There is no such thing as problem youth, just youth with problems.

I often use this phrase, and I am often asked what it means.  After 20 years in education and more than 10 of those working specifically with at-risk youth, I have never met a student who didn’t have emotional damage that led to the behaviour problems.  If I break a bone, I may use something to alleviate the symptom of pain, but that will not repair the break.  If that break is not repaired, I may be able to get it somewhat healed, but it will continue to cause problems until I properly deal with the root of the problem.  The same can be said for behaviour.  The behaviour is the symptom and not the root cause.

The behaviour issues I have dealt with have included both striking out toward others and self-harm in various forms; but the one commonality between the two is that self-esteem and self-confidence are extremely low.  The reasons for this can be varied, but almost invariably involve some form of trauma.  Simple discipline and consequences may or may not lessen the behaviour, temporarily, but it is never a solution that will last.

Once I realized that the youth are not acting out for no reason, I learned to look for the reason and work with them to help them manage their issues.  The youth who have been through the most, can be the strongest and most resilient once they learn how to draw strength and grow in a positive way.  I can never undo the damage but we can teach these youth to manage their issues and turn them into strengths.

A simple example would be the student who acted out with my replacements whenever I took time off.  Some people may see this as taking advantage of my absence to act out, but what if we consider going deeper.  If we find out that he was abandoned and disappointed by many adults in the past, it becomes clearer why he has issues with someone he counts on being away.  Discipline will not help the problem, and may even make it worse.  Helping him to understand his own motivation and explore his reactions is far more likely to lesson the fear of abandonment and, in turn, lessen the acting out.  Indeed that has been the case with many students I worked with who had this exact same issue.

When I have taken the time to get to the root of the problem and teach the student to manage the problem, it has invariably led to fewer behaviour issues, and increase in self-esteem and self-confidence, and that logically leads to them being able to function and learn better as well.  I really have never met a youth who I would truly classify as a “problem youth”.


ABEABC Conference 2018

The Public Speaking Process – What You Need to Know

The workshop will take educators through the entire process of creating a talk/presentation from what you want to say and why, to how to say it.  So many great things are happening in education every day and this will encourage people to share their successes both to bring awareness and to share ideas.

Presentation Topics

I have presented on a number of topics and I can tailor a presentation to suit the needs of the audience for parents, for school districts, and for both mainstream and alternate schools.

At-Risk Youth and Mental Health Topics

  1. Start With Your Core Values and Beliefs
  2. Empathy vs. Sympathy
  3. Social Construct Theory vs. Disorders
  4. Labels and Their Effects
  5. The Benefits of Intergenerational Events and Connectedness
  6. Self-esteem
  7. Self-fulfilling Prophecy
  8. Learning Gaps vs Learning Disabilities
  9. The Gifted “Problem Youth”
  10. Roots of Issues vs. Symptoms
  11. Differences Between Relationships and “Acquaintanceships”
  12. The Importance of Behaviour Modeling
  13. Creating Pride Without Superiority
  14. Creating a Culture of Acceptance
  15. Giving Voice Through TEDx, Ignite, and Other Public Speaking
  16. Reacting to Trauma and Overcoming the Effects
  17. When and How Far To Push Them to Challenge Themselves
  18. Working With Seniors
  19. Working With Elementary Schools
  20. Creating a Culture of Acceptance
  21. Giving Back

Intergenerational Events and Programs

Based upon my TEDx LangleyED talk, I will speak about events and programs that have been a great success in working with at-risk youth.

Topics include:

  1. Senior/Teen events and relationships built.
  2. Annual Intergenerational Day event involving youth.
  3. Christmas morning event for seniors on their own.
  4. Having seniors in class with the youth; both working toward graduation.
  5. The value of the relationships for both groups.


Problem Youth vs. Youth With Problems

There are several options for workshops or presentations ranging from 1 hour sessions to the 30 hour course available through UBC Okanagan Summer Institute in Education.  Each workshop/presentation will be customized according to the audience and the time allotted.  All topics include real life examples of challenges and successes with at-risk youth and contain input from students as to what they think is important for educators to know.

Topics can include:

  1. Starting With Your Core Values and Beliefs
  2. Empathy Instead of Sympathy
  3. Social Construct Theory vs. Disorders
  4. Labels and Their Effects
  5. The Benefits of Intergenerational Events and Connectedness
  6. Self-esteem
  7. Self-fulfilling Prophecy
  8. Learning Gaps vs Learning Disabilities
  9. The Gifted “Problem Youth”
  10. Treating Roots of Problems Rather Than Symptoms
  11. Relationships and Trust
  12. The Importance of Behaviour Modeling
  13. Creating Pride
  14. Creating a naturally flowing culture of acceptance.
  15. Giving them a voice through TEDx, Ignite, and other public speaking events.
  16. Reacting to Trauma
  17. Clear and Relevant Expectations
  18. When and How Far To Push Them to Challenge Themselves

Ignite 35 Langley

I will be giving an Ignite talk in Langley on May 31.  This year’s theme was “mixed tape” with the speakers choosing songs that represent their ideas.  I chose “Born This Way” to have an upbeat, positive look at what alternate students can do despite being a little different from their colleagues in the mainstream schools.

I am excited to be speaking and to hear the others as well; there is an impressive speaker list and the topics are excellent.  Join us on May 31 at Porter’s Bistro in Langley from 6:30-8:30 pm!

Speaker List

ABEABC Conference

I was honored to be part of the panel at the ABEABC conference in Harrison Hot Springs this year.  Although it is always great to get to speak about our program, this was even more exciting because they also invited students to join me.  Two adult students and two alternate students joined me on the panel, speaking about our program, personalization, and the positive impact of mixing adults with alternate youth.  It was a great experience for all of us and we were so excited to be able to share what we do with the other educators there.

ACE Students joining the panel.

Christmas and Grinchmas

Giving the gift of Christmas to local seniors – Agassiz-Harrison News

Ace students and alumni share Christmas morning breakfast and gift giving at the Legion


CBC Interview of Staff and Students

Grinchmas grows hearts for Christmas – Agassiz-Harrison News

Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas stole hearts in Agassiz with a reading of the classic children’s book and feast prepared by volunteers