Tag Archives: success

Why Parents Should Attend Conferences

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The belief exists among many parents that conferences with their child’s teacher are unimportant. For one reason or another, parents can justify to themselves why skipping their scheduled time doesn’t make a difference in the long run: my child has a good grade; the teacher would call if there was a problem; I’m too busy to take the time off work. All of these reasons seem legitimate, and, despite their validity, I’d like to present a counterargument expressing why Parent-Teacher Conference Night should be highlighted on every parent’s calendar.

First, there are many reasons teachers need to speak with you, beyond communicating your child’s letter grade. We often need to express to you what your child’s strengths are, what areas they can improve, and how they can adjust to better succeed in school. We may need to address minor behavioral concerns that don’t warrant a phone call home. We might want to ask about your evening schedule or suggest ways you can help your child prepare at home. We also would like to get to know you, to better relate to you or feel more comfortable discussing problems as they come up. We would like to express, face to face, our joy at your child’s successes and our sadness in their struggles. In short, we want to know you, and we want you to know us.

Second, parents have a different perspective and deeper knowledge level of who their child, our student, is. That perception is often vital in helping us understand how best to teach each student individually. The more we know about your son or daughter, the more we can tailor our lessons to help him or her. You can provide insight into his or her life that we would otherwise be unable to see. You can explain to us about your child’s health, talk to us about signs or symptoms of conditions you are concerned about, and describe for us any social problems they might be having outside of school. Mental, physical, and emotional health has a huge impact on a student’s performance, and if you make us aware of those types of issues, we are able to better accommodate a child’s needs.

Third, it demonstrates to your child the importance of an open relationship with others in their lives who care for them. When we can converse at conferences, you can share with them how their teacher views their abilities and that lets them know they are individuals, unique and appreciated just for who they are. It helps to build a better support system between some of the most important people in your child’s life: you and their teachers.

Make talking with your child’s teacher a priority. We will be flexible about timing. We just want your input. Educating a student is a team effort, and you are half the team.

Peace and love.

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Success Series Part 2: Drive

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Check out part 1 here.

We have all been asked the question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”. I have a difficult time with this question. I guess I don’t even know why people bother asking, since they don’t truly expect honesty or answers like, “I’m incredibly lazy and won’t do anything productive without prodding” or “I often stay out unbelievably late at night gambling and drinking, so I will frequently show up late — if at all.” The expectation of future employers or college entrance officers is that we will effortlessly spin our flaws into benefits, like, “I’m a perfectionist so I spend way too much time getting everything exactly right” or “I often become so consumed with tasks that I bring work home with me — I just can’t stop thinking about it, even in my free time” or “I take on too much because I am overly eager and a real go-getter.”

My conscience is far too inconsiderate to allow me to ignore my true failings. My answer when posed this question often goes a little something like this: “One of my best qualities is my determination. I am tenacious. I am headstrong. And, fine, I will admit it: I am bordering on stubborn. One might even call me obstinate. If I feel I am justified, I dig in my heels — admittedly, being inflexible is possibly my worst quality.” And then I blush. I’ve never really learned to quit when I’m ahead.

So, let me see if I can spin this quality back into a positive.

I am proud of my ability to set a goal and work to reach it single-mindedly. It is my perseverance that has enabled me to get good grades, graduate from college, pay off most of my student loans, quit smoking, and lose a considerable amount of weight. (I am not discussing the impact of having a loving family or strong support system here — while those, too, are keys to success, they are so important that they will be in a separate blog post.)

Even though it hurts to acknowledge that being strong is often seen as unattractive or undesirable, I can’t allow that to intimidate me into being weak. I am a principled person, and when I am relentless or tough, it’s because I feel I must be. I stand firm when I believe it is not just the right thing, but the only thing, to do.

Despite being called “unyielding” and “unreasonable” by both loved ones and strangers, I find that it is my rigidity that has enabled me to survive hardship, bullying, and many new beginnings. I don’t let obstacles prevent me from doing what I need to do to find happiness. I go over, under, or around whatever is blocking my path to success.

Sometimes, that blockade was put in place by me. Sometimes, it was left by others. But it is my willpower, my unwavering desire, my belief that I CAN, which has allowed me to clear those hurdles one by one. It is my steadfastness that has let me heal from rejection, unfairness, and tragedy.

It is my dedication, my diligence, my drive that has led me to the life I have today. How can that possibly be a negative?

Peace and love.4332_1149745819631_369708_n

Success Series Part 1: Happiness

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People are always looking for the “key” to success. I am by no means a “life expert” — a term I’ve heard thrown around but don’t actually fully understand. How does one become a life expert? By living? In that case, all who are currently alive would qualify, technically. I digress. I am just going to do some thoughtful analysis (let’s call it creative and active thinking because it has an acronym of CAT) in a new blog series.

What determines whether someone is “successful” in life? There are far too many variables and opinions to give a definitive answer; that being said, a point on which most would agree is “achieving happiness.”

What makes one person happy would, however, not necessarily be fulfilling, exciting, or satisfying for another. I can state with complete certainty that I would not be happy as the ring leader of a rodent circus; someone right at this moment, though, is elated that they have finally realized their lifelong dream of dressing up, training, and touching rats all day long (I just can’t even…oh my word).

Unfortunately, people often rely on others to make themselves happy. They “need” a boyfriend or girlfriend, they “wish” they were popular, they “can’t live without” their cell phones, and they “would just die” if they were publicly humiliated. This type of mindset is detrimental to true happiness, which can only be found inside oneself. Other people’s opinions of my life are not something I care to lose sleep over; I do what makes me feel good, and surround myself with like-minded people. I wasted a lot of time in the past, trying to please everyone else (which, as has been famously said by one far wiser than myself, is an impossibility), and my personal happiness was often placed as the lowest priority. That, I realize now, was a mistake.

I am not attempting to say that one should always thoughtlessly choose his or her own desires over others’ at all times. That would be selfish and narcissistic, and would inevitably lead to unhappiness in the long run. I am saying that, in general, the things on which we should focus the most time and energy are the things which provide not just short-term happiness but will also lead to contentment and satisfaction over time.

Let me elaborate a little on this point. To use an analogy, I love cheesecake (I am pretty sure it loves me, too, but is afraid of commitment). Eating it makes me happy. Imagine this scenario: I choose one evening to eat an entire cheesecake for dinner, blatantly refusing to share any with my husband. It is fulfilling and full of creamy deliciousness right away. But it makes me sick when I attempt to sleep, and my husband is tossing and turning from hunger. The sicker my body feels, the more I regret the cheesecake; the more tired my man grows, the more he resents me. We end up divorcing. He moves on with someone who (begrudgingly) gives him a sliver of her cheesecake. I turn to cheesecake for comfort. I continue eating cheesecake for dinner every evening of my long, lonely, self-centered existence, because I know it makes me happy in the moment. I rue that decision every night, like a vicious cycle. My clothes stop fitting. I stop combing my hair. I can’t understand why I have no friends and am unattractive, so I drown my sorrow with more cheesecake to make myself feel better, if only for a few minutes. Even my many, many cats eventually leave me, refusing to watch me destroy myself. I can’t grasp the reality that something that makes me so happy (cheesecake) causes me to be so unhappy.

Through my long-winded explanation, it is clear that there are many different types of happiness, and even some emotions are mistaken for happiness when they are actually something entirely different. So, how can one avoid the pain of a “false” or “temporary” sense of satisfaction and focus on legitimate, lasting contentment? Henry David Thoreau once stated, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Put simply, honestly self-analyze and figure out what will make you genuinely happy and healthy, and do it as much as you can.

I believe that planning one’s future is essential to his or her future happiness. I don’t mean plan out every last detail down to the exact date (I was supposed to be independently wealthy three years ago, by the way). I mean, one must know what types of things will bring future happiness and what will not. Then, keep focused to make the good things happen and eliminate the bad. We must actively tend the metaphorical garden of our lives: plant our goals on the sunny side, water the dreams daily, fertilize the passions regularly, pull the destructive weeds as soon as they crop up, and watch your happiness bloom.  531553_3963563483314_1887143721_n

One final vow: I will always share my cheesecake with my husband. He makes me happier than all the cheesecake in the world.

Check out part 2 here. Peace and love.404285_2799947473641_945394804_n