The back story

rebellious student

The student who is rebellious, distant, not engaged… The student who fools around, doesn’t care, distracts others… The student who’s always on his phone and never brings a pen and paper… That student has a back story of pain.

Now we can justify ourselves for cracking down on him, bemoaning him, wishing he weren’t there because he ruins the rest.

Or we can try to find out the background. Did his parents just divorce? Was he bullied last year? Did he get beaten up?

If you can help kids quantify and deal with pain, you can give them tools to succeed in life. Teachers are more than relaters of information or preparers for standardized tests. Teachers are helpers of humans.

Never underestimate the value of your work. Your troubled kids may not score highest on the standardized test. But if you help them to not be a drug addict, you have not failed the system. You are a success and should feel proud of yourself.

His behavior comes from his hurt, not any malice towards you.


Thinking more important than electronics

thinking over electronics

While school boards strive to put electronic devices into the hands of every kids, tech execs strictly limit their own children’s online time. Steve Jobs didn’t even let his kids play with the then-new iPads. Former editor of Wired, Chris Anderson told the New York Times: “My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules. That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”

Instead, tech CEO’s get their kids library cards.

Looks like a good book does more to unleash the child’s mind. While most parents worry if their children are technologically savvy enough to be on the cutting edge of jobs in the future, the electronics gurus want their children to learn to think, to reason and to dream.

There’s a powerful lesson.

Keep trying: Netherlands and education

Huntelaar celebrates after his penalty kick gave Netherlands a late win.

Huntelaar celebrates after his penalty kick gave Netherlands a late win.

After Giovanni Dos Santos second-half goal, perennial underachievers Mexico could taste victory against the Netherlands June 29. It tasted like tacos with chile.

After nearly failing to qualify for World Cup, Mexico burst onto the field to bust expectations. They played some inspired soccer: quick combinations, sharp passing, glorious goals. Mexico had never gotten out of the Group of 16. And here they were one goal up against powerful Netherlands.

But Netherlands didn’t have a panic attack. No, Netherlands calmly just continued its attack.

With two minutes to the end of the game, Wesley Sneijder was fed a header from a corner kicked and smashed the ball into the near post. It was impossible for superstar goalie Guillermo Ochoa to stop. Mexico’s heart began to sink. Holland’s began to rise.

Then in extra time, Arjen Robben — probably the best player at this tournament — after troubling Mexico’s defense the entire 90 minutes, penetrated the area with some fancy and fast footwork. Rafael Marquez, who should have no better, fell for the bait. Attempting to defend too aggressively, he stomped down on Robben’s foot. The contact was minimal. Robben flopped theatrically. But there was contact. So the ref awarded a penalty kick.

A penalty kick is virtually impossible for the kicker to miss. Logically, Klaas Jan Huntelaar converted with only seconds to overtime. There would be overtime.

How does this relate to education? Simple, Netherland’s had an attitude we as teachers should have. They patiently pursued success unflaggingly through different avenues. They didn’t look for someone to blame. They believed in themselves.

Finding a culprit can be pointless, so is justifying our lack of success. At any moment, you can spark the inspiration of your students, but you must be inspired yourself at all times. The kids may engage, as long as you’re engaging. The Netherlands comeback was inspired by top professionals. Be a top professional and keep believing in those kids. Believe they can learn, they can overturn a deficit, they can become a success. Feed them a constant diet of optimism and enthusiasm.

Education reform maybe has its place. But attitude reform is the key.

Travel as education

travelandeducationNowadays, students travel to China during their summer vacations. You can learn so much from travel. It broadens your horizons. You get wisdom from seeing how people live. You learn language. You get culture. I wish I could assign my students the summer homework of visiting another country.

I’m not talking about being isolated from a local population in a resort hotel. There maybe you learn nothing.  You have to hang out with the natives and observe them to learn. The U.S.’s way of doing things is not the only formula of success. In some cases, it’s a formula for failure. But as long as you wall yourself in, you’ll never know what lies beyond.

I didn’t always know this. When I went to college, I thought that good grades at a good university were my ticket to success. The traditional route, however, deprives students of so much richness.

Hopefully, this summer you have the chance to get out and about and learn something new, something you never would have learned otherwise. And hopefully, this becomes a key to success in your life.

See related:

Beyond graduation and motivation

educationHer mom didn’t even hardly speak English. Dad was gone. So what was to motivate her to excel at school?

Eventually, friends and teachers broke through her apathy. Continually reminding her to think of her future, they got her to think. Steadily, her grades and her work habits have improved. Now she has post-graduation plans. She’s working for a future of success.

Not every kid automatically strives for success. A lot come to class unmotivated, disgusted by the pell-mell at home, on the surface rebellious. Teachers must spend time motivating, helping students to understand that misery and poverty awaits them if they don’t get their act together.

I try to tell students that they will either work with the strength of their back or the strength of their brain.

For me, it actually causes me pain to see kids making bad decisions. But I know no more exquisite joy to see kids turn around. The young lady described anonymously at the beginning of this article is the latest. I’m happy I played a (small) part in helping her on to success.

That is a thrill of teaching.

Critical thinking is… well, critical

tuggleBy Bryan Eckert on Washington and Lee University website, a reprint

Undergraduate degrees in German and economics plus a master’s of divinity from Yale isn’t an obvious route to the corporate leadership of the world’s largest soft drink company. But Clyde Tuggle, Coca-Cola senior vice president and chief public affairs officer, told a recent gathering of Washington and Lee students that it is “the perfect education for the business world.”

“I never had finance or accounting, yet I help run a huge business,” the visiting Woodrow Wilson Fellow said. “I learned communications, research and critical thinking” in liberal arts and religious studies at Hamilton College and Yale, respectively. At Coke, “I blew right by the [business majors].”

Tuggle’s words offer encouragement to a generation of liberal arts college students who might not know in which industry they want to work, after being advised since high school to adopt a laser focus on a career interest.

Washington and Lee participates annually in The Woodrow Wilson Fellowships Program, which enables the university to select from a list of world-renowned leaders, political figures and intellectuals to come to campus for 3-5 days. On their visits, fellows meet with students and faculty, participate in classes and discussions, give a public lecture and enjoy significant interaction with the campus community.

Last year, the Provost’s Office selected Tuggle, partly because his unique combination of a liberal arts education and noteworthy success in international business matches W&L’s mission and programs.

“Succeeding in business is all about bringing good judgment to bear. When I need data, I bring in a team to crunch the numbers, but then I go negotiate the deal,” he said during his public lecture. “And a liberal arts university like Washington and Lee offers all the learning needed to succeed in any business today.”

To serve an organization like Coca-Cola, “you need to speak a minimum of two foreign languages,” he said, “and have international experience. You need to see yourself as a citizen of the world — think like a Moroccan and see the world from that point of view — or you are behind the curve. You need the cultural skill to walk into any space and be comfortable, to blend into the environment.”

Tuggle said that being tapped for Coke’s team to plan how the company will double its business in 10 years required every member to apply his or her ability to envision the future.

“You can’t have a successful business, life or institution without that vision,” at the same time observing how the world is changing, he said. For Coke, the big challenges will be delivering what society wants and needs: “We will crack the code on a natural, non-nutrative sweetener that will replace artificial sweeteners. In packaging, we will create plastic made from plants, not fossil fuel.” Leading such huge change calls on abilities learned in a liberal arts environment.

“If you are going to lead something, you must imagine not only what it is, but what it can be in the future. Doing so requires process, rigor and discipline … it requires creativity, courage and breaking rules, but especially creativity” — thinking skills, Tuggle said, that are taught by the liberal arts. “You are so privileged to be here.”

During his visit, Tuggle met with a group of students, staff and faculty to discuss religious life at the university.  Sophomore Anna Russell Thornton, who participated in that discussion, said Tuggle showed how majoring in German to attending divinity school to taking a speechwriting job at Coca-Cola prepared him for his current success.

“He told us that the most valuable commodity we possess is our time and that if we dedicate our time to those things we love, we will be infinitely better prepared for our lives.” Thornton said.

Tuggle met with journalism, business and law classes, as well as students in the Advertising in the Liberal Arts program and Williams Investment Society.

“He really is the ideal leader to come speak to our campus,” said Associate Provost Marc Conner, who along with John Jensen, director of career development, coordinated Tuggle’s visit. “Mr. Tuggle embraces and advocates for the liberal arts education, along with a powerful commitment to internationalism and a belief in the entrepreneurial and daring spirit of our Williams School.”

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