When my children were young and I was trying to keep them safe from harm, I repeated to them often, "There are four powerful things in the world: Your mind, your tongue, guns, and cars." It was a simple reminder that we must grow up in mastery over powerful things, so that we can learn to use them to love others rather than to hurt them. I think my kids could still quote the mantra back to me, even today.
When my students enroll in my classes, I intend to do more than just deliver specified data into their ears and eyes. I intend to offer them keys to their own powerful vehicle, and coach them to drive their own learning with growing mastery. When I do, I've seen my students respond in three distinct ways:
1. Some students take the keys, fire up their vehicle, and drive immediately into a ditch.
2. Fearing the ditch, some students panic at the sheer power offered to them, and refuse to take the keys. Often, these students will request (or even demand) that I drive for them. This option, I will calmly refuse.
3. Some students receive their keys with gratitude, recognize the ditches, fire up their vehicle, and learn to drive masterfully. These few are now equipped to explore breathtaking destinations.
I'm not only teaching a topic - I'm teaching them how to learn. - c
"[W]hen He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth." - John 16:13
One of the books I like to use in helping students to find their own initiative and grit is James Clear's, Atomic Habits. It is one of the most pithy and quotable books of its kind, and it offers very practical helps for people trying to create change in themselves.
In the introduction, Clear states, "As long as human behavior is involved, this book will be your guide" (p.10). A confident claim, to be sure. And it begs the question, If I am a Christian, should I trust this kind of advice? Don't I already have a guide? Indeed, you do.
For all Believers, the Holy Spirit lives in us, and - as Jesus says to His disciples - He will guide you into all truth. Am I to take it that I should then refuse to hear others who claim to be guides? I don't think so. Instead, I practice and recommend that all we absorb and engage should be placed under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit: Almighty God and Father, I ask that Your Spirit would help me to see and embrace truth, and to discern and reject lies. I trust You to do this in me by Your Spirit, because of Jesus, Your Son and our King. And Amen.
The book, Atomic Habits, may be a big help to me and my students. And I pursue all good things under the blessing of God, including the perfect guidance of His Spirit.
I like to use variable-challenge assignments, or as some like to call them, "Goldilocks" assignments, to help align student confidence and motivation with the work to be done. When designed properly, the student can maintain interest and forward motion through the use of these "Goldilocks" assignments without falling into boredom or panic. Not too hard, and not too easy. Just right.
In teaching jazz improvisation, for example, I might create an assignment with five layers of challenge to it. It might look like this:
• Find the 3rds and 7ths - the "goal tones" - of each chord given.
Part A, for one point: Name the notes that make up the goal tones of each chord.
Part B, add another point: Submit a recording of your performance of the goal tones of each chord on any instrument.
Part C, add another point: Submit a recording of yourself singing the goal tones as a backing audio track plays the chords.
Part D, add another point: Submit a recording of yourself performing a prepared melodic line that uses goal tones over the backing audio track.
Part E, add another point: Submit a recording of yourself performing an improvised melodic line that uses goal tones over the backing audio track.
Every student in the class would required to engage the assignment at some level, but those engaging the level at which they are stretched without being overwhelmed find additional rewards in accomplishment, learning, and equipping for new challenges. For high-achieving students, I can also offer an optional certification or endorsement for those consistently completing assignments at the most challenging level.
Student-directed learning like this can optimize anyone's progress, while still providing accountability. - c
At Mind the Gap Programs, our job is to help beginning students and professionals to find their initiative, their grit, and their most effective learning styles, and then to help them to assess if they have what it takes to succeed where they are investing. It's really that simple.
If you're making an investment into a career or college path, it pays to protect that investment. We can help.
At Mind the Gap, we offer three programs designed sequentially to help students move from uncertain to confident. The programs are Self Management, Project Management, and People Management, in that order.
Each program offers structured assignments for gaining skills for each of these areas, knowing that students who can manage themselves can learn to manage projects, and students who can manage projects can learn to manage others, as well.
The curriculum is unapologetically Christian, rooted in Scripture, and all of my advising meetings draw from the wisdom of the Word. The curriculum also explores the various learning styles of different people, encouraging our students to find the particular methods that work for them. Each assignment offers shallow, mid-level, or deep exploration, and meets our students with the degree of challenge that they need.
We hope to work with you, and together Mind the Gap between you and your goals. - c
I want systems around me that support my efforts and goals. I suspect that you do, too.
The fee scale for Mind the Gap clients slides up and down based on whether or not you meet your personal goals. Yes, you read that correctly. Let me explain:
• BASIC: The basic fee for Mind the Gap starts at $10/month (our minimum rate) for weekly 20-minute meetings where I ask questions and check your progress toward your goals. The principle here is: "Start stupid small." I want everyone to be able to begin to Mind the Gap between where you are and where you want to be. But the fee will adjust.
• ADJUSTING: For each month in which you cannot demonstrate that you have met your own personal goals, the basic fee automatically doubles. For example, if you failed to meet your goals for month one ($10), your fee for month two doubles to $20. The principle here is: Learn whether you are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. But the fee will also adjust down.
• ADJUSTING AGAIN: For each month in which you demonstrate that you have met your goals, the basic fee automatically drops by half. For example, if you had failed to meet your goals for three months in a row, the fee would double for each month - $10 (basic fee), then $20 (month two), then $40 (month three), then $80 (month four). But then if you met your own personal goals for the fourth month, your fifth month would automatically adjust down to $40 again. The principle here is: If you win, you win. And I do, too.
• CANCELATION: You can cancel your engagement with Mind the Gap at any time. If you wish to rejoin, we would enroll you at the fee level of your last month of service, and the adjusting fee structure continues to apply. The principle here is: None of us wins all the time. It's ok to try and fail. I want each of you to find the support you need to succeed.
• CAUTION: The intended gravity and effectiveness of the adjusting fee schedule works only if the student is paying his or her own fees for Mind the Gap services from his or her own pocket. Parents should avoid taking any financial responsibility for the students' financial obligations in these programs. The principle here is: Let your systems do their work.
• DONATION: Some are concerned that I would work for so little. To answer this concern, I have opened an option for donations to Mind the Gap Programs, so that you can offer whatever you think is a fair value beyond the fee structure outline above. No one should ever feel ANY obligation to donate.
Blessings, friends! - c
I started Mind the Gap for students and parents who are facing the daunting idea of committing to a path before you know you will succeed. Should I go to college? Should I help my daughter start a business? How do I know that we're ready for this next step, and the sobering investment?
Putting the question on the table in front of you is the essential first step. Look at it. Really - look hard.
I don't have the answer for you. But I can offer you the value of 20+ years of experience in higher education, and the lessons I've learned along the way about what characteristics have helped my students to succeed.
If I can come alongside you and your family, it would be a privilege. Thanks for reading! - c