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At 3:59pm on November 30, 2009, Maria Murphy said…
Be a Progress Minder!

By Maria Murphy

My kids and I have this running joke. It goes something like this. “Mom, when you were a kid, did you have cars?” Please note that each of these questions is followed by a giggle. My response of course goes something like this. “Absolutely not. We didn’t even have houses.” “ Mom, when you were a kid, did you have refrigerators?” “ No, honey. We collected berries in the woods every day.” Now, if I am feeling like I am on my mark, I will add some education to our game. That would go like this. “By the way, your great grandparents were the first generation to have refrigerators. “ It is a fun little game we play, but it’s strange. Once we reach a point, we can quickly forget what things were like before that.

That is also true of our kids and their progress. Most kids don’t sit in their rooms at night reveling in how they finally mastered subtraction. They just move on. The problem with not paying heed to our progress? It is easier to get disheartened.

One quick way to fix that is to be your kid’s progress minder. Bring them back every now and then and remind them of their accomplishments. “Johnnie, remember how hard it was to memorize those multiplication tables? Look at you now. You totally have it down. Amazing.”

Whenever my daughter is scared, I remind her of the time she broke her arm and had to walk across a playground to get an adult to help her. I remind her of the strength. That story is now a part of her lore, her identity.

Look at your child and make a point of reminding them of their accomplishments. It will only take a few minutes, but it will help them keep their chins up when the going gets tough and will remind you as well the amazing amount of growth and development our children are capable of each and every day.

Read more at www.simplyputtogether.com
At 9:11am on November 1, 2009, Maria Murphy said…
What a Difference a Stroll Can Make

By Maria Murphy

We were visiting family a few months ago and my uncle did something that might seem a little strange. He told me he wanted to take me to the local college and show me the campus. It was about nine at night, I was a bit tired and we would have to leave the party atmosphere of my family. Think TV on, a permanent food buffet on the kitchen counter, kids running around, and a combination of debate and laughter pouring out at the kitchen table.
But I could tell it was important to him, and I was game for something different. My uncle was a prison warden and a professor before his heart transplant took him out of circulation. A passion for learning is something we have always shared.
We arrived on campus. It was a beautiful night, the type of night when you can feel summer slipping into fall. The campus was stunning, full of brick buildings, giant trees and surrounding mountains. We wandered around the campus as we talked. People were playing tennis with the beams of artificial light guiding their strokes. Enclaves of 20 year olds sat outside at tables and benches, laughing and chatting. As I watched them, I couldn’t help but see myself at that age, thrilled about my new world and what would come next.
Our time together on that walk was a sensory smorgasbord. Between the breeze, the memories of being a college student, the visual treat of a beautiful campus, the scent of a late summer night, and our conversation, I began to feel a fullness I hadn’t felt in some time. My uncle was enriching me. He was showing me something he and I both valued.
What I didn’t expect was the aftermath. The days I have escaped to that campus in my mind since we left. I have inadvertently gone back so many times. I can feel the breeze and the memory of my conversation with my uncle as if it were yesterday. How wonderful.
My uncle has always been a mentor of sorts for me. Teasing relentlessly about going to college until doing anything thing but seemed absurd, debating with me over the years making sure I was using my mind, teaching me that smart doesn’t have to be mean. He is one of the people that helped me become the person I am today. Those 45 minutes he took with me on that campus a while ago has lasted months in my heart. Why?
It was a different way to mentor. He shared something he was passionate about, something he knew I would appreciate. He took the time to be alone with me, to walk and enjoy a beautiful and meaningful setting. As mentors, parents, teachers, we can easily lose our way and forget the impact of simplicity, the importance of reaching out to make the moment meaningful. In the case of my uncle, it was just stopping the world for a moment and enjoying what we both love. But there are a million ways create meaning in the mentoring relationship. Take a look at those you mentor and consider what simple acts you can do to make the moment matter. My uncle Bill did and it has made all the difference.

Learn more about Maria Murphy at www.simplyputtogether.com.
At 2:11pm on October 2, 2009, Maria Murphy said…
Don't, don't, don't?

By Maria Murphy

Good lord, we all know that one, don’t we? I was reading an article recently about what rules are recommended to be posted in a classroom. The author said it is a lot easier to summarize the things we expect from kids rather than producing a litany of “no’s.”

Allow me an example.

No hitting. No pushing. No yelling. No stealing. Vs. Be respectful.
The author recommended no more than 3 positive “rules” for kids to live by in the classroom. But that got me to thinking. As mentors, just having a couple of “rules” for the mentoring relationship, for life even, makes sense.
What happens if in the mentoring relationship, we offer the kids we work with some basic guidelines based on how we live our lives? What if during conversation your student admits to sassing a teacher? And what if you say, “Johnnie, respecting others is a rule I try to live by. You might want to think about it. It works.” It feels better than “sassing is wrong, you shouldn’t do that.”

Or here’s another one. Your student just doesn’t feel like trying. “Sometimes I don’t want to try either, but no matter what happens in the end, if I have done my best, I can always feel good about myself. Let’s stick with it and get this done.” Doesn’t that sound better than “you’re not going to get a good grade if you don’t put out more effort?”

What if, just like in the classroom, we show the kids we work with one or two universal “rules” that we expect from them? What if we forget all the things we don’t want and instead, help shape them with universal rules to live by? Sounds good to me.

Consider this as you work with your student in the days to come. So many good behaviors can be shaped with some simple universal rules. Plus, when we share universal rules like compassion and hard work, the reward is in the behavior, not the outcome. That is something your student can have with them always, no matter what twists and turns life sends their way. Here are a few examples to consider.

Always do your best.

Be respectful to self and others.

Be kind to self and others.

Oh, and don’t forget, you can talk about all the positive rules in the world, but if you want to give your student a mentoring one-two-punch, make sure you tell them the rule and see you living it!

Have fun with your students and remember to believe in the power of your every contribution!

Get free tips for your organization every month when you join my free mailing list. Go to http://www.simplyputtogether.com to sign up.

Maria Murphy writes a monthly Tutor/Mentor Coaching Tip for this site and has been a presenter for Cabrini Connection’s Tutor/Mentor Conference. She is a speaker, consultant and writer.
At 12:06pm on June 1, 2009, Cathy Puett Miller said…

I love what you are doing for tutors. I too believe in the power of "lay people" to influence learning.
At 9:22am on April 7, 2009, Daniel Bassill said…
Thanks Maria for sharing your ideas with us. I hope that others will join in as the community expands.
At 9:03am on April 7, 2009, Maria Murphy said…
Here is my Mentoring column for the month!



Mentor Censor

By Maria Murphy

We are there to help these kids, right? So, it is natural that we have to talk about their progress, their milestones and their barriers. True. Very true. But how we talk about our kids is very important. Sometimes we (this means me) forget about something important.


You know what I am talking about here. Little Jonny is standing next to you and the teacher is telling you how he was acting out in class and you are nodding and then you add that he was struggling to pay attention last week when you were together. Of course, neither of you notice the other student walking by or the kids seated at their desks with their ears subtly pointed in your direction.

Well, I have been there. Been there with my students and with my own children. It’s not easy to censor ourselves when it comes to kids. We want to help them, this is true, but we can forget their own need for privacy and dignity. Yet, let’s face it; each and every one of us remembers what it felt like when adults did it to us. We aren’t being malicious, just a bit thoughtless, really.
What to do?

Here are a couple of tools to help you protect your student’s privacy and dignity.

• Consider who is in earshot whenever discussing your student.
• Consider if the information being shared is appropriate for the student to hear.
• Always have an alternative location in mind for chatting. If someone approaches you about your student, guide them to the private area.
• Have an exit plan. If someone is talking about your student or another inappropriately, have a way out. “I was just running to catch someone. I’ll speak with you later.”
• Assert yourself. “This isn’t the right spot to talk.”
• Speak openly to others about the need to reinforce confidentiality.

Sometimes we mentors just need to remind ourselves to censor our well meaning dialogue about the students we care so much about. See what happens when you develop a mindset of censoring and only discuss your student in an environment that affords privacy and dignity.

Have a great month and believe in the power of your every contribution!
At 6:22am on January 13, 2009, Maria Murphy said…
Developing Accountability

By Maria Murphy

One of the scariest things we see these days is the lack of personal accountability in the world. The now common phrase, “not my job” has become a deeply rooted cultural dynamic. How does that impact and shape today’s youth? Well, we can’t say it’s a good thing. Every day, we see how lack of accountability weakens the foundation of our cultural strength. How can a mentor help their student be different? Take a look for some ideas.

Accountability = Power

Lack of accountability is nothing more than thinly veiled apathy and helplessness. Accountability, on the other hand, is closely linked to a sense of empowerment and personal control. When someone takes accountability that person is not afraid to "own" their responsibilities. When we teach kids to be accountable, we teach them to harness their own sense of power. This promotes personal wellbeing, improves mood and helps both individuals and the community as a whole.

Do as I Do

As mentors, we have the ability to influence the kids we help. To teach accountability, we must live it. This is simple. Use whatever opportunity you have to demonstrate your accountability. “I promised I would be here today and I am accountable for that.” “It is my job to help you with math and I can’t answer that question. Its my responsibility to learn how to do it and show you next time we meet.” Using the term, interpreting it, and practicing it with your student is the surest way to teach them accountability.

Shape an expectation

There is a saying that kids will give you what you expect of them. What happens when you begin to “shape” your student toward accountability? Shaping is not dramatic change. Rather, a slow evolution. Remember, with that accountability comes a personal sense of power, one of the best gifts we can give to our kids. What happens when you begin to shape your student toward accountability? Here is an example. “You are accountable to bring your reading. That is what I expect of you.” You begin to move your student away from excuses and patterns of helplessness and toward empowerment and accountability. Slowly work your student in the direction of being more accountable. This is merely making them aware of the terminology, letting them know what you expect and encouraging any signs of accountability you see in your student. If you look carefully enough, you will see plenty! Remember, the fact that they are meeting with you is an enormous example of being accountable.

Consider your own power as a mentor to impact and shape the skills of your students. Accountability is an achievable goal when you acknowledge it, practice it and encourage and expect it in your student.

Good luck and remember the power of your every contribution!

Maria Murphy writes a monthly Tutor/Mentor Coaching Tip for Tutor/ Mentor Connection and has been a presenter for Cabrini Connection’s Tutor/Mentor Conference. She is a speaker, consultant and writer. Other articles can be found on her mentoring blog, http://www.mentoringsimplyput.blogspot.com or her blog column at http://www.simplypputtogether.com.
At 6:19am on January 13, 2009, Maria Murphy said…
Play it straight with your student

By Maria Murphy

In mentoring, it is so important to be caring and consistent and kind. But what happens when your student is running the show? What happens when your student is oppositional or boundary-less? How do we help our kids when they don’t understand boundaries like the rest of us? This is not an easy task. Anytime we have to balance between two behaviors we are going to be challenged. Keeping warmth and rapport going while we are keeping our kids working and cooperative is tricky at best.

Why should we set limits and stand up to our students? Well, for starters, most of us don’t do very well when we don’t play by life’s rules. And cooperation with and respect for others is one of those rules most of us need to make things work. So, teaching our students the ropes just makes sense. Not to mention, if we don’t have our mentoring relationship under “control,” we can limit how much we are helping our students.

Here are some simple ways to help you keep your student on track when you need.

1. Prevention. One of the best disciplinary tools is prevention. The best way you can prevent things from getting out of control with your student is to know them and to be alert to what is happening. Every parent knows what I mean. A fight might be brewing between siblings. Knowing your child’s triggers and the signs that things are falling apart can prevent a complete meltdown. Same in mentoring. Is your student “off” today? Is he or she getting riled up while you are talking with another adult? Know your student and pay attention to the surroundings. So many issues can be alleviated before they start if we pay attention.

2. The magic word. “I” is the magic word. In communication, we know that saying, “you, you , you” just turns people off. Same with kids. When you speak to your student using “I” statements, you open them up a bit. Saying “I need you to pay attention now” just works better than saying “You need to listen.” Try it. It works like magic.

3. Eye contact. Yes or no? This is a great question and my answer is both. Sometimes you just have to look a kid in the eyes and say it. But other times, when it feels like a power struggle, saying “I need you to….” and then averting your eyes in the assumption the child is carrying out the task works in avoiding a power struggle. Use your judgment based on your student and the situation.

4. Body language. Show you are serious. Keep your body pointed to your student and make them aware you are attending to them. I prefer arms open to the classic arms folded across chest. Turning toward your student shows them two things. You are paying attention, caring enough about them and that you mean business.

Try these simple tools for keeping your student on track. Do you have issues or concerns with your student? Email me here and I can respond to your questions!

Have a great week and remember the power of your every contribution! For more info on mentoring, check out my new blog, http//mentoringsimplyput.blogspot.com.

Maria Murphy writes a monthly Tutor/Mentor Coaching Tip for Tutor/ Mentor Connection and has been a presenter for Cabrini Connection’s Tutor/Mentor Conference. She is a speaker, consultant and writer. Other articles can be found on her blog column at http//www.simplypputtogether.blogspot.com.
At 8:43pm on November 6, 2008, Maria Murphy said…
November Mentoring Tip - Compass Help

This weekend I was explaining to my daughter the concept of a compass and how it works. But she was really struggling to understand. I gave her the example of, “If I want to find my house….” And she said, but HOW does the compass know where your house is? Silly me. I had left out the most important part of the explanation. I had left out the fact that the compass was a tool that could take me to my house, not just to my house, but east to my house. Now she got it. In order for the compass to help, we had to know not just where we wanted to go, but the direction we wanted to take to get there. The compass is nothing more than a tool we use to help us get where we want to go.

Well, that got me to thinking. As mentors, we have so many tools and can always learn more to help us help our kids. But where do we want to go with our kids and where do they want to go? I mean, our tools can point us, but how far can we take it without knowing where we want to go? Dan Bassill speaks of the importance of kids having goals that take them into their twenties. I certainly have worked with enough kids that didn’t expect to live that long. Yet, when we start to talk with kids about long term goals, we begin to open up the door to the possibility of having a future, a future they can create.

How do we do this? One way we teach our kids to look to the future is to live by example. When appropriate, share stories of your goals, both past and present. Children and teens can be inspired by our dreams and our stories of triumph. Not all of my stories are winners, I admit. But my lesson? It is better to try and know if something will work than to never try at all. Our kids can reap the benefit our stories.

Another strategy is to break in to your student’s mindset and start to teach them the process of looking toward where they want to go. When I was a kid, I heard a million times, from relatives, teachers, family friends, “Maria, what do you want to be when you grow up?” “Maria, which college will you go to?” Growing up not too far from West Point Military Academy, I had an uncle that would always tease, “So, Maria, when are you applying to West Point?” Now military school was not for me……but oh, the power of those words. West Point? Well, yes I could do that. College? Of course. It was a matter of fact. Not all those people were family. I had some teachers in my life that stared me down and told me to work hard and let me know what they could see for me in my future. That miss-matched group of people, from people who told me to learn from their mistakes, to people who were scholars, to religious leaders; I give each and every one of them a bit of credit for my success. Their challenge to me, to look in the distance to where I wanted to go, allowed me to pick up that compass and start moving.

In the days to come, look at your relationship with your student and reach out to them. Make their future part of your ongoing discussions. Like me, your student may someday carry your words with them as they pick up their own compass and journey to their future.

Maria Murphy writes a monthly Tutor/Mentor Coaching Tip for Tutor/Mentor Connection and has been a presenter for Cabrini Connection’s Tutor/Mentor Conference. She is a speaker, consultant and writer. Other mentoring articles can be found on her new blog at Mentoring Simply Put.
At 7:46pm on October 1, 2008, Maria Murphy said…
Press Release for Maria Murphy's New Book, Simply Put Together

This book can be used for fundraising for non-profit agencies via the Associates Program.

For Immediate Release

A woman on a mission: Changing the world one yearly planner at a time

As a psychotherapist and facilitator, Maria Murphy has listened, guided and gently prodded 100’s of individuals who sought change …both in their personal and working lives.

After 15 years she decided to put her philosophy for change to paper. For her, the answer was not writing a self-help book. Too many of her patients had those on the coffee stand unread. Instead, she took an unlikely vehicle of change. A journal/planner called Simply Put Together. What better way to actually read a self-help book than to incorporate it into something a busy person uses every day? Plus, in these difficult economic times, buying one book that is a planner, organizer and enrichment book all in one is both inspirational and a smart buy. It’s heavy on function, self-reflection and Maria’s 5 minute tips and exercises that result in desired long term changes. It’s based on Maria’s 7 Steps of Simplicity, steps she believes are critical for personal and working fulfillment.

There’s one more change Maria is seeking and that’s to sell more books non-traditionally. She sells through her web site at www.simplyputtogether.com, in book and gift stores. But this year she has initiated a work at home associate program that involves individuals who run their own cottage businesses. “It’s a great empowerment tool and I like the idea of sharing profit’s with people selling my product, instead of anonymous wholesalers. I like that I am publishing right here in the US, instead of printing out of the country. It’s just one way to make a difference.” Doing something different that feels right is one thing that rejuvenates the spirit and gives us balance.

For more information on purchasing, the Associates Program or signing up for her unique 60 second weekly e-letter, go to www.simplyputtogether.com. To reach her by phone, 708.574.1201.
At 7:42pm on October 1, 2008, Maria Murphy said…
October Mentoring Tip

The Study Hygiene Replay

By Maria Murphy

Whenever I teach a class on sleep, we talk about “sleep hygiene,” or the habits we can create to prevent sleep disturbances. One of the things we know about human behavior is that we learn from repetition. Habits, good and bad, can change our lives. The same goes for the kids we are working with. A few key Study Hygiene habits can help our students really thrive now and in years to come.

Before I get into these easy to remember habits, one thing all tutors should remind themselves is the incredible power of repetition. If we decide to campaign with our students and share these habits with them every week, we will begin to make inroads. Most of us can recollect the 10 million times we were told by our own parents to, “do your homework,” “put your laundry away,”etc. Learning is usually not a switch, but a slow process and one of the jobs of parents and mentors is to stick with it till it’s stuck with our kids.


The Replay is a simple tool in which you repeat things over and over. It is so important for kids to learn what “study hygiene” means. And the best way for them to learn is to have the people who care about them replaying it over and over for them. I recommend you go over “study hygiene” with your student every week, until the eye rolling becomes unbearable and they can replay all the facts to you before you can get your words out. Okay, that said, here are the key study hygiene habits.


Studies have pointed out repeatedly the impact of breakfast on student performance and testing. Remind your student to have breakfast and the importance of protein. A glass of milk in the morning is associated with higher test scores with students. (Don’t forget to check for food restrictions or allergies, though.) Regardless, a bucket of sugar is not the goal here. Most kids that don’t have breakfast available at home have access through the school system.

After school snack coupled with homework

This is two hygiene tips in one. Most kids are hungry after school and a bit depleted. A healthy snack will give another energy boost. Do homework after school! Retention is best the quicker we revisit something. Kids can have a snack (this is a great time to add in a second glass of milk) and knock off homework while it is fresh. This is pragmatically good hygiene because energy fades as the day goes on and it’s also emotionally good study hygiene. Instead of homework “hovering” over a child’s head, they are free for the rest of the night. Never underestimate the power of finished tasks on the confidence and emotional strength of your student!


Getting enough sleep makes us all function better. When you encourage your student to get to bed on time, you are planting seeds for them to build better habits.

Try it. Replay the 3 Study Hygiene habits for your student. Remind them week after week. Let them complain and whine and then tell them that you care and that is why you keep saying it. Use that minute or so of time to educate and encourage your student to make their way to a decent breakfast or an earlier night or homework after school. Remember the power of your every contribution!

Please feel free to go to http://tutormentorconnection.com to discuss this article.
Maria Murphy writes a monthly Tutor/Mentor Coaching Tip for this site and has been a presenter for Cabrini Connection’s Tutor/Mentor Conference. She is a speaker, consultant and writer. Other mentoring articles can be found on her blog column at http://www.simplyputtogether.com .
At 8:39am on September 15, 2008, Maria Murphy said…
September Mentoring Tip - Promises Kept

By Maria Murphy

“Promise little and do much.” Hebrew Proverb

I have to say, when I read this quote; I had to laugh at myself, at how easy it is to break a promise. It seems so hard to keep to my word. I mean well when I make a promise, but it is easy to let it fall to the wayside. Promises are much easier made than kept. But, all joking aside, what happens when we break a promise to a child?

There is nothing like a kept promise to build a relationship with our students, or a broken one to chip away at it. The number one rule of mentoring is to keep your promises, yet, it is so easy to break them. Why does that happen and how can we make it different?

The worst offender here is over-committing. Sometimes we over-commit because we don’t know how to say no, or we want to please or win over our student, or we just aren’t thinking about the reality of the obligation.

The consequences of over-promising are not pleasant. It feels like we are left with either letting someone down by failing to keep our commitment or stuck with the sense of frustration, pressure and angst we feel when we have to carry out those promises we wish we never made in the first place! This is definitely a no-win situation. But, what to do?

The key here is to learn to promise less. The benefits to ourselves and the kids we work with are endless, from increasing trust to reducing the pressure we feel after over-promising.

Try these simple tools to make keeping promises work for you and your student!


Assess your Achilles ‘heel. Know the places, people and situations where you tend to over promise. This includes pressure you may give yourself. Be aware of your own triggers. Are you prone to say yes every time someone asks you to give more? Know it!

Assess the situation. Ask yourself these important questions: Do I know what this entails? Am I able to do this? Do I want to do this? Will I do this? (And be honest!)


Buy time. If you aren’t sure, buy yourself time. Use one of the following statements. "I will let you know next week during our study time." (This gives you time to prevent impulsively saying yes.) One simple line will allow you to take the time you need.

Know how to say “no.” If saying “no” is the right thing, then that’s what you should say. It’s okay to refuse. You’d be surprised how many kids will respect a confident “no.” For example, “I am sorry. I wish I could see you twice this week, but I can’t.”

Remember, promising less allows us to do more! Have a wonderful month and remember the value in your every contribution!

Please feel free to go to http://tutormentorconnection.com to discuss this article.

Maria Murphy writes a monthly Tutor/Mentor Coaching Tip for this site and has been a presenter for Cabrini Connection’s Tutor/Mentor Conference. She is a speaker, consultant and writer. Other mentoring articles can be found on her blog column at http://www.simplyputtogether.com .
At 3:01pm on August 4, 2008, Maria Murphy said…
August Mentoring Tip of the Month

Slow Dowwwwwnn……..

Maria Murphy

Hi everyone! Here is my August Mentor Tip. Enjoy and pass it on. Got a tip or tool that works with the kids you are helping? Share it here!

One of the best gifts we can give the kids we are working with is teaching impulse control. Allow me to explain. Just the other day, I was watching an old episode of Family Feud. Yes, it is still on and please don’t ask why I was watching. But here’s the thing. This family member shouted out the answer before the question was finished. Sadly, she gave the wrong answer because she didn’t hear the whole question. The other team got the chance to have their turn and took the victory.

What do teachers complain about with their students? Issues like racing through tests, not reading the question correctly or even not checking work are high on the list. But what’s a mentor to do?

Let’s think about this. Slow down. Listen to the problem. Take your time to deal with it. Check your work. Forget algebra! That sounds like a good idea in any situation. Here is a quick and easy tool to help you help your student get there!


S – Stop. Stop and recognize that you need to pay attention to the problem at hand.

L – Listen. Listen to the problem. Read or look at it carefully and figure out what it is asking you.

O- Options. What are your options? Pick the best choice. Always remember to cross off the crazy choices right away. They are not worth your energy!

W- Workwise. Be wise about your work. Always check your work for any errors or misunderstandings.

We can teach our kids these tools as we work side-by-side with them. We can teach them by example, by talking them through SLOW or even writing it down. If we can get our kids to grab onto these tools, they will have great strategies to use in the classroom, with homework and with life decisions.

Have fun and remember to believe in your every contribution!

Please feel free to go to http://tutormentorconnection.com to discuss this article.
Maria Murphy writes a monthly Tutor/Mentor Coaching Tip for Tutor/Mentor Connection and has been a presenter for Cabrini Connection’s Tutor/Mentor Conference. She is a speaker, consultant and writer. Other mentoring articles can be found on her blog column at http://www.simplyputtogether.com.
At 10:22am on May 1, 2008, Maria Murphy said…
Hi everyone!

Here is my May Tutor Mentor Tip. Hope all are well and continuing to enjoy the incredible work that you do!


May Tutor/Mentor Tip:

Mentor Rap?

By Maria Murphy

“Break it down” - MC Hammer

For anyone who knows who MC Hammer is, you may be wondering why one of the first mainstream rap singer’s lyrics are in an article about mentoring and tutoring kids. Good question. But I have to say, that the words, “break it down,” from Hammer’s famous “You can’t touch this,” keep reverberating in my ears.

Lyric lore claims the phrase means either, to dance wildly, or break down the dance steps. Either way, the words do stick. And, I believe, they are relevant to mentoring. I have been thinking about barriers to kids and teens. There are two enormous barriers to their success listed below, for both of which I think MC Hammer can offer a bit of guidance
Not understanding the task at hand.
It’s so easy for us to assume kids know all the steps it takes to complete a task. But multiplication, for instance, is not that simple. It’s remembering how to stack the numbers and which side to start multiplying from and when to add. It’s several very different and seemingly unrelated steps. Let’s face it, even a simple task like making your bed is many steps attached together. Without direction, a bit of demonstration and follow up, even a bed can end up looking kind of tragic. Watch your student carefully and assess if they know the steps they need. Be careful not to assume. Kids are good fakers. They are aware of what they “should” know and many have learned to survive by covering up. By evaluating what they know, you see exactly what their needs may be.

Feeling overwhelmed.
Some kids may have the skill set to perform tasks, but emotionally are blocked because of being overwhelmed. Appraise the situation. Observe their capability and proficiency and measure it against actual performance. As adults, we know the impact that being overwhelmed can have on our productivity. Even when we know how to do something, feeling overwhelmed can stop us in our tracks. Same goes for the kids we are helping.

Good news.
Once you evaluate your student’s barriers, MC Hammer has the answer. “Break it down.” It’s as easy as teaching a skill in small steps or teaching the ability to break down tasks so they are not overwhelming. Hammer’s got it. See where your student is coming from and then “break it down.” When I say “break it down,” that also means show them. Hammer demonstrates his famous dance moves on his music videos. Demonstrate your own “one step at a time” moves for your student. Demonstrate the steps over and over till they get it. If, instead, they are overwhelmed by all they have to do, show them your step-by-step moves to break it down and get it done.

Have fun, and remember, just like teaching dance moves, once you know what your student needs, you can “break it down” and instruct them step-by-step how to make the changes they need to succeed.

Please feel free to go to http://tutormentorconnection.com to discuss this article.
Maria Murphy writes a monthly Tutor/Mentor Coaching Tip for Tutor/Mentor Connection and has been a presenter for Cabrini Connection’s Tutor/Mentor Conference. She is a speaker, consultant and writer. Other mentoring articles can be found on her blog column at http://www.simplyputtogether.com .
At 8:43am on April 19, 2008, Daniel Bassill said…
Hi Maria, I encourage you to take a look at the Chicago-Brazil Tutor/Mentor Connection page. It will begin providing information about programs in Chicago, with a goal of helping us expand our network of Chicago programs, while helping people in Brazil learn from our model and program examples, so they can duplicate these in their own cities.

If you do the same with your page, you can profile programs in Florida and that will connect them to us in Chicago and others in other cities and countries.
At 4:45pm on March 31, 2008, Maria Murphy said…
Be the voice in their heads.

By Maria Murphy

Most of us are familiar by now with terms like “internal dialogue” and “self talk.” You know what I mean, that voice in our heads. Sadly, most of us learn from a very young age, how to “do a number” on ourselves in our heads. I am talking about comments like, “you’re never gonna get this,” “what’s wrong with you,” and “everyone else knows this but you.”

This kind of thought pattern doesn’t start when we become adults. It’s usually rooted by the time we are knee deep in adolescence, and probably a lot earlier than that. How we use self talk is extremely important. It’s easy to fall into patterns of unkind dialogue with ourselves. Our students are equally vulnerable. This is all the more reason to teach them to talk kindly to themselves while they are still young.

There is a fabulous “self talk” tool I have used over the years that is simple, yet so powerful. I call it, “being the voice in their heads.” This is how it works. While your student is working through a problem, you, in a very hushed tone, talk to them. And it goes something like this. “That’s it.” “Good.” “You got it.” “Not quite. Okay, there you go.” “Good. Good. You got it.”

Sound strange? Well, I thought so, too, the first time I tried it. I was mentoring a student who was a slow reader and I was desperate to help and not getting anywhere. I thought that kind of dialogue would drive the student nuts. I mean, how can anyone concentrate when I am jabbering this dribble? But I trusted my instincts anyway and the child started improving at a faster rate. When we were done, she was reading above grade level. I used to think this tool would only work while mentoring academics with kids, especially kids with disabilities or deficits. Then I started using it more. It didn’t matter who I was working with, or what was being learned, kids were doing well and seemed to like it. Kids would admit, “It feels good when you say that.”

It took a long time for me to realize what was really happening. My voice was drowning out their negative self talk. They couldn’t concentrate on what they were doing, criticize themselves and listen to me. So, being that I am a bit of a motor mouth, the negative talk in their heads was washed out.

When you practice this, you are doing three things. First, you are cutting down any negative talk for your student. This is a feat in itself. Second, you are modeling strong internal dialogue. You are teaching them how to talk themselves through a difficult spot in a positive way. Finally, if you do this with consistency, you will become the voice in their heads. When they are on their own, working through a problem, your voice will resonate in their heads….and they will be strengthened.

So, consider practicing being the voice in your student's head. Offer a steady whisper of support as they press toward their future. You can be their voice, until they find their own voice of support.

Maria Murphy writes a monthly Tutor/Mentor Coaching Tip for Tutor/Mentor Connection and has been a presenter for Cabrini Connection’s Tutor/Mentor Conference. She is a speaker, consultant and writer. Other mentoring articles can be found on her blog column at http://www.simplyputtogether.com
At 2:49pm on January 31, 2008, Maria Murphy said…
Hi everyone-
Hope you enjoy my mentoring tip for the month! This is a great tool for enhancing your relationship with your student!


February Mentor Tip of the Month

The Power of Active Listening

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Robert McCloskey

I’m sorry…what was that quote? It’s pretty funny actually. Not to mention, pretty telling. Listening is tough business. I mean REALLY listening. It’s something we all look for, but often are challenged to be able to give to others. When I practiced as a therapist, people would ask me all the time, “How do you remember that about me?” Well, every therapist knows, it’s not as magical as it appears. It is simply “active” listening. That means you are concentrating your attention completely on the other person, not the dry cleaning or your next meeting or “what I want to say back.”

Active listening is not too hard, it just takes practice. When you are working with your student, this is an incredible tool. Concentrate on what your student is telling you. If you find yourself getting distracted, just pull yourself back into the conversation. A great tool for working your “active listening” muscle is the “recap.” All you do is “recap” what the other person just told you, in your own words. For instance, “I am sick of math. It’s stupid.” “You are so tired of math right now.” This sounds like elementary communication, but I can tell you, there is nothing in this world that feels quite the same as someone looking you in the eye and “getting you.” That is powerful.

Good luck and have fun practicing active listening and recapping with your student.

Please feel free to go to http://www.tutormentorconnection.org or comment here to discuss this article.

Maria Murphy writes a monthly Tutor/Mentor Coaching Tip for this site and has been a presenter for Cabrini Connection’s Tutor/Mentor Conference. She is a speaker, consultant and writer. The full article can be found on her blog column at http://simplyputtogether.blogspot.com/
At 6:53pm on January 5, 2008, Daniel Bassill said…
Thanks for joining us here. l hope that during 2008 we can increase the number of people connecting on this site.
At 9:12am on January 5, 2008, Maria Murphy said…
January Tutor/Mentor Tip
From Compliment to Confidence
I can live for two months on a good compliment. - Mark Twain
Look for the opportunity to find a strength of your student and share it with them! Not just once, make this a campaign. Your student will feel good if you accurately point out one of their strengths, but Mark Twain is right. A couple of months is nice, but what if you picked a strength and re-enforced it with your student? You move your student from getting a compliment to developing a stronger sense of self. Think of how far your student will go when you turn this, “You stuck with it until you understood that math problem,” to this, “You always hang in there and stick with the problem until you figure it out. You are a diligent person.” Compliments can turn into internal confidence if you deliver them with consistency! Have fun, find your student’s strength and deliver it to them until it becomes a part of their identity!
Please feel free to go to http://www.tutormentorconnection.org or comment here to discuss this article.
Maria Murphy writes a monthly Tutor/Mentor Coaching Tip for this site and Tutor/Mentor Connection and has been a presenter for Cabrini Connection’s Tutor/Mentor Conference. She is a speaker, consultant and writer. The full article can be found on her blog column at www.simplyputtogether.com.

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