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The Tony Robbins Experiment: taking his ideas to my community college students

September 24, 2009

I realize now I should be taking pictures of some of the crazy team building, morale building, life changing hi-jinx I get my students to do. So of course then I can post them.

Early on this semester, for example, I gave pairs of my students bandanas I had tie-dyed for Burning Man gifts. One person was blindfolded and the other led them around campus, following my lead. I took them blindfolded across campus to a small garden in the art area, full of wonderful shapes, textures, and smells. (“Are you Gwendolyn Alley?” asked one person one day. “DO you lead those art rides?” asked another then “Are you the art predator? What are you doing here?”

Then, they switched partners, and we traipsed through and past a construction zone to the horticulture area and an adjacent outdoor classroom where we finally settled in to do some Natalie Goldberg style writing practice, before we found our way back to class.

On Wednesday, following Tony Robbins inspiring keynote at 140/The Twitter Conference (see my love blogging post about it here, I spontaneously found myself sharing some of what I learned from Tony Robbins that morning:

“Stress is the over-achiever word for fear,” I said.

“Motion creates emotion,” I said.

“You can change your state,” I said.

“If you just listen, you’ll only remember 10%. If you write it down, you’ll retain 30-40%,” I said.

It was warm, and they looked a little dazed. So I told them how Tony had everyone get up and massage each other’s shoulders, shake their bodies, move around and meet people. So I went for it. I stopped talking about what he’d said and we put some of his ideas into practice.

Now it’s one thing to put on the syllabus a request to bring a smile along with texts to class, to tell students from the get go some 6 weeks ago that if they come to class with a positive attitude rather than dreading class that I bet class would be a lot more fun and enjoyable for all of us. It’s one thing for me to know that the more I smile at and with my students, the more they smile at me and with each other. It’s one thing to break up class time between large and small groups so that periodically we get up and move our desks around the room to interact in different ways.

It’s something else entirely to get them up out of their desks, and to stand and stretch and move their arms and shake it.

I mean, I am not Tony Robbins. I am their English teacher.

But hey, I got them to walk blind folded all over campus and to lead each other to experience their senses so hey, if I can do that, and they love it every time, the sky’s the limit, right?

So I went for it. I told them how Tony had everyone go around meeting each other all grumpy and angry.

I said, “Imagine that driving to school something bad happened, you got a ticket or something. And now you have to do this stupid exercise. And you really don’t want to do it. And you really don’t want to be here anyway.”

We all did it, not all successfully. There were a lot of giggles, and contagious, nervous laughs. We did a variation of the negative energy exercise and then talked about it: they observed how their voices dropped, how they didn’t move much or want to be close, how quickly they moved into a negative state of mind following the suggestion.

Then we did a few positive exercises–where they went around meeting people with positive, happy expectations. The room became a boisterous party and I was grateful there wasn’t anyone in the classroom next door! They were having a blast going around and introducing themselves to their classmates, many of whom they’ve come to know well six weeks into the semester. They clapped each other on the back, moved energetic, the room filled with peals of laughter and lots of energy.

This time, instead of making our observations verbally and sharing the experience, we did Natalie Goldberg style writing practice where the students just wrote for five minutes. Then we shared.

It was a great mid-semester doldrums pick me  up and pep talk, truly invigorating students for the rest of class and, I suspect, for the semester to come. I will definitely add this activity to my bag of tricks. Thanks Tony Robbins for the idea!

For more  Tony Robbins, see my post about his keynote at 140/The Twitter Conference.

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