Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Definition of Success

I spent some time today catching up on some blog post reading.  Anyone with a newborn will know how great it is to be able to spend some time reading, sipping a cup of tea and enjoying the peace and quiet surrounding you!  Scratch that - anyone with KIDS will be able to relate!

Funny thing is, most of the articles and blogs that I read today seem to focus on success.  It was a recurring theme, so much so I decided I had to add my two cents.  Especially now with a new little one, wanting him to succeed means so much to me, but how am I going to make sure that this actually happens?  Is what I do today with him going to actually make a difference?  How can I ensure that my kid has the best chances at a successful life?

First, I guess, we have to define success.  To me, success isn't being the best or being the smartest.  It's not about having lots of money or a nice car.  Success is about finding your passion.  Being happy.  Having dreams and pursuing them.  Reaching your goals, but being able to adapt and be flexible.

How can I teach my son success? 

1 - Allow him to make mistakes and learn from them

Ok, so right now he's 5 and a half weeks.  He doesn't make mistakes.  But when he does (and I'm sure he'll make lots of them if he follows in my footsteps!), I'm going to let him figure out what to do next.  I'm not going to step in and solve his problems for him, as much as I know I'm going to want to.  

Why is this so important?  I see it all the time with my students.  They know they don't have to try because they know that someone, somewhere, is going to swoop in and save them.  

I don't need to study, they're going to pass me anyway.

I don't need to actually practice to make the soccer team, everyone wins anyway.

Yup, they don't even try.  Not allowing them to make mistakes, to fail at something without interfering has been the biggest (in my opinion) flaw in our education and parenting communities.  

So, my son, YOU are going to make mistakes, and you are going to make a lot of them.  You are going to not work very hard on a project, and you are going to get a bad grade and you know what?  You are going to learn that to be successful, you need to learn from your mistakes, and keep on going.

2 - Love him and support him no matter what

My love for my son is unconditional.  So is my love for my students (granted, there are some days I'd like a break from certain ones here and there, but that doesn't mean I don't love them!)  

Unconditional.  That means no matter what they do, they say or they are.  In fact, I'm a strong believe that EVERY child is perfect just the way they are.  Truly, they are.  Of course, everyone has things they need to learn (hence point #1), but that doesn't make one child better than another.

For a child to be successful, he or she must know that they have a great support system behind them.  To know that it IS ok to make mistakes, that they will still be loved and no one is going to judge them for failing.

It is important to me that my students know that I have their back whenever they need me.  That it's ok to make a mistake, as long as you keep on trying.  That we all take a different amount of time learning a concept, but that doesn't mean we can't learn it.  That effort means more than the grade received.

3 - Spend time with him

I guess this one goes hand in hand with #2, but it's worth repeating.  Spending time with a child, really connecting with them, will have such a lasting impression.
This quote from Carl W. Buechner says it all.  It really does.  Spend time with your kids, with your students, it'll pay itself back hundredfold.  

Success isn't an easy road, it takes a lot of perseverance, failures and motivation.  It means doing what you need to do because it's going to allow you to reach your goals.  It means making mistakes and learning from them. It means getting back on the horse after you've fallen for the hundredth time.  

  Success is being passionate about something.  It's about following your dreams. It's about being happy with who you are.  

That, my son (and my students) is what I wish for you.  

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!