Every child is one caring adult away from being a success story

Photo MJ Duncan: Motivational speaker Robert Jackson visited Rialto teachers last week providing strategies and tools in which they can motivate students to excel, and to inspire them as educators. Werner Elementary educators, pictured front row from left: Akinlana Osonduagwuike, Principal Andrea Roman, Maria Barragan, Kathy Almeida; back row from left: Dr. Fernando Navarrete, Holly Hunter, Yolette Doucet, and Don New.

Rialto Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Cuauhtemoc Avila invited former NFL player of the Minnesota Vikings, educator-turned motivational speaker to the district’s Leadership Institute this past July where over 170 district managers were in attendance.

Photo courtesy Robert Jackson: Robert Jackson addressed Rialto Unified School District educators.

Jackson’s seminar was so inspiring that it sparked an immediate interest in some principals to invite Jackson to address their site educators and staff. Jackson traveled to Rialto to address all third grade teachers on Thursday, Sept. 28 on the topic of reading at grade level, and again the next day at Werner Elementary where teachers from Werner, Bemis and Myers were invited to attend.

“Our teachers and administrators are motivated and provide students the best educational experiences possible. Nonetheless, there is plenty for each of us to learn from others,” said Dr. Avila. “Mr. Jackson brings a message that forces us to reflect on our past and current beliefs and practices to be better individuals and thus make a life-changing difference in the lives of our students.”

Although the seminar was dynamic, fun and engaging, the subject matter was critical – strategies for educators to motivate students, remove personal biases, and connect with and have empathy for students.

“You have to understand that kids are dysfunctional,” Jackson said to the crowd of Werner, Bemis and Myers teachers when he explained what factors shape troubled students. “Anger is either fear, frustration or pain and we have to teach kids how to deal with those.”

Jackson asked educators to acknowledge that they are judgmental, and with that acknowledgment comes solutions. “When your perceptions become your reality, when you believe that kid isn’t going to succeed, he won’t. Your words are powerful.  If (students) are being broken down at home, are you going to add to that?”

Jackson asked his audience to refrain from biases and judging a student by the way he/she dresses or if their jeans sag. “You don’t know what kid is being abused, robbed, assaulted. You don’t know what they’re coming into the classroom with. Young kids are so impressionable and you have the most critical job on this planet – they’re in your hands and how you shape them for their future.”

Jackson explained when educators focus on character development, the student with the sagging pants will pull them up on his own one day.

Heredity loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger.

“You never know what people are dealing with, be careful with the way we treat the kids, they could be in the most excruciating pain,” he pointed out. “The difference between us and the kids? Age.”

Strategies for managing biases include being aware of word choice (avoid trigger words), avoid stereotyping, consider your intentions (do you want to build them up or tear them down), focus on the impact you will have on the kids, and remain positive.

“Kids need to hear something positive every day, tell them ‘you matter,’ ‘you are great,’ ‘you will be successful,’” Jackson said. “What are you saying to those kids everyday? I never heard I was a bad kid as a kid, only after I became an adult.”

Werner Principal Andrea Roman, who had the opportunity to hear Jackson speak during the Leadership Institute was excited for teachers to gain new tools and strategies to further promote student success.

“I hope that today you will be able to take your experiences and really listen to your hearts and really understand the kids,” Roman addressed the group of educators. “Re-energize and remotivate yourselves and realize you make a big impact on the kids and the community.”

Many teachers that day stood and shared strategies they would immediately employ in their classrooms. Popular ones include the four-part apology, placing a student in the middle of other students and praising his good qualities after he/she makes a mistake, and to say something positive to every student everyday.

“This (presentation) was extremely motivational, and reminded me to connect with my students’ hearts,” said Werner second grade teacher Marleisha Ruben.

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