Self-esteem is not…

self esteemBuilding self-esteem is NOT about creating false expectations that the world will be easy.

It IS about showing kids that they have talents and can please people.

Building self-esteem is NOT about cultivating self-centered kids who expect the world to bow to them.

It IS about healing children’s hearts that have been broken by broken families.

Self-esteem is NOT about deluded them about competition and making them think they will win without effort, discipline and vision.

It IS about fostering effort, discipline and vision in people who have none.

Self-esteem is NOT about flattery or false praise.

It IS about finding positives in a world accustomed to negatives.

I’m a believer in self-esteem building. My close friend came from a very broken home. I can’t print the words he used to describe his parents. He had an old school teacher who ran his classroom like a dictatorship. As much of a jerk as he was, the teacher left my friend with a golden nugget. At the end of the semester he said. “It’s too bad you waste so much talent.”

My friend’s take-away? For the first time in his life, he got the notion that he was good at something. He possessed “so much talent.”

This prompted him to try to get into an advanced writing class, to which he was admitted. Ultimately he went to college, the first in his extended family to do so.

That is what self-esteem building is about.


Connect with pain: Part 3 on writing successful compositions

college student writingIn my last post, I asserted that if you write bored, your writing will be boring, and the poor bored grader will grade accordingly. Thus the rule: Don’t be bored writing.

It remains to find a trick to become extremely interested in your writing. One good way is to write from pain, to relate the subject in some way to your own pain.

I had a student who slept during class to mask his intimidation, but when he debated the Dream Act, which helps immigrants, he felt passionately about it. He was an immigrant. He argued well. He related to the subject.

You must think before you write. But think about what? Think about how it relates to your won pain (no matter how obliquely). Imagine yourself in the shoes of whoever is suffering in the case. Argue from his/her perspective.

Though not so easy, this tactic really does wonders for writing.

Here’s part 4 of the series.

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.”

For original page, see

Education is not about the pay

inspirational teacherI’m all for paying what their worth. But if you are called to education, it must be that moment of sheer pleasure of seeing the student go from ignorance to understanding. That has got to be one of the greatest satisfactions on the planet.

Yes, yes, yes. I hear you shouting me down. Incommensurate pay is every bit a part of our sagging educational system. Yes, when we pay teachers like entrepreneurs, will have our best and our brightest preparing our future. Ok, already, I’m on your side.

But I keep insisting, foolishly, that you didn’t get into this because of the pay. There was some magical illusion drawing you, some immaterial joy called HELPING PEOPLE. Not everyone is called to make the mega bucks. Some feel it in their heart and soul to give of themselves and see others rise above as a result.

Personally, turnaround cases are what keep me here. To see kids who would have gotten lost in gangs or drugs get turned on to academics, to see they CAN DO IT, to see them graduate, brings tears to my eyes and determination to my heart to keep going. How about you?

Class becomes interesting only with passionate teaching

passionate teachingTeaching should never be “just a job.” If you don’t teach with passion, your class won’t be interesting.

Today now more than ever, it’s hard to get their attention. But if you are humming with enthusiasm for your material, your students will pick up on that.

I remember my geometry teacher in high school when he said, “Geometry is god.”

I don’t agree. But the point is he was passionate about teaching the subject. Luckily, you don’t have to idolize your topics. But you can’t teach without off-the-charts excitement.

It’s hard to compete with Instagram. They’ve got their face in Facebook. It’s hard to get their face in the book you are teaching.

Your only hope is your passion.