Speaker inspires students at Hanford Elem.
By Kathy Chaffin
You can see empowerment in a child’s face.
It says, “I matter. I have a right to be here. I can make a difference.”
Students filing into the gymnasium at Hanford Dole Elementary School Thursday seemed excited about doing something out of their regular routine. After 30 minutes with educational consultant and motivational speaker Larry Bell, you could see a difference.
They seemed more confident. They had been shouting and singing affirmations about being able to do anything, and they looked like they really believed it.
Xavier French, a student in Sarah Stepp’s kindergarten class, seemed especially empowered.
Bell, a former teacher and coach, called him to the front after Xavier guessed the invention that took a man 10,005 tries to achieve, even after people made fun of him and said he couldn’t do it. He gave hints about the invention like pointing out that it took a switch to turn it on and noting that there were several in the gym.
“If it wasn’t on,” Bell said, “a lot of folks would be scared. Some of you wouldn’t go to bed at night without it.”
After he heard Xavier’s answer, Bell shouted, “Yes. Yes. Yes. Come here. Everybody say ‘Yes.’ ”
When Xavier climbed down from the bleachers, Bell asked him to repeat his answer so all the other students could hear him.
“Night light,” Xavier repeated into the microphone.
“You are so smart,” Bell responded, then asked the other students and teachers to join him in repeating “Xavier, you are so smart.”
Xavier seemed to enjoy the attention, and Bell continued, “Xavier, you’re wonderful. Everybody say, ‘Xavier, you’re wonderful.’ ”
The students shouted the words in unison.
“And by the way, the man’s name was Thomas Edison,” Bell told them.
When Xavier said he was in kindergarten, Bell appeared shocked. “You can’t be in kindergarten,” he said. “Oooh, everybody say ‘Oooh.’ Everybody say, ‘This school is so smart.’ ”
The students responded loudly, then cheered for themselves. “You’ve got to be proud,” Bell told the teachers.
A keynote speaker at educational conferences across the nation, Bell also talked to students about respect. “If tough times come,” he said, “when you believe in yourself and you show respect, you can do anything.”
Bell also led students in a series of affirmations such as “I know I’m smart. I know I can do anything because I believe in my teachers … No teasing. No bullying. You can’t pick on people.”
Using Dr. Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut to travel in space, as an example of a modern-day achiever who decided as a little girl that she wanted to do something that others said was impossible, Bell said she learned by reading and never gave up on her dreams. “When you read, books will take you to other countries,” he said. “They take you to other planets. Books will take you anywhere you want to go.”
Bell didn’t have any problems engaging students. “You’ve got to read,” they shouted, repeating one of his pointers on achieving success.
“E-O-G,” they repeated with him when he congratulated them on improving their end-of-grade test scores.
Bell worked with Hanford Dole teachers last year on his “12 Powerful Words” that trip up at-risk students on standardized tests, even when they know the answers to the questions.
“Everybody say ‘college words,’ ” he said in reviewing them. “Everybody say, ‘We’re going to college.’ “Students also joined him in singing: “We’re going to college. We’ve got the knowledge. This is where it started. At Hanford Dole. We’re so smart …”
Bell was amazed that the younger students could recite the words and definitions. When he heard pre-kindergarten student Gaochia Yang reciting the definition to “trace,” he called her to the front and asked her to repeat a more difficult word.
Gaochia, her hands in her pants pockets the whole time, didn’t seem the slightest bit nervous when she repeated “analyze” perfectly.
“Let’s give her a hard one,” Bell said. “I think she can do it because she’s from Hanford Dole.”
Gaochia repeated the word, “formulate,” very loudly, drawing spirited applause.
Bell demonstrated to teachers last year how they could use the 12 words and his UNRAAVEL reading strategies to help students improve test scores. He said after Thursday’s presentation that the Hanford Dole teachers should be commended on the improvements their students have made.
“It’s phenomenal,” he said.
Assistant Principal Marvin Moore said teachers start teaching the 12 Powerful Word songs/definitions and UNRAAVEL strategies early on and use them consistently through all the grades. “Our kids are on fire for this,” he said.
Bell spoke at Isenberg Elementary School Thursday afternoon and spent all day Monday working with high school teachers in the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.