Engagement Lessons from a 12 year-old

My 12 year-old daughter recently applied to be a peer mentor at her school for incoming sixth graders. As part of the application process, she had to write a short essay demonstrating her engagement by answering this question: What advice would you give to a new student?

Her answer is just as relevant to engagement in school as it is at work, life, and beyond.

Here’s some of what she shared:

Engagement Means Know Your Priorities.

I go to school to learn and get good grades. That’s my top priority. Whenever I have to choose between school, friends, family, and sports, I put homework and studying first.

Work, Life, and Beyond. What are your priorities at work, life, and beyond? If you don’t feel satisfied at the end of the day, perhaps you gave your attention to the things that demanded your time at every given moment. Working whatever task looms most urgent at the time will likely result in several half-completed tasks and a growing sense of dissatisfaction. Know what’s most important to get done in the compartment of life you’re in at the moment, and do the most important ones first. Engagement develops when we do our most critical things well.

sascha2Engagement Means Get Involved. 

Our school has theater, sports, and many clubs for just about any interest. Take advantage of those opportunities to become more well-rounded. Before this year, I had never run before as part of an organized sport. Then I joined the Cross Country team. I loved it. It was exciting to make progress at each race. This semester, I joined Track and Field. Not only do I enjoy making improvement, but also I’ve made several new friends that I wouldn’t have known if I weren’t on the team.  

Work, Life, and Beyond. I’ve come across three types of people:

  • Prisoners. “I don’t want to be here.”
  • Participants. “I will do what’s asked of me–sometimes more, often less.”
  • Pace-Setters. “I take ownership of this!”

Prisoners are actively disengaged employees. They don’t want to be there, and that attitude shows in their work. Participants will join in if something excites them, but they often do just enough to get by. Pace-Setters demonstrate high engagement. They’re owners who take responsibility and make things happen.

Are you wondering which one fits you? Ask yourself this: What do you do when the starter pistol fires? If you aren’t ready to run, you’re not a Pace-Setter. Want to be more engaged? Get involved. When you are not only part of the team but act as a leader within the team, you will set the standard for those around you. You will be an engaged leader worthy of following.

Engagement Means Ask for Help. 

You will learn new things in class, and it’s easy to get confused. No one wants you to get behind or feel lost. So do what I do: Ask for help. Teachers and coaches are there to help you. Peer mentors are there for you, too. So you can ask them, too, if you feel more comfortable doing that.

Work, Life, and Beyond. Some of my deepest learning experiences started off with me feeling completely incompetent. Why did I feel that way? Because I WAS completely incompetent! My boss wanted statistical data to validate an opinion I shared with him. I’m good with opinions, but not with statistics. Not only did I lack the know-how on getting him the statistics, but I regularly used a thesaurus because I even have difficulty saying the word statistic! I asked someone for help. Now I’m no longer incompetent or in the dark. My sense of engagement grew with my knowledge. And my mentor in learning remained my mentor for many years to come. 

Don’t have all of the answers? Don’t sweat it. No one does. But if you’re willing to learn, lower your pride a hair, and look around, you’ll find an expert who’s more than happy to help you. As a side benefit, most experts LOVE sharing what they know with others. So don’t be surprised if you get an answer but also a new friend in the bargain.


My daughter is going to make a fine peer-mentor. I just wish she were old enough to come work with me, because I can always use more people with wisdom, insight, and the desire to help others.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen says:

    Your daughter is wise beyond her years! You must be very proud! AND rightfully so.

    1. scottcarbonara says:

      Thank you, Karen. She is. And I am!

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