Friday, February 28, 2014

Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision

Lack of communication is one of the biggest complaints we have both personally and professionally.  Individuals, small enterprises and large businesses all face challenges with communication.  Part of this is because communication is hard work and is so much more than simply speaking or writing something for others to hear or read.

When we want to communicate clearly and precisely, it is important that we understand the Cycle of Communication.  You can see this cycle in the graphic below.
Communication begins when we have the need to share something, a feeling that we have something that others need to know.  We then work to translate that desire to share or “feeling” into words so we bring it to our brain to process.  Our brain puts words to those feelings and then our mouth speaks the words.  Most of us think that the words then go to another person’s ears, but rather those words go into a milieu of circumstances that we have little or no control over.  Actually once communication has left our mouth we have limited control over it.  Our communication leaves the pool of circumstances and then goes to another person’s ears which send them to the brain who translates them into a “feeling.”  No wonder communication is so difficult.  There are so many places for the communication to get twisted or lose meaning.

If we are to communicate with clarity and precision it is important to follow-up our communication with conversation and checking for understanding.  The question for us needs to be, “Is the message I meant to send the one they received and processed?”  It’s not about putting a spin on our communication, but really being sure the message was correctly received.

Consult 4 Kids has several staff development and training options that are available to staff 24/7/365.  This system affords you an opportunity to establish common language and understanding which creates a solid foundation for clear communication.  Check us out at or by contacting us at

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

What would our lives be like if we, like Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates, had to begin all over every day?  Can you imagine how many blisters you would have if you had to learn about the concept of “hot” every 24 hours?  And how would we know how to read, speak, write, cook or anything else?  Of course it was not that extreme for the Barrymore character, she had only just become frozen in time and from a single point could not remember anything that had occurred in the past 24 hours.  Even that condition would be severely limiting.  The ability to make connections is critical for each and every one of us. 
Helping youth to make those connections between the most current experience and something they have already learned or experienced is what allows us to progress, to think critically, and to be innovating and imagining.  When we apply past knowledge to a new situation it helps us to experience things more fully.  Whether it is something as simple as learning that a new shirt can go with a variety of shorts in our closet, or that Newton’s first Law explains how shooting a basketball can consistently end in 2 points, those connection points matter.Learning to predict outcomes helps life run more smoothly.

Consult 4 Kids has an amazing and comprehensive staff development program that helps afterschool professionals make the connections between how they interact with youth and the behaviors youth exhibit.  For more information go to our website at or contact us at  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Gather Data through All Your Senses

We use our senses—sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell—to experience the world.  These senses are what grounds us and allows us to observe and understand the world around us.  In our world today we rely heavily on sight and sound, yet the other three senses can add depth to our understanding.  Think about someone like Helen Keller who was denied both sight and hearing at a very early age and so experienced the world through touch, smell, and taste.  She learned to speak through words signed in her hand and in that way was able to participate in experiences which helped her learn.  When we use our senses we have firsthand knowledge of something rather than only vicarious opportunities to learn. 

Our senses help us to gather data—not right or wrong data simply data that we then classify in different ways.  For example I might describe the taste of calamari as yucky or chewy while someone else might describe it as delicious and spicy.  The data we collect through our senses connect us with past experience, and we connect with others when we try to share or communicate the information we have gathered with them. 

So how do we support youth in using their senses?  We certainly ask them about things they have seen and heard—this seems relatively effortless.  The third thing we ask is how something “feels,” although this usually refers to an emotion rather than a tactile experience.  We help youth to focus on smell and taste far less often.  When we guide youth in experiencing the world with wonderment and awe, maybe part of that experience is asking how things smell and taste.  Recently I was at a building that experienced a gas leak.  The people talked about the taste the gas left them with.  This is interesting and of course relevant since you couldn’t see, hear or touch the gas, and so they experienced it with taste. 

We need to help youth strengthen the use of all of their senses so they can fully experience the world around them and make observations that help them make connections. 

Do you need support with staff so they can help youth experience the world fully?  At Consult 4 Kids our first Sci-Gineering module focuses on using your senses to observe and then make those connections to prior knowledge.  Check out Sci-Gineering by going to our website at or contacting us at

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Creating, Imagining, and Innovating

Creating, imagining, and innovating are supported when we foster divergent thinking.  Divergent thinking is the ability to think “outside the box.”  It means that we value it when youth think for themselves instead of operating on the “lemming principle.”  There is a movie that came out in the 1989, Dead Poet’s Society.  In this movie the teacher encourages youth to seize the day.  In one scene the students are moving around with the exception of one who is standing very still.  The character states, “I’m exercising the right not to walk.”  In other words, he was exercising divergent thinking.  This is something we need to encourage.  Rather than the conformity mentality—everyone doing the same thing at the same time in the same way, let’s ask youth to create, imagine, and innovate.  Let’s ask questions like, “What are 15 things you could do with a brick?” or “What are 20 things you could make out of Legos other than a simple building?” or “What could you design and create with a 3 D printer?” or “How can hydroponics be a viable option for food production?” 

There are people out there asking and answering these questions.  They are people who don’t just see things like they are but ask, “How might this be different or better?”  We need to encourage youth to think in this way and ask those questions.  Our young people are facing a world that is yet to be invented and will change countless times during their adult lives.  Change is a fact of life. So let’s help youth learn to do something amazing with the intellect and imagination they have. 

Divergent thinkers see possibilities and opportunities.  They have a mindset that asks.”What’s going on here?” and “How can we make it better?”  They look to find a number of solutions to the challenges they encounter.  They imagine a time when this would work perfectly. They seldom think of things as one and done.  Ask yourself where would the auto industry be if Henry Ford’s Model T was still the only auto you could buy?  Or how informed would we be if you could still only get one channel on your TV, and that one was only live from 6:00-8:00 at night?  Or…you fill in the blanks.  Divergent thinking broadens horizons and helps us all to see the world differently.

Check us out at and see how you may participate in a growing company in ways you have never considered.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Responding with Wonderment and Awe

When did you experience your most recent “WOW” moment?  You know, when you were absolutely blown away by what was happening.  In fact, you were so pleasantly surprised it nearly took your breath away.  I can tell you when it was for me.  During the winter school break I was flicking through the channels—looking for something to watch that would be relaxing rather than stimulating.  I tuned in to the Irvine School District channel and began to watch the broadcast of its vocal and instrumental music concerts.  I can truly say I was AMAZED.  I’ve worked with youth in choruses before, but never was I able to help elementary-age youth sing in 5 part harmony.  Nor did we participate with an orchestra of peers.  The musicianship of those young people, elementary through high school was indeed impressive.  I’ve watched the show several times—and each time I feel the same way.  It reminds me of the way I felt at the end of Mr. Holland’s Opus when his past and present students unite to play his symphony.  WOW!

Young people need to understand that not only are they amazing, but they live in amazing times.  A hundred years ago no one would have thought it possible for men to walk on the moon, or to communicate almost instantly with others around the world through something called a “web,” and certainly we wouldn’t have thought that Los Angeles would have become a sprawling city.  The list goes on and on.  Have we even considered the difference between a record, a CD, and downloading from iTunes and saving music to the cloud!

We need to see the miracle of life and transformation, and we need to help youth see it as well.  Whether a caterpillar is turning into a butterfly, a tadpole into a frog, or a child transforming into an absolutely amazing adult, let’s stop, take a breath, and celebrate the world and its wonders.  This attitude of wonderment and awe can only serve to prepare us for a brighter future filled with learning and opportunities. 

On our Consult 4 Kids website each month we spotlight youth and the amazing things they think and do.  Check us out at and click on Student Chatter. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Taking Responsible Risk

Responsible risk—the phrase almost seems like an oxymoron.  How is it possible to be both responsible and still take a risk? This seems like “a disconnect” to us. Our behavior tends to fall in one of two categories:  “at risk” or “safe.”  Some of us are so “risk adverse” that even when opportunity is knocking on our door we can’t answer. 

Let’s think about some people who have taken responsible risks.  Certainly Steve Jobs did.  He knew that he wanted to combine form and function.  He knew that the sleekness and beauty of his highly functional products was as important as the work that those pieces of equipment could do.  He made downloading music simple.  He improved on a PDA with the smart phone, and he captured the intuitiveness within people with his touch screens and easy-to-use products. 

Where would we be without Facebook?  What if Mark Zuckerberg had not taken a responsible risk and figured out how to connect students at a university.  He continues to take these responsible risks and works to make Facebook safe for everyone.  And then there is Reed Hastings who got together with several of his friends to create Netflix when he was charged a late fee on a video rental return.  And then, much to the surprise of everyone, he abandoned his business model (you remember, red envelopes in the mail) and figured out how to bring you movies through web-based services. 

All of these things were risky, but because they had thought things through, investigated and tried things out, the risks they took were responsible ones.  Learning—stepping outside of your comfort zones—requires youth and adults to take responsible risk.  In this way they stand to gain amazing success.  Responsible risk is the ultimate “I intend” level of initiative which says to the world, this is what I intend to do and then sets about to make it happen.  Certainly when you take responsible risk you are not guaranteed success—but you are exercising your entrepreneurial spirit and your chance of success is increased.

If you are interested in becoming part of a company who has been engaged in taking responsible risks for the past few years, go to our website at and click on the “Start Here” icon and find out how you can become part of the team.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Finding Humor

Why is it that shows like The Big Bang Theory and Mike and Molly are so funny to us?  I think it is because Chuck Lorre has found the humor in things that are “normal” and we all understand.  We all know a Sheldon or a Leonard.  We can empathize with a Mike and Molly and the challenges they face.  Sure, the situations are often in the extreme, but we can laugh at them because in reality we are also laughing at ourselves.  And of course it is easier to laugh when you are grateful that you are at least not like them to the ultimate degree or you are not living the exact scenarios they are living.  Shows like this explore the part of us that we don’t look at too closely, and when we do, laughing and humor make it easier to admit.

So why is it that we can’t find the humor in the mistakes we make?  Not the serious, dangerous mistakes, but the day to day mistakes, or misunderstandings, or missteps—why is it that we see those things as such high stake events?  Humor can help us through the toughest of times.  The old saying, “Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone” is truthful.  Finding humor is a skill and one we often find too risky, too cumbersome, and too overwhelming.  I’ve asked young people this question before, “What does it mean if you get an ‘F’ on a test?”  Without exception they have told me it means they are a failure and probably stupid and that they will never be successful, and the spiral down goes on.  When I stop them and say, “No, it doesn’t mean any of that.  It means you got an ‘F’ on a test.  So what can you do about it to see to it that next time the results are different?”  Not that you want youth to take failing a test lightly, but it also isn’t the end of the world and there is an opportunity to make changes.  There is another saying that proclaims “Inch by inch is a cinch.” When we find humor along the way, we can see the wisdom in this. 

Certainly humor can result from irony.  Other humor can be self-deprecating.  But the best humor is when we don’t take ourselves so seriously that we cannot allow ourselves to learn and in the learning, make mistakes.  So let’s lighten up and laugh at ourselves when that’s what we need to do, and in the process, give youth the permission to lighten up on themselves as well.

Consult 4 Kids has several videos that relate to forgiving ourselves when we make a mistake.  Check us out at or by contacting us directly at

Monday, February 10, 2014

Thinking Interdependently

Thinking interdependently is another way of speaking of team work and collaboration.  If you’re familiar with Stephen Covey and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you know that the entire program is built on the transition of people from dependent to independent to interdependent.  Covey, like most of us, knew that there is a real advantage of the “great minds” notion.  When we are working together, we drive each other forward to thinking differently and stretching ourselves.  There is an old adage that says, “Many hands make hard work light.” Evidence of this can be found throughout history and our daily lives.  I was recently thinking about Apollo 13 which could have ended in tragic death for the astronauts on board.  Yet the team on the ground and the team in the capsule went to work to resolve the problem facing the crew, and amazingly, came up with a solution.  Chances are that if one person would have been working alone, in a vacuum or a silo, the results would not have been successful.

As we move into the 21st Century, it is important that we understand the value of team.  Team is when the whole far exceeds the capacity of a single individual.  In a high functioning team, the weaknesses of one member are supported by the strengths of another so that together the fiber of the team and the work they accomplish is exemplary.  Working and thinking interdependently changes things exponentially.  In many businesses this sort of interdependence is produced in the virtual world, yet still, the value of the team is evident.  So let’s teach youth to collaborate.  Let’s spend time building teams so youth are comfortable in that setting.  Let’s lead the way in helping all youth develop this critical 21st Century work place skill.

At Consult 4 Kids we’re here to help.  We have over 400 training videos and several of them speak specifically to the importance of teamwork and building and bonding as a unit.  Check out our website at or by emailing us at

Friday, February 7, 2014

Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

If you were to read Angeles Arrien’s book, The Four Fold Way, she references remaining open to continuous learning by saying, “be open to outcome not attached to it.”  You can learn more about this notion by checking out this "Ted Talk" or reading the book.  We believe that being open to continuous learning is another way of saying, “Stay up-to-date and practice Current Best Thinking.”  In this strategy you make a decision, but you are always open to changing that decision as you learn something new that adds a different spin or context to the decision.  When you are open to outcome, or open to continuous learning, or practice current best thinking (all very similar to us), what you are really saying is that you believe in learning and that everyone can learn something new.  You would not subscribe to the adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  You would, on the other hand, believe that learning can be done by everyone who is willing to find a different way and to change a habit.
Sometimes the challenge seems to be in how we describe the act of being open to continuous learning.  When we speak about being willing to “get better” there is an implication that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.  That makes sense.  So what if we used the word “strengthen” and talked about strengthening the good work that you are already doing.  Would this make the idea of remaining open to continuous learning feel like a position of proactive persistence rather than reacting to a new point of view? 

When you are open to continuous learning, it is also important to know what works or fits, and what doesn’t work or fit.  If something doesn’t work, then you have the opportunity to try something new.  Remember, Thomas Edison made over 10,000 light bulbs that didn’t work and yet remained open to continuous learning and stated, “I simply know 10,000 ways not to build a light bulb.”

Consult 4 Kids is all about presenting people with opportunities to be open to continuous learning.  We have a Virtual Education staff development system that will plug afterschool professionals into written and video training, 24/7/365.  Visit our website at or email us at  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Holistic Look at Wellness

Wellness certainly is physical activity, but it is also nutrition education, developing conflict resolution strategies (including ways to stopping bullying) and character and leadership development.  If we focus only on one aspect of wellness we are failing to look at the “whole child”, body, heart, mind and spirit.  Wellness is about being well in every arena.  All of our systems are interconnected and when we work on one aspect of our lives we are at least indirectly working on others, and when we do this with youth, we are helping them to find harmonic balance. 

For an overview of healthy living check out C4K’s Healthy Living Mini by clicking on this link:    We also have videos about Physical Activity including a video with this title by Isaac Buentello. and an overview of free Nutrition Education Materials by clicking on this link   To support conflict resolution solutions and character education, C4K also has plans in Lesson Plans made EZ that have over 80 lesson plans for Conflict Resolution and Character Education.  You can check these out by clicking on this link .
This year let’s focus on supporting wellness holistically. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What Is Important About the Habits of the Mind?

You may be asking yourself,” What is this hubbub about Habits of the Mind?”  Why are they important?  When you look at the information about jobs, 5-10-15 years from now, you’ve heard that many of the jobs haven’t even been invented yet.  There is also information that states that by the time a college student finishes his/her junior year, over 1/3 of what was learned in the first three years will be obsolete.  This is staggering.  And if it’s true, and I don’t doubt that it is, preparing youth with specific content that will no longer be relevant isn’t an answer for the 21st Century Work Place.  That’s where the Habits of Mind come in.  If we intentionally work on the Habits of the Mind—using the content we currently have as “practice” fuel, then we can address both the present and the future. 

In the old model of education, America benefitted because we needed workers in a factory who had information and knowledge, but we really didn’t expect them to think deeply and resolve workplace problems.  Early on young people were divided into those who were academically gifted (in other words they thrived in the world of the classroom) and those who needed to receive vocational training.  These folks certainly needed a basic reading, writing, and arithmetic education, but we didn’t believe we needed to focus on collaboration, creativity, communication skills, global citizenship, and critical thinking.  However business is telling us that this sort of education is not what is needed in the current market place.  They need us to transition to the 5 Cs (listed above) and help youth acquire what some identify as the “soft skills” but are really the keys to success in the future.

Like any learning, the way you become proficient is to “exercise those muscles.”  If we want youth to be proficient at collaboration, we have to give them plenty of opportunities to work together.  If we want youth to communicate clearly and precisely, we need to provide them with opportunities to speak more than 90 seconds a day (the average amount of time English Learners speak during the school day.)  You get the point. You learn to be creative, practice global citizenship and dig deeply into critical thinking when you are given the opportunity to practice, and this is in line with afterschool and our enrichment, project-based learning, and youth development approach.

Consult 4 Kids is prepared to help youth workers and youth-serving organizations transition to supporting Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, and learning that is focused on also mastering the Habits of the Mind.  Check out our comprehensive staff development at