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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Motivating your students with high expectations

There’s a certain humor in the image of a motivational speaker standing on stage to share his message with an audienceand then finding that no one is listening.

That’s gotta hurt.
Then again, when you’re speaking in an auditorium filled with high school students, you know you’ve got your work cut out for you.

According to the Tulsa World (, motivational speaker Stan Pearson gave it a good try last month when he visited McLain High School for Science and Technology. His goal: to talk to young people about the importance of personal success and “believing in oneself in spite of other people’s perceptions or judgments.”

Alas, the judgment of the young audience was one of total disregard. “Pearson was repeatedly interrupted by students laughing and talking among themselves as he tried to speak,” the World reported.

The general public will read this story and, in too many cases, assume that today’s kids (and schools) are worse than ever. But thankfully that’s not true. As every school board member knows, a lot of today’s kids are respectful, thoughtful, and caring individuals.

Yes, they forget at times. Put two kids together, and they’ll start yapping at a moment’s noticeif given half a chance. But that’s where adults are supposed to step in. You set the expectations. You hold kids accountable. You make them understand why it’s important to show respect and consideration for othersand when to shut up.

So what happened at McLain High? Did the kids fall short of expectations? Or did the adults fail to set those expectationsand fail to hold kids accountable while a guest was trying to speak?

To me, these are interesting questions. And school board members might want to ask similar ones about their own schools. Are you confident that your students know how to behave when guests visit your schools?

And, if not, does that say something about your studentsor your educators?
Del Stover, Senior Editor
Motivational speaker is met with apathy

by: ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
11/17/2007 12:00 AM

Many McLain students ignore his talk

Motivational speaker Stan Pearson said his message about the importance of having and pursuing a dream fell on too many deaf ears Friday at McLain High School for Science and Technology, but he persevered in the hope of reaching even a few students.

Pearson's visit to McLain and a handful of other Tulsa schools this week was sponsored by the Human Relations Student Association at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa.

Pearson, associate director of student activities at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas, speaks to school and college groups about diversity and achieving peak performance.

Speaking before an auditorium full of McLain juniors and seniors Friday, Pearson was repeatedly interrupted by students laughing and talking among themselves as he tried to speak about believing in oneself in spite of other people's perceptions or judgments.

"Sometimes we let society and others convince us we are not great. You all have something to offer," he began, then replied to some inaudible comments shouted at him by saying, "I wish you would use those smart comments on a test or an essay or to get a job. That's when it helps to be clever."

Pearson went on to say that he was accused of not being "black enough" when he was growing up in Chicago because he did not "talk black" or "act black."

"I had to ask myself, 'What does it mean for me to really be black?' " he said. "And I had to learn to fight from the neck up, instead of like this," holding up clinched fists.

"If you're really black, do you know what was Malcolm X's last name before he converted to Islam?" Pearson asked the students.

After fielding a couple of guesses, he revealed the correct answer, Malcolm Little, and then posed another question: When was Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated?

He shared that correct answer, too: April 4, 1968.

He breezed up and down the aisles of the auditorium, asking nearly every student what they want to be when they grow up, and heard answers ranging from obstetrician and engineer to rock star and professional boxer.

"When you say something out loud, you are then held accountable for it," he said. "Get on the Internet and look up how to be whatever it is you want to be."

Pearson thanked the "5 percent" of students who might take something away from his speech because they were paying attention. He also invited them to share what they had learned with the other 95 percent in attendance, who he said did not appear to be listening.

The Human Relations Student Association at OU-Tulsa also sponsored Pearson's visits this week to Grimes and Patrick Henry elementary schools, and Gilcrease and Nimitz middle schools.

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