Being a teacher myself, Jolene Stockman's words I quoted in the title sound rather flattering, warming and rewarding. If only we teachers could really feel our work is actually making the difference! Because we hardly ever can. We are often depressed and disappointed by the results we get. Meeting Jolene, though only virtually as well as  reading her book, has been a very enriching and encouraging experience.
After reviewing Jolene Stockman's book, Jawbreaker, I felt I wanted to know about her experience with teenagers and how she came to write such an interesting and useful guide. That's why I asked her to be my guest and to answer a few questions.  

I read your book and found it very interesting (my review's HERE) and my first question is as a teacher to teenagers. In your opinion should a teacher be to them  more an educator, an instructor or a motivator?
Ooh, I have had some amazing teachers! In my opinion a teacher’s primary role is to educate – but teaching is a profession where you’re so much more than your job description. For students in general, and teenagers in particular teachers can also be powerful role models. My favourite teachers were always the passionate ones. No matter what subject they taught, when they loved it, I could feel it, and that made me want to learn and be better. Teachers show us how to learn, how to live, and (if we’re lucky!) how to access the best parts of ourselves. I was particularly inspired by my Latin teacher, who oozed and sparkled with her subject. Teachers change the world every day,  I’m in awe.

What were you like as a teenager?
As a teenager I was quiet, a straight-A student (PE doesn’t count, right?), and always writing. I was incredibly shy, often playing down what I knew so I wouldn’t have to speak up, and I would panic in social situations. But I knew I wanted to take over the world! So, I joined Toastmasters (an international public speaking and leadership training organisation)  and pushed through my comfort zone to complete their communication and leadership training. I achieved their highest award and started working with other teenagers.

What is your personal experience with teenagers?
My training had me working with local teenagers delivering workshops and motivational speeches. I went on to start my own business and was a teen business mentor through the local Chamber of Commerce. I’m now an expert for teen magazine Girlfriend, and my books are used by teenagers (and ex-teenagers!) all over the world. I’ve been excited to see Total Blueprint for World Domination being used as part of the English curriculum in the US. It’s exciting to be able to reach so many more teenagers through my writing!

What is the most difficult task a parent /teacher has to cope with dealing with them in your opinion?
Teenagers now are faced with more opportunities, ideas, information, and pressure than ever before. They are also far more equipped to handle it. In my opinion, I think the most difficult task when dealing with teenagers is staying present and avoiding your own programming. In other words - facing your own “stuff.” Don’t get me wrong – you are still the authority, and boundaries and respect are key, but so is self-awareness. Because teenagers are smart, fast, and not afraid to speak their mind. So, when they question your decisions, push your buttons, and suggest hypocrisy, take a moment to consider whether they are right!

Do you have any good tip to suggest to them?
My best tip is: whatever you want to see in a person, demonstrate yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, it just means your actions are more important than your words. If the adults in a teenager’s life are open to their own learning and self-improvement, they model to the teen that it’s okay to grow and change, to make mistakes and fix them, and to figure things out as you go along. And be ready to deal with your “stuff” because teenagers know when you’re faking it. Be open and vulnerable, it’s okay to not know, and it’s okay to learn together. It’s not easy work – but it’s the most important work we do!

Can you explain briefly the metaphor you use in your book, the jawbreaker?
A jawbreaker is made up of hundreds of layers of rock-hard candy built up over time, and I think people are the same! We create ourselves every day by adding layers – thoughts, feelings, actions, and experiences. We can use the idea of a jawbreaker to explore who we are, and to choose the layers we create from here on out!

I particularly liked the practical mind games you suggest in Jawbreaker.  What are the most useful to get to more self – confidence?
I really struggle with negative self-talk so it’s important for me to consciously focus on what I’m doing well and what makes me happy. The best tool I’ve found (so far!) is to keep track of the things that you’re grateful for – particularly about yourself. Start a journal or a file on your phone or computer. Make it a habit, look for reasons to back yourself! It doesn’t have to be big things; give yourself credit for making good choices, for being kind, for being open. Build yourself up bit by bit. Yes, you’re going to do big, brave, amazing things - but the little things count, too!

After long years teaching to  teenagers, I still love them, I still love my job, but I must admit they are really complicated  and exhausting,  especially when it comes to convincing them to work on their homework  or  reading tasks,  respecting deadlines. And even when I succeed in motivating them,  once  I have to assess their work honestly , our “relationship”  is inevitably  compromised.  Any good suggestion for my personal case?

There are two ideas here: how to light up an inner motivation in another person, and how to give negative feedback while keeping a relationship.

My advice is to help them to find the “why” that makes the work meaningful. Aim to connect the task at hand (the assignment, the reading, the deadline) to the life / world / dream that the student really wants. It’s much easier to meet a deadline when you know that your qualification / freedom / career is on the other side. Hopefully, once the student makes that connection, the’lll want to do the work – because they’ll know that each step brings them closer to getting exactly what they want.

Being honest in assessing work can be really tricky. You want the student to feel good, but you also want them to be the best they can be. Finding this balance is key.

You could perhaps frame your feedback so that it is distinctive – carry out assessments in a different space to the one you that you have your day to day interactions (for example; learn in the classroom, assess in the library). It could also be valuable to hold a class where students learn effective feedback techniques (for example; Commend, Recommend, Commend) and practice them on each other. This will help them empathise, and understand the art of balancing honesty and relationships.  

(You know, the fact that you have been teaching a long time, and yet are still passionate and open to learning yourself tells me that you are one of “those” teachers – the ones that inspire and set an amazing example. Thank you! You’re changing the world!)

Do you really believe we can change and influence the world around us? Truly?
Yes! I really do believe that we can change and influence the world around us, with both the action we take and the ways we can train our mind. It’s especially cool to experiment with the way we see the world. For example, if you focus on looking for silver cars, you’ll start seeing more and more silver cars. Did you create more silver cars, or were they always there? The world is ours to mold exactly how we want, and it’s so much fun to experiment!

(However, it’s also really important to understand that people have free will. You can influence people, but you can’t control them. So, no matter how much you want Jennifer Lawrence to be your best friend, don’t make someone else your goal. You can only control you – so focus on what you can do to achieve your goal (like practicing being a really great friend) that way, you win whether Jennifer finds you or not!)   

Who should read your book and why?
Jawbreaker will motivate and inspire. It will give you a new way to see yourself, and a new way to see the world. It is the ideal book for teenagers and ex-teenagers - anyone who wants to be more of who they really are! 

Jawbreaker - Book Blurb

You have created yourself every second since the day you were born. Bit by bit, layer by layer. You are a million moments. You are your gift to the world. You are a jawbreaker. This exciting new non-fiction book for young adults is a guide to exploring who you are, and deciding who you want to be. Get ready to: - Find and fuel your fizzing center spark. - Tune in to personal guidance techniques. - Unleash your absolute uniqueness. - Develop a cutting edge brand from scratch. - And so much more! Packed with tools and jewels to navigate the new world, Jawbreaker: Unlock the (U)niverse (17,000 words) will let you build on your strengths, and show you your story in a whole new way. It’s time to uncover the world’s best kept secret: You.  

  ***Book Blast Special 1 Get your Kindle copy of Jawbreaker: Unlock the (U)niverse for 99c!

***Book Blast Special 2 Jolene’s YA non-fiction, Total Blueprint for World Domination shows you how to design your dream world and make it happen! And it’s free for a limited time:

***Blogger Special Fill in the form to get free e-copies of Jolene’s books to review!   Parents, educators, and teen readers have called Jolene’s books inspiring, empowering, powerful, and life-changing. If you’re looking to get motivated, love your life, and explore who you are, Jawbreaker: Unlock the (U)niverse is for you!  

jolene stockmanAuthor Jolene Stockman Jolene Stockman is an award winning writer, speaker, and an expert for Girlfriend Magazine Australia. She is a Master of Neuro Linguistic Programming, and one of the youngest in the world to achieve the Distinguished Toastmaster Award. Jolene lives in New Zealand, and is the author of motivational non-fiction Total Blueprint for World Domination, and contemporary fiction The Jelly Bean CrisisJawbreaker: Unlock the (U)niverse is her latest book.
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Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a really cool metaphor - that we are all made up on layers like a jawbreaker. I wanted to post this comment - don’t make someone else your goal. You can only control you - on a wall where it can be seen. Thank you for the excerpt!

dstoutholcomb said...

Welcome. Two of my three boys are teenagers.