What I Learned From Book Club

In General

The following guest post was written by Malika Stultz, Executive Administrative Assistant at SYF.

Here at Simon Youth Foundation (SYF) we are reading “Presence” by Amy Cuddy for professional development. The book talks about what it means to be present – from our listening habits to our body language – and how that changes the way we work and live.

As we read and discussed the book, I couldn’t help but think of our students.

Being present means making the effort to listen to one another and live in the moment. Many of us plan so far in advance that sometimes we forget to stay focused in our daily tasks. When it comes to being present, I wonder if the students at our Academies know something we don’t.

Our students come to SYF with very little hope for the future. They have been led to believe their whole lives that they do not measure up, or that they don’t have much to look forward to. Yet each one of them has made the decision to stick it out and graduate from high school.

They have no choice but to be present in the moment. If they don’t pass that algebra exam or get their last English credit, their future options will be limited. So they dream of the future but work hard for today. I am inspired by that.

The book has shown us how important it is to believe and own our own stories, to stop preaching, and start listening, and how to coach ourselves through the times when we feel as though we don’t deserve to be here. Some of our students may also feel like they don’t deserve a second chance, but with the guidance of our academy staff I hope that they are realizing that because they have chosen not to give up they deserve everything that much more.

There is also a section of the book that demonstrates certain poses that reflect being powerful, and being powerless. Crossing your arms or not looking someone else in the eye can convey powerlessness. We hear regularly that these poses are how our students enter the Academy. By the time they leave, they have renewed confidence that you can see in how they carry themselves.

While this book is not the easiest to digest, it has made us think beyond our own personal selves, and has forced us to think about our students and how maybe using and teaching them some of these techniques may help them on a daily basis. If anything, it makes me want to imagine how they interpret their best selves.

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