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Accepting the Challenge to Inspire
By Byron Ricks
Professional Speaker/Trainer
Author of JIST's videos "Positive Feet" and "E.M.P.L.O.Y. ability"

I worked in higher education for six years, and one of my primary responsibilities was to conduct "New Faculty Orientations." First I had to cover required topics: grading, attendance policies, and procedures. But after that, I got to talk to our new faculty members about what I most enjoyed teaching: "How to make learning exciting!"

I believed then, as I do now, that students of all ages learn more when the learning process is challenging enough to be fun! I am not suggesting that educators put on clown costumes and make balloon animals, or tell jokes. Neither am I suggesting that individual student effort isn't equally important in the learning process. I AM proposing that educators look at each course they teach and think of ways to make them more challenging and more fun. Sometimes there is little flexibility in curriculums. However, there is always flexibility in method, style, and process as it relates to teaching curriculums.

Carter G. Woodson once stated,"The mere imparting of information is not education. Above all things, the effort must result in making people think and do for themselves." Change is the one constant of which we can be certain in the next millennium. And students' abilities to adapt their leadership skills to this changing environment will depend in part on their academic leaders' abilities to inspire and nurture innovative, independent thinking. This is a big challenge for teachers, but one that must be accepted. General George S. Patton said "Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory."

My experiences as a certified trainer have allowed me to work in different settings with many different audiences. I have presented at conventions and conferences on university campuses, at high schools and private businesses-some organizations more than once. In fact, one has invited me back three times. One of my greatest compliments came from a person who attended all three who said, "Byron, the first time I attended your seminar I enjoyed it. The next two times I was amazed at the different ways you presented. I knew what to expect relative to the quality, but I was always amazed at how you manipulated content. You made me think." Never compromise on the quality of instruction you offer students. Always seek innovative ways to deliver content.

"But where do I start?" you may ask. Here are three simple suggestions. First, if you haven't already, review and rewrite the syllabus or course outlines that you use. Build in some new challenges that illustrate those the millennium will bring. Explain to students how this course will help them meet these challenges. Second, add a 30-minute discussion on attitude and the role a positive attitude plays in being successful. Then model this attitude every day. Third, build in more interaction. Students of all ages want more interaction in class, and they enjoy learning by questions, team exercises, and role play. Again, teaching and teachers that are more exciting make learning more fun!

Whatever success we have in the new millenium will be led by educators of today! Have a great year in the classroom!