Santa’s reindeer are known world-wide for their charismatic personalities and ruthless determination to get the job done that one special night of the year. Their individualism, wherewithal and sheer speed is what makes them world leaders in the parcel delivery industry. When you look out at your classroom over the next few weeks I am sure you can pick out those same personalities in your students who will someday be our world leaders. Your job is to mold those unruly, reindeer-game-playing students into the innovative global leaders of tomorrow’s industries. This may seem like an impossible task, but if you look at the possibility in each of your students, you will see tomorrow’s promise.
Here is how the reindeer give us a glimpse at that promise…
James Dasher…he’s the kid who never sits still. The kids call him Speedy. He’s smart but does his work too quickly and makes silly mistakes. Your challenge with Dasher is to slow him down, get him to plan, think, and reflect on his work. Dasher’s promise is that he will be successful in a field that allows little time for rest, like an emergency room doctor or an air traffic controller. Long hours and high stress won’t slow him down. Dasher’s metabolism will keep him moving. Teach him now how to build his thinking processes, check his work, and seek input from others.
Donnie Dancer is always in the thick of it. He’s got a mind like a steel trap when it comes to numbers. He uses his charm, and sometimes brute force, to bring the people around him in line, though he never seems to get caught. The other kids like and fear him at the same time. Your challenge with Dancer is teaching him ethics, right from wrong, interdependence and compassion. His promise is in his brains. He’s smart, creative and can think his way out of any jam. Service learning, challenge-based learning, and classroom leadership will soften Dancer’s exterior and keep him thinking about how to solve social issues in meaningful ways. Dancer’s mission to save the world will make it more peaceful, greener, and kinder tomorrow.
Patrick Prancer never has a hair out of place. Prancer is a sleek dresser who secretly admires himself. Humble is not in his vocabulary. And yet therein lies his promise. He can take even the meanest of criticism with a grain of salt. He’s confident, persistent and direct when it comes to delivering his message. The challenge with Prancer is teaching him how to relate to his peers, to speak in meaningful messages rather than condescending tones. Prancer’s promise will bloom in a life of politics, policy work, and in leading change. Expose him to humble leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ghandi. Teaching him empathy, kindness and a healthy dose humility now, will serve Prancer and our world later.
Vanessa Vixon is cute, sassy and knows everything about everyone. She spends her time in the gossip circles, digging deep to see who’s said what to whom. She doddles most of the day about current social events and lacks engagement in content. Bring out the latest pop culture magazine and Vixon’s got it. And this is Vixon’s promise. She cares deeply about people and their relationships to one another. Her underlying sixth sense about who’s been wronged and who is on the fast track to success are amazing. The challenge with Vixon is helping her to move these skills and natural born talent outside of social circles and into collecting and analyzing facts that matter. In her, we have the next Anderson Cooper or Oprah Winfrey. Make sure she knows her geography and the political regions of the world. Asking good questions of herself and others will start her on this journey.
Cassy Comet is handsome, debonair and so humble. Comet views life through rose-colored glasses. He is happy, positive and works hard to do the right thing every time. He has no idea the power he holds in his smile and his kindness. Comet likes rules and works hard to follow them. He’s honest and works to keep those around him honest, too. Public service will be his passion. Serving our communities as a firefighter, national park ranger, and similar public works opportunities will be his calling. Your challenge here will be helping him to see the value in science. Understanding fire, chemical reactions, and life cycles will make him highly skilled in his chosen field.
Karen Cupid, match maker, match maker, make me a match. Cupid is the classroom match maker. She can tell you who dated who starting in first grade. The other kids virtually don’t pay any attention to Cupid, but in her mind she knows who is dating whom and when that will change. The challenge with Cupid is looking beyond the world of dating and helping Cupid see her interpersonal strength as a tool to connect people in professional ways. Cupid carries the skills of a teacher, counselor or university professor. Her detailed look at personalities will allow her to see a person’s strengths and weaknesses, and match them with learning opportunities and career fields. Group work, solid foundational knowledge in each content area, and service learning will serve Cupid well. Provide her with exposure to community systems and industry to help her see big-picture opportunities for others in the future.
Donny Donner is a rough and tumble athlete with a soft heart. In many ways he is the male version of Cupid. He too understands people deeply, even if they are not his friends. The challenge with Donner is linking that passion to positive opportunities. His heart is so big he oftentimes hurts for those around him. Helping him identify ways he can empower others will empower Donner. In group work, help Donner plan to engage even the quietest of participants. In service learning, give him opportunities to help younger children learn to read and he will feel full of heart. The Donner who empowers others will find satisfaction in life.
Billy Blitzen is disheveled, disorganized, and a bit air-heady. He is constantly processing and thinking about things in different ways. He is absent-minded, disorganized and lacks the ability to take social cues. Blitzen will be the great discoverer of tomorrow. Your challenge with Blitzen is two-fold: organization and social capacity. Encourage him to diagram the contents of his notebook, locker, and desk, and even his social relationships. He understands how things go together from a mechanical standpoint. Helping him process both the physical world around him and his social relationships in this way will make sense to him. And nurture his passions. Let him take things apart and put them back together. Let him program the old computer at the back of the room and encourage him to share with others how he has done it. His innovation and creative ways, while they make him stand apart from his peers now, will lead to the great discoveries of tomorrow.
Randi Rudolph has low self-esteem, is unsure of herself, and isolates herself from the crowd. The thing about Rudolph is that she is smart on so many levels. She understands content, people, and the world around her. These skills are her promise. She is a natural born leader. Your challenge is in building her confidence, finding opportunities for her to be successful, challenging her thinking and her interactions with others. Her knowledge and skills are inside of her, lying dormant and looking for the confidence to come out. She is kind, compassionate, smart and solid. Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Maya Angelou, Sheryl Sandberg, and Mary Barra are role models who demonstrate confidence, leadership and gumption, even during difficult situations. Rudolph one day will become one of these role models for others.
Just like Santa, who is tasked with bringing together an unlikely bunch to perform as a team, it’s your job to find the strengths in each of your students. Bring them together to learn, support and build one another. While Santa has a single purpose of delivering presents to boys and girls one night a year, you have a tremendous task and opportunity to deliver the future to the students you teach and, through them, to the world.