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Unique, thoughtful commentary and information about new strengths-based approaches for mentoring and teaching to empower learners of all stripes, plus insight into our cutting-edge evaluation software.

If you've read Venturing Together: Empowering Students to Succeed, you know we offer a deeply integrated mentoring approach and evaluation software that's definitely pushed the envelope.. Want to know when new articles are published? Follow Merge!

Strengths-Based Creativity - A Total Experience

Relevancy in learning means that at any time the student’s experience needs to contain meaning for her. The student needs to be met where she is, and met with something she cares about, something that’s exciting to her. For it to contain meaning it has to touch or move her in some emotional way so she can be stimulated by the experience and motivated to further explore it.

As this process begins to develop in her she will, in her exploration, be stimulated to communicate her needs for clarification, a perspective, or other input from the teacher. If encouraged and assisted she will gain the confidence to initiate her own thinking and formulate some of her own ideas, which should be a major goal of education. As her guides, we need to help her see how this subject that she’s beginning to ingest and digest affects not only her but her community or group. (more)

Strengths-Based Mentoring - Fresh Air for Education

Our country's youth are suffering greatly from current educational practices. For some specific clues as to why, check out this comparison between Strengths-Based and Standards-Based education (more)

The Challenged Individual and the Creative Community
(Reprinted from Americans for the Arts' Artsblog)

One two three, one two three, one two three … Nate was in a groove, the ensemble was cookin', and Miles Davis' tune All Blues had never sounded better. As the lead drummer, Nate stayed with that simple beat, rode it out to the end, then finished in perfect time. He beamed as the audience roared in appreciation, and if you hadn’t known him you would not have believed that one year ago he’d been unable to count rhythmically or sit still for more than 5 minutes.

But those who’d known him – who had seen his eyes light up at that first simple beat and watched over the year as he learned to focus, to listen, and to succeed – we knew what had happened. Nate had found himself through the arts.

The challenges Nate once faced are growing more common every day. Attention deficits, oppositional defiance, and incidents of youth violence and suicide have increased as our society has become preoccupied with materialism. As our focus has gone off taking care of our kids, the opportunities for to them to discover and express their voice have diminished. As ARTSblog readers know, the arts can fill this need. (more)

Optimize your Teaching for Success

Do you work with many different types of students whom you try get to know individually? If so, perhaps you find it difficult to maintain the focus and direction needed to get the most progress out of each student.

It’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re trying to be attentive to who your students are. Unfortunately, this can really diminish the structured and goal-oriented direction that students need for learning.

A thoughtful, structured plan is essential. I found this to be really challenging for years, so after more than 25 years of working with many types of alternative learners I would like to offer some of the effective ways I have used to build a kind of structure or architecture that will optimize your learning time with students as you get to know them better and better. (more)

How Standards-Based Education Fails

With its focus on a narrow, one dimensional performance, standards-based education not only misses the point, it compounds the mistakes of traditional education by discouraging and repelling those students who can’t relate... (more)

My Teaching Experience before Strengths-Based Mentoring

Over recent years I have been struck by the feeling that our young people are falling through the cracks and felt disturbed and protective when listening to adults complain about kids being unfocused and withdrawn. At the same time, I have noticed a growing social awareness around the environment, politics, agriculture, and so on, and observed so many kind hearted, open minded people putting together and running organizations to benefit the greater good. I have often wondered why, then, with all of these new developments and community awakenings, are our youth slipping through the cracks? (more)

The Need for Relevance

Standards-based education also often fails students as individuals is that teachers are rarely encouraged or trained to determine what is relevant to each student. Not addressing students from culturally and emotionally relevant standpoints can have the same result as planting good seeds in sand. In its drive to produce a particular score, standards-based education can beat the life out of students and put them at risk or, for those who are already at risk or traumatized, further the problem.

Strengths-Based Mentoring in the Eyes of A New Teacher

I strongly believe that the very deliberate style of mentoring presented in Venturing Together can pick up the slack that society leaves between itself and its children.  Most importantly, it fosters the kind of attitude that is necessary to change the status quo.  With programs increasingly using the Merge approach, I hope that if I have children they will grow up in a culture that genuinely appreciates them as individuals. (more)

Creative Education: for Many, A New Way of Thinking

Education should encourage self-discovery and enable students to engage with themselves and think for themselves. It should fill the students’ emotional needs along with the intellectual. Students need to be able to create an inner dialogue and converse with themselves in order to form a foundation that makes them whole and turns the tide of fragmentation within, i.e., to heal or fully grow. Many students turn away from education and actually turn against it because they are not engaged, stimulated, or motivated and because it is not an opportunity for self-development or healing. (more)

A Creative Educational Environment

Learning the Merge way feels more positive than school because in school it seems like I’m always rushed around. It seems like everybody’s supposed to be the same. Here, I’m encouraged to be an individual. — 14 year old student

What really constitutes an educational environment? Actually, since children and youth are constantly learning, everything that goes on around them is an educational environment — adults and peers are their teachers, for better or worse. Unfortunately today’s environment contains many negatives. Hopefully in time we’ll realize the meaning of the saying (more)

Are You Worried about Your Program's Future? Designing your Own Evaluation Tool
(Reprinted from Americans for the Arts Artsblog)

For decades now, community arts programs have gotten funded based on their case studies and assertions as to the benefits of the arts. And why not? Those benefits are real, and incredibly valuable. But case studies and avowals aren’t exactly tangible and they just aren’t cutting it any more.

While “Prove It” has become funders’ new mantra, most arts groups are simply unprepared. How the heck do you prove those more intangible qualities that we all consider to be most important? How do you track and assess the light in a student’s eyes when he feels confident, empowered, and successful? (more)

Learning and Living through Community

Western culture is suffering some serious wounds.  In my undergraduate studies, I became much more attuned to the specific nature of our societal dysfunction.  I studied African culture heavily in my anthropology program, and I began to see that on a psychological level the advantages of living in a collective society often outweigh the disadvantages faced by many developing nations.  While those living in the United States have had the benefit of relative stability and material wealth, we also have the detriment of the neglected spirit. (more)


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