Academic Development and the Love of Learning

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Learning is not just teaching children specific standards or subject matter. It is a process and a series of experiences that lead to the great "aha!" moments of life. It is important for young people to get good grades and take initiative towards academic achievement, however instilling a love of learning is a gift they will have for a lifetime. Teaching young people to love learning can be encouraged outside of the classroom. Having a love of learning means that you desire to know more about a subject or are curious about something you do not know much about. By teaching young people to love learning you are encouraging them to become Life Long Learners. As they become adults, they will be intrigued about new things and want to explore the world in an infectious way. Learning can be cultivated everywhere.

Understand It:

Ultimately, we want young people to love to learn. A passion for learning is quite different from just studying to earn a good grade. Young people who develop a love of learning at an early age continue the process throughout their lives and are generally more successful, interesting, and happier than those who don't. Having a love for learning shows that you have a desire to explore new ideas and learn something new and interesting.

Young people innately like to learn. From an early age, they begin exploring the world around them. They may not be thinking to themselves, "I am learning," but that is exactly what they are doing as they investigate everything they come in contact with. Young children know how to take the smallest observation, object, or surprise and turn it into a learning experience. They are curious and want to find out the what, where, how, and why of everything around them.

A great way to help young people cultivate a passion for learning is to read to them. Young people learn a lot when they read and explore new ideas. Reading is a great way for young people to explore their creativity and also soak up knowledge about a subject. When young people love to learn they will be more willing as adults to try new things and not be afraid of something foreign to them.

Model It:

The best way to show your Little that learning is important is to stimulate learning by doing activities that have learning lessons. Talk with your Little about the things that you read and hear. Tell them why you find it interesting and ask what they think about it. Ask your Little how they feel about various issues. Talk to them about their relationships, values or current events. Find out what hobbies they have and pursue them. Incorporate their hobbies and interests in the topics you discuss and the activities you plan. Pursue hobbies that you enjoy and talk to your Little about it. Ask your Little if they would like to learn about the things that interest you. Encourage your Little to have interests of their own. Support your Little with the hobbies they are currently involved in. If your Little talks about a new interest cultivate their passion. Expose your Little to a variety of experiences. Explore music, plays, sports, museums, games and ethnic activities.

In the workplace, it is important to constantly grow and learn so that you can be competitive and productive in your profession. Individuals who have a love for learning have the ability to engage in problem solving much more fluently. Learning new ways to solve problems and address If you demonstrate excitement about learning then your Little will see how fun learning can be. Create fun learning experiences for your Little to engage in. When young people have a passion for learning they will constantly be curious about the world. As adults, it is important to be life long learners because many aspects of the adult world require thinking and learning. issues is often required in the workplace. When a young person truly has a passion for learning, they will be able to achieve any dream they have.

Discuss It/Do It:

Over dinner or lunch, talk to your Little about the things they love learning about. Also, ask them about things they want to learn about. Create a list of ten new things you can learn together and tell them that you will check them off your list as you learn them together over the next year.

Ask your Little about their favorite hobby. If your Little loves sports, engage them in a conversation about what they learned and know about their hobby. If they like playing baseball but do not know much about football, tell them that it would be a great opportunity for them to learn about a new sport. If they love scrapbooking and art, ask them if there is any other craft they want to learn about. If they can not come up with one, suggest one for them. The goal is to show them that learning is not just cultivated in the classroom but that life long learning can be achieved in fun ways.

Create homework time with your Little. Schedule an amount of time during each activity either going over their homework or learning about what they learned in class. If you do not want to do homework time each time you meet, then create a homework chart and go over what they learned in school once a month. This will enable you to be involved in their learning experience and also encourages them to share what they learned.

Take your Little to the science museum, art museum, botanical gardens or any other cultural outing in the city. Exposing your Little to new ways to learn that are fun is vitally important. Most often, young people only think that learning is cultivated in the classroom. Provide them with an "outdoor" classroom by exploring the city.

Goal Setting/Perspective on Future Goals

Learn It:

Goal setting is the process by which setting goals helps you choose where you want to go in life.(www.mindtools.com) permission is easily granted Goal setting requires that you have a goal in mind, large or small and working toward achieving it. Even if the goal you set is not accomplished, setting the goal is the important part of the process. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know where you have to concentrate your efforts.

Goal setting requires that you stay focused and limit the distractions that can get in the way. Properly setting goals can be incredibly motivating. As you set goals and achieve them, you will find that your self-confidence will build. The purpose of goal setting is to focus on goals you have and work toward achieving them. Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about your future. Motivating yourself to turn your vision into reality enables you to achieve the goals you set.

Understand It:

As a Big it is important for you to set goals for yourself and your mentor relationship and work toward achieving them. By setting an example that you are a passionate goal setter is the best way for your Little to understand how important this skill is. Make sure you encourage your Little to dream big but also talk to them about having tangible and achievable goals. When kids set goals they feel extremely confident when they achieve them. Their self-confidence increases and their sense of accomplishment are increased. Setting short-term and long-term goals is critically important in achieving goals. Young people need to achieve goals in the short term and also look forward to future goals. Having perspective on future goals is a concept that must be reinforced for youth because they do not instinctively thing about consequences.

Goal setting for youth can help them focus on inter-personal skill development. Goal setting helps young people learn responsibility and initiative. Ask your Little what kind of goals they have. Encouraging your Little to think about their goals it is very important. Having perspective on future goals enables young people to think ahead and have dreams for their future. Teaching young people that having future goals will need to be intentional. Young people are often caught up in the moment and often do not have the ability to be forward thinkers. They do have dreams and goals for the future but often lack the experience of knowing how to obtain them.

Model It:

Help your Little set goals. Your Little will need your help in mapping out an action plan to achieve their goals. Get interested in what your Little is interested in. Ask your Little what they care about and what they want to be when they are older. Get interested in your Little's school work. Ask your Little about their assignments and extra curricular activities. Ask them if they need help with their homework. If you seem genuinely interested in what they are doing they will feel pride about their work. Help your Little set academic goals. School might be challenging for them. Additionally, they might breeze through a subject matter. However, setting goals is important part of feeling accomplishment.

Ask your Little what they want to accomplish over the next year. Help them identify the steps required to get there. Create an action plan to help them achieve their goals. By helping them to take the first steps toward achieving goals, they are learning the importance of goal setting. Follow up with your Little and check on their process. Your Little might forget about the goal setting you created with them, so remind them.

Encourage your Little to set personal goals. Goals can be set on a number of different levels. Teach your Little how to create "big picture" goals. Setting "big picture" goals teaches them how to have perspective on future goals. Ask them what they want to do with their life. Decide how they can currently work at the small steps to achieving their long term goal. Setting short-term and long-term goals is essential for teaching your Little success. For each short-term goal, identify small tasks that can be utilized to help get there. Long-term goals are important so that your Little can look toward achieving goals in the future.

Discuss It/Do It:

Talk to your Little about goals. Explain the importance of goals and share with them the goals you have for your Big/Little relationship. Have them come up with goals they want to include in your goals list. This will allow your Little to understand that goals are important and can be achieved.

Ask your Little what goals they have for themselves. Ask them to share with you what short-term and long-term goals they have for themselves this year at school. If they can not come up with any, offer suggestions of academic and friendship goals they can set and achieve in the year.

Create a time capsule/goal capsule with your Little. Decorate the time capsule/goal capsule any way you like. You can use a box and decorate it or a jar. You do not have to bury it but you should not open it until you achieve a goal you put inside. Create a list of goals that your Little wants to achieve for the year. Maybe you could start with a goal for each subject/class in school. Or you can come up with goals based on the social and emotional skills they are learning. Each goal should be able to be achieved in a month. After the month is over, go back to the capsule and check the goal off your list and add a new one.

Create a "goal board" collage. Have them create a visualization board that they can look at in the rooms and has pictures of what they want to achieve. On the board they should put the kind of house they want to live in, the things they want to learn and the places they want to travel to. Save magazines and buy art supplies like glue, markers and scissors. Create the goal board with your Little. Explain to them that it is a visualization board and if they can see their goals then they can work toward achieving them.

School Success/Academic Achievement

Learn It:

School success refers to a students overall success emotionally, academically, socially and physically during their school age years. School success is more than just academic achievement but rather a young person's ability to feel confident and successful with their experience in school. When students are self-confident and believe that they are capable of learning, they have taken a crucial first step toward school success. Additionally, when students feel safe at their school they are able to achieve school success. Success for young people is not only defined by academic achievement but also by social and emotional stability and success. Adults can cultivate school confidence by helping their children view themselves as able learners. Academic achievement is only one aspect of school success for youth. Academic achievement refers to a student's ability to successfully master the academic requirements for each academic year. Academic achievement is marked by successfully completing the benchmarks outlined by an academic standard designed for each grade level. Academic achievement is subjective however; there are academic standards that measure student's achievement each academic year.

Understand it:

Academic achievement is a significant part of a systemic approach to school success. However, focuses on social, emotional and physical safety for young people during school is extremely important. Often, adults have pre determined what makes a students experience at school successful. The standard that is used as a benchmark to mark the success most often focuses on academic achievement. However, we know that a young person's "experience" at school is equally important. Because young people are predomitentely influenced by their peers, their peer experience is a factor to exam. Young people are bombarded with tough choices each day and these choices are often negotiated outside of the classroom. With a rise in bullying in schools and lack of funding allotted to conflict resolution programs, students social and emotional experience is not made a priority. Focuses on a student's social and emotional health is extremely important and an integral component of their overall success at school. Placing emphasis on creating a healthy and learning environment for young people at school is essential if we expect them to be successful during school and after-school.

Getting good grades is important and it builds character in young people. Academic achievement increases their self-discipline. Young people who have self-discipline often grow into adults with self-discipline. Self-discipline and commitment to responsibility are important skills/values to have as adults. Academic achievement also teaches young person self-control. When young people get good grades they most often learn good study habits and value education. Some students get good grades with out trying. Those students will also need to learn good study habits. However, the majority of young people who have academic achievement are practicing good study and work habits independently and with peers.

However, a student who has good grades might not have school success if they feel that their emotional, social and physical safety is not what they want it to be. The school environment is extremely complex. Decades ago school success was mostly determined by "passing" and getting good grades. Now, educators know that success in school for adolescents is much more dynamic then in years past. As a Big it is important for you to empower your Little and model healthy social skills so that they can model them at school with their peers.

Model It:

Modeling healthy relationship skills is extremely important. In addition, helping your Little with their homework and class assignments is also very important. Working on reading and tutoring your Little on various subjects is also good. But the challenge will be how to teach them about the other "stuff" that they must survive through during their school years. The best way to empower your Little to feel confident socially and emotionally with peers at school is to be a good role model.

Help your Little focus on the positive. Make sure that you know your Little's ability levels. Do not push them to much but rather encourage them to try hard. Understand your Little's learning style and create creative ways to help them with school work. Set realistic and specific goals. Help your Little take small steps toward doing better in school. Work together to create a plan or action chart for improvement. Come up with short-term and long-term goals but make them tangible. Along the way, point out your Little's accomplishments so that they know you have noticed their progress.

Teach your Little that mistakes are a natural part of learning. Explain to them that anything worthwhile achieving requires a little bit of work. Teach them that it is acceptable to make a mistake and that they might make many of them over the years. Express to them that the objective is to try their best and make an effort with their work. Always offer encouragement for improvement. Discuss with your Little that learning is more than a good grade. Explain to your Little that learning is awesome and meaningful. While good grades are important, there are many ways to measure a young person's success.

As mentors, your role is to guide and encourage your Little. You are a key figure in their lives. As a Big you serve as a "teacher" for your Little by showing them how to navigate the world. Help them cope with school stress and turn it into school success. Ask your Little about their peer relationships and self-image at school. Ask them how their experience is at lunch and on the bus. Explain to them that being happy and feeling safe is important at school and paramount to their success at school.

And lastly, encourage your Little to ask for help whenever they need it. Keep yourself available as to help them with issues they may be having at school. Create a healthy environment that is conducive for studying, exploring and learning. Encourage them to take the study tools and use them at home when they are doing homework. Also, go over role plays with your Little that demonstrate scenario's they might experience at school with peers and teachers so they can feel comfortable if they occur. Most of all pay attention to the things your Little shares in conversation. Always ask your Little what you can do to help them feel successful at school.

Discuss It/Do It:

Talk to your Little about your experiences at school. Share with them the challenges and adventures you had. Show them pictures of yourself in school and talk to them about the subjects you loved to learn about when you were their age.

Ask your Little how they feel about school. Talk to your Little about their friends and the kind of activities they are involved in school. It is helpful to ask your Little what a typical day is like at school. Also if possible, talk with them about strategies for success in school.

Create a list of Helpful Study Habits. Each time you meet with your Little, create an activity that reinforces the study habit. For example: Practice Reading; go to the book store or library and check out books then go to the part and read the books while having a picnic. The goal is to practice the study habits that you put on the list.

Create flash cards and creative games for each subject your Little is learning in school. Go to the craft store and buy supplies. Come up with fun and creative ways to reinforce the subjects your Little is learning in school. You can also create trivia cards and a jeopardy game that can be used for helping your Little review for a test.

Career Exposure/Career Planning

Learn It:

Career exposure/planning will help young people understand the professional options available to them after completing high school. Exposing your Little to different career choices and explaining what the profession entails will offer your Little insight into the choices in the workplace. Helping young people prepare for a specific career will make them more marketable when they are ready to apply. Career exposure and planning enables young people to think of long-term goals they want to set around professional success when they complete high school.

Understand it:

If you know young people, it is likely that their career choice is the furthest thing from their mind. They are most likely more concerned with having fun, friends, passing a test and sports. Even though choosing a career is far off in the future, it does not mean that you should not introduce them to career choices. Even though they are not ready to settle on a career choice or even know what options they have, it is a great time to begin exploring many different occupations. Young people are only aware and exposed to a small number of professions. Their knowledge of occupations is most likely limited to that of their parents and relatives. Exploring occupations is a great way to get them to realize that there are many options available to them.

Exposing young people to career options and planning will help them understand the process better when they get older. Helping young people explore what careers are available to them helps them to believe that their future is possible. Often, young people do not believe that they have many opportunities available to them. As a mentor you have the opportunity to expose them to endless possibilities for their future. Also, teaching them the importance of preparing and planning for a solid career is also important. When young people are prepared and know what they need to accomplish to achieve success they are more likely to obtain it. If you prepare young people years in advance of their career search, they will be more comfortable with the process as adults.

Model It:

Helping your Little with the career exposure and planning process will be fun. However, you should remember to keep your opinions to yourself but still serve as a mentor in the process. Try not to discourage your Little from exploring a particular career, even if you think it's all wrong for them. Talk with your Little about his or her interests. Share information about your career. Explain what you do for a job and also talk about the benefits of the profession. Tell them all the careers you wanted when you were younger so that they understand there are many options out there. Explain that they might change their mind many times before they are ready to join the workplace. Allow your Little the opportunity to ask questions about each occupation you explore with them. Don't pressure your Little to make a choice but rather focus on exposing them to choices so they can learn more. Point out your Little's interests and how they relate to various careers.

Allow your Little to "job shadow" you at work. Invite them to come to work with you if possible. Many companies and organizations have "bring your kid to work" day. This would be a great way for your Little to learn about your career and the workplace. Also, use your network of connections to set up opportunities for your Little to meet with people working in various occupations.

It is never to early to start talking about careers. Provide age appropriate information and only give as much information as your Little can understand. Go to the library or bookstore and read books about careers and career planning. There are many books that you can explain to your Little. Also, there are also child-friendly books that teach about careers and career planning.

Discuss It/Do It:

Talk to your Little about your job. Tell them what you do and explain to them why you love your job. Also, share with them what you needed to do to prepare for that profession.

Ask your Little what they would like to be when they grow up. Ask your Little to tell you what they think the job requirements and skills are needed to do that job. Also, help them to understand what they could be doing now to learn more about that profession.

Take your Little to work. Find a day that your Little can come to your workplace so they can see what you do at work.

Set up appointments at the local police station, fire station or government offices so that your Little can learn about those professions. All of these institutions offer opportunities for young people to visit and learn about how they can explore a career in civil service and government.

College Exposure/College Selection

Learn It:

Exposing young people to college at an early age is extremely important. Making young people aware of the process that is required to get in to college will help them succeed when actually applying as a high school senior. Expose your Little to the benefits of college and explain what the college experience is all about. Introducing young people to college at an early age will allow them to prepare appropriately to get into the college of their dreams.

Understand it:

College exposure is more than just preparing young people academically for college admission. So much attention is place on high school students on what prepratory steps should be taken for college and not enough is placed on elementary and middle school students. Just as you should cultivate a love of learning and school success in young people, you also need to expose them to the college experience. Not only should college talk start in elementary and middle school but prepratory steps should also be taken. Young people do not need to know what subject they want to major in, but they should understand the importance of college. Teaching young people that college can be a goal that they can fulfill are important. Exposing your Little to college can be achieved in many ways. Tell your Little about your college experience.

College prep requires a lot of work. Exposing young people to the importance of college will help them work toward their goals to get into college. College is not the only option for young people after high school. However, having a college degree will enable your Little to secure a good job in a job market that is competitive. There are many kinds of colleges that your Little can attend. Help your Little navigate the most appropriate kind of college experience for them. There are technical and arts colleges. Additionally, young people can attend college online and on the weekends to accommodate their work schedules. The goal is to expose young people to the benefit of education that college offers.

Model It:

The first thing you can do as a mentor is to add college to the discussions you have with your Little. Talk to them about college and the many kinds of colleges that they can attend. If you attended college, tell them about the subject you majored in. Tell them about the courses you took and what you learned. If you did not attend college, share with them why you did not and what you wish you would have studied if you did attend. The goal is to introduce the subject so that they start thinking about the importance of college. Let them know that college is a real option and not just something that they see on TV or the internet. Also, research alternatives to the traditional college experience and discuss them with your Little. Talk to them about culinary, trade and technical colleges. Also explain that they can attend community college which will give them preparation needed to succeed in a traditional four year college. Also, explain to your Little that after undergraduate studies, many individuals attend graduate school to learn more about the profession they hope to pursue.

Expose your Little to college opportunities. Discuss with your Little the opportunities that college can open for a person. Explain that college provides an opportunity for them to learn about a subject/profession that they want to explore as a career. College also offers great social networking, cultural and leadership experience that will be important for them when they venture into the workplace. College can be a gateway to opportunity in life and sooner they understand that the more willing they will be to work hard to achieve their goals.

Explain to your Little that many of the cool professions they want to have as adults are taught in college. Draw the connection for them that learning about your occupation requires education and college is where they most often learn the information required to succeed in that occupation.

Take your Little to college. Even if you did not attend a college in Atlanta, all colleges are open to the public for visits. Start with researching the college on line, so that your Little can explore the campus and have an idea what it will be like when they take a tour. There are many programs that are designed to get young people on college campuses to learn about the college experience. Physically take them to a local college. There are many campus tours and visiting days where a staff member will guide a classroom or group of children throughout the campus and talk about interesting things about college. You can also schedule an outing with your Little where you can walk around the campus. When you take your Little to a college campus, talk about your experiences at college and if you didn't attend college bring someone with you who did.

Have fun on campus and listen to your Little and answer their questions. Also, visit the school store and get them a souvenir like a notebook with the college logo so they can have something to remember the visit. It is much better to start the college talk before high school so that young can people work toward achieving the goals necessary to have a successful college experience.

Discuss It/Do It:

Talk to your Little about college. Tell them about your college experience. If you did not go to college have them talk to a friend of yours who did attend college.

Ask them to create a list of questions they have about college. Go over their questions and make sure you are answering their questions in an age appropriate way.

Take your Little on a tour of a local college. There are more than 10 colleges in Atlanta that your Little can visit. Set up an appointment for you and your Little.

Find a college fair day in the community. Even though your Little might be young, take them to a college fair. They will learn about the different kinds of colleges that exist. The college fairs are usually open to the public. Contact a local college and see when they have their next college fair scheduled. It would be a great experience for your Little to learn about the college experience and see other students who will be attending college in the future.

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