A Vicious Cycle

Sometimes I feel like we are surrounded by a surplus of people pounding on their chests and complaining about all the things that are wrong in the world. They seem to be stuck in a vicious cycle. They find a problem — it can range from a small problem at their job, all the way up to a global issue. Then they go out of their way to talk about this problem and suck everyone into their cauldron of negativity. Once they have brought the problem to the attention of enough people, they search for the next problem and start the cycle all over.

We have too many people complaining and not enough people rolling up their sleeves to be a catalyst towards fixing the problems.

We need more people to become CATALYSTS.

A CATALYST is an agent of change.

A CATALYST wants to ignite purposeful solutions.

A CATALYST sees the issues in the world and decides to make a difference.

A Catalyst Mindset

I believe just about everything is teachable. Developing a Catalyst Mindset is no different. It is a tough challenge because simply complaining provides a path of least resistance. Sadly, identifying a problem and just talking about it is easy and highly contagious. It’s like being a single drop of water amongst millions that form a noisy river all heading in the same direction.

Being a catalyst is difficult. A catalyst swims upstream against the current. Anyone can become a catalyst if they have the mindset to evoke change. We must cultivate a Catalyst Movement. We need to instill a Catalyst Mindset in our kids, the ones who hold the future in their hands.

The question is, how do we get there? How do we help shift the mindset from a collection of complainers to a catalyst driven society?

Igniting Action vs. Joining the Cause

Before we explore that question, I want to clarify the difference between igniting action as a catalyst and joining or donating to an existing cause. Don’t get me wrong, joining a cause is admirable. Donating time, money, or other resources to a charitable organization is extremely valuable to both the community and the people donating. However, this is an example of joining someone else’s Catalyst Movement. Someone else (typically an adult) saw the problem, felt the drive and set something in motion to fix it. Then we (adults too) encourage our kids to contribute.

We want kids to start a Catalyst Movement. We want kids to feel the drive and then develop the momentum to take action. We need our kids to develop this mindset early on, so that when they are adults, they are actually equipped to change the world.

The Catalyst Movement

There is an intentional process for teaching a kid to become a catalyst. We must first train them to see the world through the lens of a catalyst. Then they can practice thinking as a catalyst. The more they practice this mindset, the more they develop a natural habit of being a difference-maker. Finally, we will notice a relentless attitude towards change as they take action independently as a true catalyst.

Primary Catalysts

We have to start small with educating kids on the role of a catalyst. The definition of catalyst is “an agent of change.” At the primary ages, we must start teaching kids about the value of being an agent of change. It starts with encouraging kids to simply do the right thing. When they see trash on the ground, pick it up. When they see a bully being mean to another kid, speak up and be a friend. Starting small teaches kids that stepping up and taking action is the right thing to do.

Elementary Catalysts

At the upper elementary ages, we must open our kids’ eyes to becoming more observant within their school and community. Have kids share what they notice as existing issues and problems. Then, have them debate about those issues and choose one for the class to become “agents of change” for.

At this point, we need to get out of the way and let them start focusing on a path towards the solution. I don’t mean walk out of the room and let chaos ensue. I mean step back and let the kids take over. You may have to chime in and offer a little direction, but be careful not to squash their huge ideas. Let their struggle and creativity guide this Catalyst Movement. Watch as they truly embrace the power of collaboration and use their communication skills as a tool for effective strategy sessions. I promise you, through the power of collective critical thinking, they will come up with a plan. Your job at this point will be to help them fill in some gaps in their plan, and of course, have them go into further detail on how this plan will actually work.

Independent Catalysts

Once kids get to middle school, they are ready to be independent catalysts. If we’ve done our job at the elementary school level, they are equipped and ready to go. But don’t just expect it to happen on its own. We have to stay intentional. We have to ask questions and offer support. We may not need to be as much of a part of the process of being a catalyst at this point. We do, however, have to remind them and be intentional with them about finding problems and starting the process.

In the words of Ghandi…

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Our kids, as catalysts, can truly be that change. They can inspire others to be the change. They can become the leaders of the Catalyst Movement. If we, as teachers, focus on this development in the classroom, the Catalyst Mindset will be instilled in our kids. We will start to see problems being fixed by the Youth of America. It may only be in small pockets at first, but eventually, that noisy river of complaining may not be as loud as it once was. I don’t know what the sound of a Catalyst Movement would be, but I imagine it would sound pretty awesome.

I would love to hear your beliefs and feedback pertaining to this post. Please check out www.talltal.com for what Tal has to offer. Go back and check out my original post, Something’s Missing where I kick off a series involving the C words that are missing in our students. My first two missing C’s posts were Shift to CONFIDENCE and COMMUNICATION Crisis. I greatly value all opinions and arguments. Engage in the comments and help continue this discussion. I look forward to what you all have to say.

I will see you next week for our Tuesday’s with Tal post on the next C…


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