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A Motivating Force : Education: Businesswoman gives Venice students knowledge that isn't in the textbooks: how to set goals and achieve them.

August 07, 1994|CAROL CHASTANG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The students in the Venice High summer school class were fidgety. Some were cracking wads of bubble gum in their mouths. Others laughed at a class clown's antics. But when the visiting teacher asked what they expected out of their lives, they started paying more attention.

"What is your goal?" asked Linda Tisherman, smiling as she strode around the classroom, delivering an up-tempo talk in the manner of a motivational speaker.

"I want to learn English better so I can go to college," replied 16-year-old Erica Martinez.

"OK," said Tisherman, president of Staff Support, a Westside temporary employment agency. "Now write down when you graduate, and the year you want to enter college. Then, what will you have to do to learn English?"

Within minutes, Erica had the beginnings of a game plan. The 10th-grader reported to the class that she will converse more with English speakers, read more books and enter college by 1997.

"What are we gaining in this class?" asked Tisherman.

"Knowledge," replied the 25 students, almost in unison.

"And what happens when you get out in the real world with that knowledge?"

"You have power," chirped the students.

For two hours each week, 10th-grade summer school students take a break from a morning-long English class for a two-hour session with Tisherman. Her program contains all the trappings of a motivational seminar, from the name tags the students and Tisherman wear to the discussion of success and how to achieve it.

Last spring, Tisherman taught a "Job Readiness" course at Venice High. That class, and this summer's six-week "Student Motivation" course, are part of a program developed by the National Assn. of Temporary Services. The program assists students at risk of dropping out of school by encouraging them to continue their education and helps them prepare to compete in the job market.

In the motivation course, students are introduced to the most essential and practical of life skills: setting targets.

During one class meeting, Tisherman went around the room, asking students to set short-term goals (earning A's in the English final) and long-term goals (college and career).

There is no room for daydreams here. When students tell Tisherman about a goal, she pushes them to set a target date. Once the date is set, she asks them to think about what action is needed to accomplish the goal.

Tisherman's optimism, said the students, is infectious and necessary.

"We don't get to talk to people like that, who are so positive," said Amir Mikhiael, 16. Setting goals and learning how to follow through, said Amir, an aspiring engineer, "is the most important thing I've learned."

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