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Communities that care: Educators and mentors play vital role for children

Educators and mentors motivate children in building personal responsibility, self-confidence and lifelong learning that will nurture a more positive and productive society.

Educators and mentors can achieve these things by encouraging children to be committed to an exciting journey of constant improvement as knowledgeable and empathetic human beings. As educators and mentors, we need to help create character in children by providing challenges modeling positive behavior and helping them build self-confidence.

Children need to feel valued and respected. Helping children build self-confidence is the key to giving them a positive self-worth and a strong identity. Educators, mentors and parents can be the difference maker in a child who is in danger of having a negative self-worth.

What can we do? Simple things such as knowing a child’s name and using it when we address them helps tremendously. Talk with children about their interests and favorite things. Ask them about their ideas. Talk to them as people and celebrate them. A high-five or a compliment for something specific the child has done goes a long way.

Educators and mentors should continue to challenge children with curriculum, activities and structure that helps them grow as students and as individuals. It is important to allow children to have access to a variety of creative and fun activities that will help them learn problem-solving skills, teamwork and self-sufficiency. Allow children to be part of the learning process. Ask them about their thoughts on difficult subjects, rules, routines and rewards.

Children appreciate boundaries and expectations. Appropriate behavior should be acknowledged and inappropriate behavior should have clear, consistent consequences.

Whether it is a specific task or a social situation, educators and mentors need to help children make positive choices. Completing tasks, meeting goals and solving problems gives children a sense of accomplishment.

Educators and mentors must model positive behavior for children. Children need to be a part of a community that makes them feel safe, loved and accepted. Often just simply being present and truly listening to a child makes all the difference in the world. Children often learn by imitation, so an adult who “lives” what he or she is trying to teach the child can make the strongest effect on the child’s development. Children need a positive and caring leader to guide them.

Educators and mentors play such a vital role in a child’s development. If educators focus on character building and constant lifelong learning, then children are given the adequate structure, support and challenges necessary to become exceptional and impact their school and community favorably.

For more information on mentoring, please visit www.mentoring.org, www.nea.org, www.pdesas.org, www.cdfc.org.

Erik Raymond Johnson is the school age director for the State College, Penns Valley and Bald Eagle Area for Child Development and Family Council of Centre County Inc. He is a certified K-12 educator, martial arts instructor and adjunct instructor at Penn State.

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