Each year I relish the day that I get to introduce students to Jim MacLaren through Elizabeth Gilbert's GQ feature. This man suffered two catastrophic accidents that caused immense suffering, but maintained an indominable spirit. Jim has passed away, but has left behind incredible inspiration. My first year of teaching (which was, characteristically, brutal) I would listen to clips of his motivational speeches as I got ready in the morning.
The way Jim chose to see his suffering as an invitation to the opportunity to transform himself has stuck with me, and helped me see my own challenges as opportunities. In 2013, Gilbert reflected on this same lesson from Jim in this post: Never Waste Your Suffering.
A student first introduced me to Eric Thomas, who has quite a personal story in his own right, and his "secret to success" speech. This video excerpts that speech and pairs with a football player doing a lot of hard work.
Though I do realize the importance of sleep to young bodies and minds, I have found that the intensity in Thomas' perspective speaks to bring some teenagers out of a malaise and helps to encourage them to pursue their passions.
Jordan Burnham courageously shares his battle with depression in this E:60 video. This video hits home for me. Though we've never met, Jordan and I attended the same high school, we even lived in the same apartment complex, and we both battled depression in adolescence. Jordan has a powerful message, and shines a light on a challenge facing many students in our schools.
This story has helped some students in my courses speak openly about challenges they were facing and seek the support they needed.
Inspiration comes in many forms, and I am most often inspired by the students and adults with whom I work, but sometimes a particular story or speech strikes us in a way that lights a fire. Here are a few sparks that I use myself and have shared with my students.