November 11, 2019

How to Hold Discussion Groups With Kids

If you're a fan of this blog, you know how dedicated I am to having adult men sitting in conversation circles with young guys. I've been at it for almost 20 years and I believe it is one of the most boy-civilizing, healing, emotionally rich, and joyful things a man can do. "Getting real" as the boys describe it, today is called building their Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) capacity. By any name being in conversation with young men is an extraordinarily positive thing for all the males involved.


As a helpful tool for people interested in working with young people in this way, Jean Sunde Peterson's new edition of her book, How (and Why) to Get Students Talking, is a rich resource. She teaches readers how to conduct "guided conversations." She prepares facilitators for the activity with introductory training and needed background materials. If you're wondering what you'll be talking about, she also provides 78 templates for discussion on a wide range of important topics.

Here's my take on just some of Peterson's list of the Social and Emotional learning that comes from discussions in groups of kids and (trained) adults:
  • Recognizing the importance of listening 
  • Recognizing the importance of both verbal and nonverbal skills in conversation 
  • Being able to “grab the moment” to compliment someone 
  • Being able to express compassion and appreciation 
  • Recognizing when it is wise to ask for help 
  • Avoiding assumptions about the thoughts (of others) 
  • Recognizing that everyone is constantly developing—and probably struggling with something 
  • Understanding that teens who seem confident may not feel self-assured 
  • Recognizing that everyone feels stressed, angry, worried, sad, and socially inept at times

You can use this link to order a copy of How (and Why) to Get Students Talking, and if you're interested in or have questions about circles with young guys, give me a shout.

Trust me, the boys are waiting.



CONTACT EARL: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm also available to help you bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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© Copyright 2005-2019 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
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October 17, 2019

Males 2 Men Mentoring (M2M)

I just LOVE the stories of what one inspired man and some of his brothers in mission can create. In a way, it's nothing special, just good and caring men doing what men have done naturally, forever . . . show the young men what it means to be a man.

Tray Taylor, of the Males 2 Men (M2M) mentoring program in Kansas City, MO. describes the M2M mission this way, "Males 2 Men (has) one purpose in mind: To raise strong, conscious, productive men, and re-establish responsible, accountable leadership in the community."

. . . just good and caring men doing
what men have done naturally,
forever. . .


Just looking at their Facebook photos will tell you the whole story. The boys get experience using tools and building things, gardening, car repair, cleaning up their community, gutting and grilling fish, learning about what men do from visiting speakers, and much, much more. In addition to meetings and outdoor learning experiences, in the photos you'll see Mr. Taylor hosting up to 20 kids at his home most Monday evenings. They hang out, get help with homework, learn things, have fun, and eat dinner together (always a great strategy for boys).

My experience is that once men get over their fears, time spent with boys is not at all hard for men to do, and it all comes naturally. Everything just falls into place in the pack of males when the men show up. It does take a commitment and the desire to not just save the boys in your community, but to support them in eventually becoming good and capable men. "It's important to show (the kids) the pitfalls out there in the community — what not to do, what to do; be a leader, not a follower," Taylor said, "We're able to tap into something, things that we went through, and try to lead them through a different path or show them something different."

I loved the story about how at one meeting one of the men, Smoke, ". . .went over the electrical schematics on a truck, he taught the boys how to check the tire pressure and learn about all of the different parts under the hood. . ." That made me happy, because no one ever did that form me. I remember the first time as a teen when I caught a whiff of the air that comes out of a tire when you try to bring it up to the right pressure. Nothing else smells like that. It's just great that the men were helping the boys understand the many mysteries under the hood and around the vehicle.

The Males 2 Men mentoring program is free and open to boys between the ages of 7 and 19. There are seven male mentors working with Mr. Taylor. As he says about these adult men (and everyone reading this post), "Everybody has a part to play," . . ."It just depends on what part they want to play."

"...change the narrative of the nation for young black males!"


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

If you're not yet ready to step up to support young guys in some way in your community, you can help the M2M men in their work. Make a small (or large) donation on their Go Fund Me campaign. It's a great cause, you will be helping a lot, and you'll be doing something to change the world.



CONTACT EARL: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm also available to help you bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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© Copyright 2005-2019 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
Sharing with attribution allowed. All other use require permission.

June 17, 2019

An UN-Father's Day Message

This is a repeat of an older post describing what Father's Day means to me. It's all still true for me and it feels good to honor my father, father's, and fatherless boys in this way today. It is my intention to run this out every Father's Day.




Fathers, for better and worse, are THE most powerful man-making force on the planet. In this dad season, good fathers are my heroes, and certainly deserve high praise and celebration. That said, here's another way to think about Father's day.

. . . that stew pot of memories
called "Dad" . . .

As the commercial messages about Father's Day bring fathers and fatherhood into sharp focus, for me that stew pot of memories called "Dad," with its very mixed bag of confusing emotions, gets seriously stirred up. From my childhood through adolescence, my dad was lost in his marriage, was sick, and in the throes of alcoholism. While there were some gifts from him, too often he treated me horribly and I've been finding my way back ever since. Even though I know my father was the best dad he was able to be, I'm left feeling the complicated remnants of rage, love, sadness, hopelessness, and a kind of father-hunger driven emptiness at my core.

After years of self-discovery work and digging around in my family history, I've been able to find some true expressions of my dad's fatherly love. Like water in the desert, I treasure those few positive memories. Taken together, they form a small shield I can use to protect myself on Father's Day. At this point in my life, I'm exhausted by both talking and not talking about my dad issues. But when the third Sunday of June approaches each year, for me it's an Un-Father's Day. I find myself looking forward to the relief on the day after Father's Day when it all goes underground again.

In this dad season, I'm also very much reminded of the many men, adolescent males, and young boys I've come across in my man-making work who don't have any good dad memories to use as a defense on Father's Day. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I'm reminded of of all the really bad dad stories I've heard shared across a circle by often sobbing guys.

I'm just saying,
I've heard lots of really bad dad stories.

I have heard from countless men, young men, and boys who have never known a dad because he simply wasn't identifiable, because they were adopted at birth, or because of a court ordered separation from their fathers. There are all the dads who left during pregnancy, or the dads who were shot in the hood from gang violence. Then there are all the kids whose dads are in jail, or lost to PTSD or substance abuse. I remember a soft-spoken boy of ten whose initiation name was Steel Heart. He was in the room when his dad killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head. I'm just saying, I've heard lots of really bad dad stories.


I always wonder if just the idea of Father's Day results in re-wounding these fatherless young males. I wonder if the day stirs up their deep, confusing, profound, and not very well-defended sense of abandonment and father-loss. For them and me, again this year, it will be very much an Un-Father's Day.

So on this Father's Day, if you have the good fortune to have a good dad to honor, count yourself as lucky, and don't miss a chance to say thank you. However imperfectly he fathered you, he was there and doing the best he could do. He deserves to be thanked and celebrated. Thanks Dad, I love you.

After honoring your father, please take a moment to allow into your heart all those tragically abandoned or under-fathered young guys in the world around you. The boys, young men, and men who won't feel those good-dad feelings on Father's Day. Remember that on Father's Day, and every other day of the year, these guys will experience a profound hunger for the blessings that can only come from having a caring father in your life. Remember all the boys and men who, maybe like me, are just hoping all this complicated emotional dad business will pass by soon, go back underground, and that life somehow will get back to a survivable normal on the day after Un-Father's Day.

. . . I believe there is/was a father who loved you.

On my Un-Father's Day card I'd write:
Today I honor good dads everywhere. Thanks you for all you have done and will do. Blessings also on the dads who in some way checked-out, who walked or were not available to their sons, and on the sad legacy they have to live with as a result. And especially, blessings on confused, sad, and dad-hungry males everywhere. Buried underneath all the drama and tragedy that kept you and your father apart, in my heart I believe there is/was a father who loved you.


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© Copyright 2005-2019 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
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June 11, 2019

The Gentlemen's Agreement

For years I've been writing about how so many of our young boys need the support and guidance from non-parental adults. In some ways, it's a replacement for, or addition to, the approach of surrounding them with extended family and "it takes a village...," that used to be how raising kids was naturally done. The basic idea is providing kids with this kind of exposure to caring adults in schools!

"...the new norm for education..."

The genius in this idea is that schools are where the boys are corralled and where we can get their attention. This is what one New Jersey high school principal, profiled in my last blog post, described as, "...the new norm for education..." where we put, "...some loving people in the (school) building...."

In my winter home in Arizona, I'm working with Boys to Men Tucson, where a big part of our programming is putting trained and background-checked men into middle and high schools. They offer support group experiences to young men aged 12-17 during the school day. The academic data we've collected, the boy's reports, the praise from the schools, and the feedback from parents all tell us this is clearly an idea whose time has come.

Participants in The Gentlemen's Agreement
A recent article in The Wilson Times, from Wilson, North Carolina, describes a similar program for boys called, The Gentlemen's Agreement. This program was started at the high school level and has now moved into two elementary schools. They know it's working because when you can get a fifth grader to say he has "learned to take responsibility for his actions," you have clearly and positively altered the trajectory of that young man's life.

The Gentlemen's Agreement program offers career inventories, has conversations about college or other careers, teaches leadership skills, and covers heady ideas like what it takes to become a good man! Who would you, dear reader, be today if you had exposure to these ideas when you were in the 5th grade? You can read all about this wonderful program in The Wilson Times article.

On the Man-Making Blog, if you put the word "school" into the right sidebar search window, you will find many years' worth of descriptions of school-based programs like The Gentlemen's Agreement for boys. What all these programs have in common is they need people like you to help them run. I like to say that what the boys need and really want is time with gloriously imperfect men, who care enough about our young guys to show up.

"Because you're still reading this post,
it means you're interested and qualified..."

If not yet, this idea of supporting boys in schools will soon be arriving in your community. Because you're still reading this post, it means you're interested and qualified to participate. You could start now by asking around about volunteer opportunities at a school near you. Or maybe you can start a boy's group in a school! If you're interested, give me a shout, and we can talk about how to do it.

What I know for sure is that the boys are waiting for men, just like you, to appear and make a difference in their lives.



CONTACT EARL: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm also available to help you bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

FACEBOOK SHARE: If you enjoy this blog, please click the Facebook "Share" button below to support the Man-Making Facebook page! (The button is only on the MM Blog, and not in subscription posts delivered by email.)


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© Copyright 2005-2019 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
Sharing with attribution allowed. All other use require permission.

May 24, 2019

Man-Making Heroes - Bringing Love to School

He's going to any lengths to keep kids safe.

In the clip below, listen to one of my heroes, Akbar Cook, the principal of West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey. He says, "Let's put some loving people in the building...." If he is right, and this is, "...the new norm for education...," we all have a place in his vision and some work to do.


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

Oh yeah, as it turns out, the famous Oprah heard about the Lights on Program and donated a half-million dollars to Newark's West Side High School!

"Let's put some loving people in the building..."

We all can't be Oprah, but what small thing can you do to support "our" kids?

Thanks to another of my heroes, Joe Sigurdson of the Boys to Men Mentoring Network in San Diego for his example and this inspiration.



CONTACT EARL: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm also available to help you bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

FACEBOOK SHARE: If you enjoy this blog, please click the Facebook "Share" button below to support the Man-Making Facebook page! (The button is only on the MM Blog, and not in subscription posts delivered by email.)


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SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email a few times a month, use this link for a free subscription.

© Copyright 2005-2019 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
Sharing with attribution allowed. All other use require permission.