say Little Johnny had a great day today instead of a disciplinary report, who recognize gifts and find little ways to foster them – keep it up! To each and every one of you who offers a helping hand, an encouraging word, a listening ear, or pat on the back – keep it up!
Be an example of what we need more of in our world – kindness, encouragement, and love and maybe we won’t need recruitment ads for Life Coaches for children.
Just a quick note – I should point out that I have friends who are Life Coaches for adults and even some who are counsellors to children who need more than their parents are equipped to provide. I do not in any way mean to take away from the important work they do.