School Communities

You can’t have community without connection.

However, connection isn’t always easy these days, with the level of stress that students, teachers, parents, and administrators face every day, the distractions we have while we communicate through our many devices without actually connecting with each other, and the sheer number of things we all feel we must do every day.

Fortunately, young people are the same as they have always been: developmentally primed to learn about themselves and their friends. Through the application of a revolutionary, yet simple, performance model that uses life-coaching techniques, my workshops channel that desire to learn so participants are inspired to help each other and, armed with new cognitive-emotional skills, emerge with a personalized performance plan that empowers each student to succeed. My programs teach hard skills so students can:

  • Manage the “gremlins” in their heads, so positivity prevails,
  • Manage stress,
  • Manage their heart rate (and, therefore, anxiety),
  • Use adversity to fuel success instead of failure,
  • Achieve goals: participants learn how to devise a plan, implement that plan, achieve benchmarks and reach goals,
  • Find a sense of purpose: what does it look like if they’re successful? What is it going to look like if they don’t achieve their goals?
  • Be a better team player in group settings.

The result is students who:

  • Identify key internal and external stressors and learn how to manage them,
  • Gain powerful self-knowledge to help remove barriers to personal progress,
  • Find their passion and develop steps towards creating a lifestyle around it,
  • Believe in the power of the experience and not just the end result,
  • Feel what it is like to achieve goals and find success,
  • Enjoy the strengthened bonds established with their contemporaries to help each other conquer the future.

My programs are designed to give students a nurturing, fun, experience that helps them start to build a community. Highly interactive, participants will laugh, shed some stress and tears, bond, and, critically, get some wonderful ideas for staying in touch with who they are and want to be.

Why a group: Kids love helping each other. What I’ve found is when participants voice their hopes, dreams and fears within the safe crucible of the workshop setting, their goals suddenly become palpable. The obstacles in people’s paths, including their own personal emotional challenges, become clear, and the group begins to help one another at deep levels.

The result is a personalized plan in the context of a new kind of ongoing group support that empowers each student to truly find his/her voice and approach life from a more fundamental, satisfying place. Participants learn the skills of intentional confidence: how to increasingly know themselves, believe in themselves, lessen the impact of other people’s opinions and begin to lead the life they really want as they grow into young adulthood.

Participants will learn hard skills such as:

  • Ability to Shed Failure
  • Mental Steadiness
  • Focus/Staying Present
  • Ability to Strategize – reflect, plan, enjoy the “gaps”
  • Confidence – the difference between hoping you’ll succeed and knowing it
  • Drive – go get it mentality – trust your abilities
  • Service/Generosity/Compassion – getting out of oneself on a regular basis.

I am a senior on the softball team. I just wanted to take the time to email you and let you know that I really enjoyed the leadership workshop with Jeff Levin last night. Going into the meeting I figured it was going to be someone just talking at us giving us pointers on how to grow as a leader on an athletic team. However, Jeff made it so much more than that. The workshop was interactive and everyone participated. I feel like after only an hour-long meeting with him I have learned more about myself and how to grow into a better leader than I have in any other way. After talking to a few athletes who were also at one of the workshops last night, I have heard nothing but positive feedback.

I just wanted to take the time to personally let you know how much we enjoyed the workshop and how much we learned from it. – Emily M.

Hot Button Issues: Many programs for students attempt to address collective or systemic issues through lectures and forums on “Social Media” or “Substance Abuse.” My work certainly addresses those concerns, but encompasses so much more as individuals learn about themselves while they connect powerfully with the other young people with whom they live and learn. Because of the open, safe forum that develops, participants inevitably bring up these kinds of hot-button topics, and in the atmosphere of mutual sharing and striving that the group has created, begin to truly see the enormous lifelong value of making loving, courageous choices for themselves and others. This greater individual and collective intimacy and accountability help reduce dangerous behaviors such as binge drinking/drugging, harassment/hazing and inappropriate sexual behavior. In addition, through the course of the program, I can often identify individuals who may be at risk for destructive behaviors and successfully steer them towards proper support before a tragedy occurs.

Choosing a Program: I customize every workshop to the circumstances of the situation: Any workshop or longer program can be modified to meet specific needs, and if you don’t see anything that seems like a good fit, please contact me to discuss your school’s particular requirements and how can they can best be met in a workshop or consultation setting. Pricing is tailored to the requirements of each program, so please give me a call, and I will be glad to discuss your goals and how we can achieve them.

I also offer both short- and long-term individual life coaching.

Program Sampling:

Curriculum of Confidence

Problems it addresses: STRESS. Anxiety. It also touches upon many of the poor choices that stressed and anxious kids make, including addiction, depression/suicide, anger management, acting out sexually, bullying on social media, etc.

What it looks like: A 40-minute assembly where I use humor, music, and a lot of audience participation to

  • Name it: we first talk about the stress today’s teenagers face.
  • Teach hard skills to help the kids manage and reduce their stress levels.
  • Guide and empower kids to look inside to see what they are passionate about and come up with a plan to include their passion in their lives, both short- and long-term. We talk about how their choices, both good and bad, will influence their ability to achieve their plans.
  • Encourage the kids to share their plans with each other so they can hold each other accountable.

Change can’t happen overnight because of one assembly: The Curriculum of Confidence just plants the seed. I offer follow-up programs to help you achieve real change:

  • I can work with the staff to teach them how to support the kids as they work through their plans.
  • I am also happy to negotiate a program where I come back as often as you want to offer ongoing support to kids and/or staff. I can work with motivated kids or kids that need extra help to find what they are passionate about or have major obstacles, either internal or external, that prevent them from making progress.

The Curriculum of Confidence assembly can be a school-wide assembly or used for smaller groups, such as sports keynotes, workshops, and in the classroom setting. I also offer a modified Curriculum of Confidence program for parents and teens together.

For more information on the Curriculum of Confidence, see this blog post.

Semester Program

Real and lasting change can’t happen with one visit. My Semester Program typically includes three visits during a semester: the first visit is intense and includes group and individual (or, in the case of really large groups, smaller group) meetings. I offer programs for all of the constituents of your community: students, staff, as well as an evening event for everyone, including parents, so they can participate, too. My programs provide structure to put your school in a position to succeed, support to help you succeed, and accountability to make sure you do succeed. I return to campus for a minimum of two more visits at key points in the semester. During these visits, the individual and team plans are reviewed and tweaked to ensure progress.

Here’s how I do it:

  • I meet with you and staff to set goals, learn about kids and monitor process and progress. I work hand-in-hand with the staff at all times.
  • I start and end the first visit with two-hour meetings with individual/smaller group meetings done in between. During individual meetings, the school schedule can continue with minimal disruption.
  • Each participant comes up with a personalized performance plan that empowers them to succeed.
  • Individual goals are shared; group accountability is key.
  • I stay in touch by Skype with staff and students regularly to ensure that commitments on both sides are happening and people are holding one another accountable.  I am also available for quick consults with any individual at any time. If an individual needs more support, I am available to work with individuals for an hourly fee, payable by the school or family.

One-Visit Program

  • If your goal is to give your students an inspiring experience and food for thought, then one-visit programs are designed to introduce the motivational concepts I describe above.

One-visit programs range from two to eight hours, depending on your goals and budget.

Keynote Addresses 

Many of the concepts I cover in my smaller programs can be adapted for larger groups, and I have given many keynote addresses to students. I customize every keynote based on the needs of my audience.

Although I customize programs to meet the needs of each school, here are some sample programs:

The Antidote

The school community is actually composed of three constituencies: the students, the staff, and the parents. To truly have a “community,” you must have the participation of all three. Therefore, while available as individual components, my Antidote Program is most effective when all three components are used together:

  1. Finding Your Voice – For Students

African slaves found their voices in the fields and shanties of the South at their own peril. They summoned amazing courage just to express themselves, building vibrant, life-giving communities in the process. If it weren’t for that bravery and those creative communities, we’d have no blues, no jazz, no rock ‘n’ roll, no rap, no hip-hop—no American music, fundamentally. Indeed, the metaphor of finding one’s voice is central to the workshop and central to growing up: the courage required, the mutual support, the community spirit. The Finding Your Voice Workshop will catalyze camaraderie within any group of students and teach the mechanics of confidence. Live and recorded music will be part of the workshop, particularly blues, and I love it when I can arrange with student musicians to participate in the music. Kids will truly and deeply enjoy the retreat experience. They’ll emerge with a written plan for a much firmer sense of self, personal direction and place in their school community, their families and their world.

  1. Helping Kids, Helping Ourselves – For Educators

Educational leaders find that many more students are faltering under the burden of emotional/family challenges and placing increasing demands on faculty, coaches and staff. Bright, talented dedicated people are more difficult to find and retain; school atmosphere and morale can suffer. Even bright, motivated students are facing unprecedented challenges in their personal lives as our culture becomes more complicated. How can we meet student and staff needs?

In the Helping Kids, Helping Ourselves Program, educators find practical solutions to working with students of all descriptions and, in so doing, discover effective and practical ways to increase their own well-being and effectiveness professionally and personally. Educators learn valuable life coaching skills to employ with students and themselves, deepening those intentional connections all around.

This personal and professional growth develops hand in hand with the increasing stability, happiness and productivity of the staff, who feel happier and more productive and enjoy increased unity and morale. Most importantly, they no longer fall prey to students’ emotional “button pushing” and can deal more effectively with all students, particularly those who were previously the most troubled, potentially upset and/or disruptive.

  1. The Antidote Evening: Re-Building Community – For Everybody

This is a fun, community-building event designed to coalesce insights and gains made in the earlier workshops by bringing kids, educators and parents together. Live music is actually at the heart of the Antidote workshop, as we discuss how cultural shifts (what I call “the Bombardment”) has affected our lives, our families and our community and take a look together at marvelous new ways of re-connecting.

The workshop ends with a really powerful “commitment ceremony” during which index cards with aspects of our lives and selves we’d like to get rid of are burned and cards with positive changes and commitments are read and celebrated. Community members will share music, poetry, art, ideas and then with Mr. Levin’s band, The Levitones, who will play Motown, R & B, Blues and Soul. The Antidote experience will be an amazing experience of kinship and safety and a powerful vehicle to develop wonderful individual, family and community commitments.

Other Workshops:

Choices Workshop

Students today face an action-packed and exciting array of choices. Given the pace with which we live and that ever-growing menu of possibilities, it might also be argued that kids have a deeper set of challenges as they navigate these years.

One thing is certain: Young people are naturally inclined towards self-examination. The highly interactive Choices Workshop allows for open sharing and discussion and provides inspiration and a concrete plan for forward action.

Students’ dreams are unearthed, and passion and ownership are developed. The real-world obstacles and personal habits and “gremlins” that would derail those dreams are exposed, and strategies for their creative management are discussed.

Transitions Workshop

Students are inheriting an increasingly less hospitable world, particularly economically, and their stress is palpable. This two-hour workshop seeks to help young people not only manage that stress, but maximize their chances of success. This program helps participants make strong commitments to themselves and, critically, a partner—roommate, boy/girlfriend, parent, hometown friend—around behaviors they know will guarantee success.

For example, one might pledge to his partner, “I will apply for X jobs per week….I will call you if I’m feeling discouraged….I will keep my eye on the prize by doing X.”

The atmosphere is light-hearted and the interactive curriculum packed with great suggestions for success. There will be music, meaningful activity, laughter and learning for all.

Participants can expect:

  • To laugh a lot.
  • To learn about and connect meaningfully with their peers.
  • To learn how to manage increasing independence.
  • To make commitments about daily life including partying, studying, sleep habits and seeking help when necessary.

Results:

  • To discover techniques by which they can lessen their own anxiety.
  • Come to see that they are not alone, and can rely upon others successfully in the transition.
  • Make concrete behavioral plans that will maximize their chances for success.

This program is particularly appropriate for freshmen and seniors.

Jeff … understands how difficult it can be to navigate this time in our lives by ourselves. He understands the challenges today’s student faces: the balance of work, fun and potentially frustrating and scary process of navigating the steps toward getting a job. Jeff helps to break down internal barriers, pushing you to find real confidence. He finds a way to connect kids with each other, encouraging them to understand each other on an emotional and mental level. He fosters an environment that encourages trust and allows kids to be vulnerable in front of one another, to trust that they can be their true self amongst each other. At the end of the day, he cares about the students and cares about what is best for them. From my own experience I can say that he has taken a personal interest in my own well-being and my own life up here simply because he cares. In the short time that I have known Jeff I have been able to consider him, a middle-aged man from an entirely different background than mine, a friend. It is important for us at Dartmouth to connect with a mentor and trust him or her. Through these interactions, Jeff has had the ability not just to offer advice, but to help me understand what I want in the step after college, and to understand a course to get there. – Adam P.

Leadership Workshop

Although some leaders are born, everyone can benefit from some leadership skills, whether they are active leaders or simply lead by example.

The Leadership Workshop immerses participants in community building, leadership and character development by focusing both on individual plans for students but also plans for their leadership role in their team, school or community. The Leadership Workshop’s mission is to teach and inspire young people to think outside of themselves in all facets of their lives, whether on and off the playing field, inside and outside the classroom, being with their families and their friends. Other exercises will include believing in the power of the experience and not just the end result, and to see that the world needs leaders who are creative, confident, focused, perseverant, caring, courageous, tough, fair and, most of all, independent in thought and action.

Once again, I customize every workshop to the circumstances of the situation: Any workshop or longer program can be modified to meet specific needs, and if you don’t see anything that seems like a good fit, please contact me to discuss your school’s particular requirements and how can they can best be met in a workshop or consultation setting. Pricing is tailored to the requirements of each program, so please give me a call, and I will be glad to discuss your goals and how we can achieve them.

I also offer both short- and long-term individual life coaching.