Dare to Dream? The Scariest Part of Being a Kid Today


“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Such a simple question to be followed up with a conversation with a child that could last for hours if you wanted it to. My mother tells me that I wanted to be a garbage man (maybe because she used to always tease me that Grouch from Sesame Street was my true father), an astronaut, an inventor, and a race car driver, but most of all, I wanted to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Personally, I remember having the dreams to be many different things, and the encouragement to become all of them……That is until around 8th Grade.

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It is clear to me that from 8th grade on, the thoughts and dreams about my future was systematically redirected by the adults around me. My dream world that allowed me to believe I could achieve anything had slowly transformed into a reality that told me I could only accomplish what others would limit me to. However, I was born with, or developed, a stubborn personality as a young child. It may have been from moving around so much as an Air Force Brat, or just simply a trait passed on from my parents. Either way, I have been called obnoxious, thick-headed, opinionated, and many other names, but it is a trait that has allowed me to accomplish many goals that adults told me I would never do. Dreaming to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed me to overcome my size and weight disadvantage to not only play in High School, but also to play and excel in two sports in College. When I look back, I was driven to succeed by these “Dream Killers”.

Being a kid today, I don’t know if I would have been as successful with adults telling me “You can’t”, more than “You can!”  It starts with teachers wanting to know “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, and replying “Well, that’s a great dream to have, but the chances are slim, so what job do you want to do?” Even the coaches talk negatively about anyone’s future in athletics, “There are thousands of kids out there who are bigger, faster, and stronger than you.” Today, the difference is that these talks happen much earlier when these kids have no option but to believe the adults! We have become a society of dream killers, or fantasy supporters, for kids as young as 6, 5, or even 4- and both are extremely dangerous to the future of our youth.

The dream killers have evolved into opportune predators on young dreams. These adults no longer wait to kill the dreams of children, but rather suffocate the dream before it has a chance to even breathe. They come in many forms, with many different messages to kill the dreams:  Anything less than straight A’s is not good enough; You have to go to college to be successful; You will be lucky to play in high school; You can’t raise a family doing that. The fantasy supporters can afflict even more damage with their message of support. These are the adults who will encourage and support a young mind blindly. There are no mixed messages here, just one of full support constantly: You are the best!; You are going to be the next _______; Nobody is even close to being as good as you. The danger either way is that we are limiting our children by focusing their minds into our reality. By doing so, we limit the thoughts of imagination and creativity to whatever our vision is, which denies each child the given right to explore and choose to live life as they see fit.

Why have we become so focused on the adult future of our children rather than living in the moment with them? Why do adults feel the need to plan a future for kids that are 10-20 years away? How many of you knew what your passion would be at age 6? 10? Heck, even at 18? The danger I see is that we will have a generation full of regret and second guessing, and this is a dangerous state of mind. Our country has been built on strong-minded individuals who believe that passion and determination teamed up with great working habits will equal success. When we look at our leaders and innovative thinkers, we do not have minds that regret or second guess their decisions of the past. They understand that decisions and choices are made with details available at that time with the resolve that it is what is best at that time. Hindsight is 20/20 but it does not mean that we should relive our decisions. A generation that regrets and second guesses their present, because surrounding adults limited them in the past, will limit the success and advancement of, not only, their lives but the lives of those around them.

We must be careful to make sure we balance our encouragement of our children with a dose of reality. However, we must never limit their imagination, creativity, and dreams. Children have the world at their fingers, and many different paths to choose from. No matter how our lives are in the present and no matter how our past helped to shape who we are today, our dedication needs to be focused on supporting our kids to explore on their individual journey. On the path of life, we should never be the leader making decision ahead of them or the advisor that guides them, but rather the supporter following behind them who can advise when needed. To raise fierce leaders and innovators, we must allow our children to dream, and make mistakes so they may learn that success is simply about getting up one more time than you fall!

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End of the Year Message: Parent to Teacher (Please Read till the End)


To whom it concerns:

You were charged with educating my child for the last 180 days, and I have to let you know how I feel:

1. Never in my life did I ever think that my child should suffer through many nights of frustration pending from homework. I remember thinking, every time, this is just homework for fourth grade! Why is my child stressing more than the adults in his life? He is supposed to be learning; learning through engagement and intuition. He should be enjoying himself, collaborating with his friends, and exploring problems together to learn.

2. What ever happened to recess, free time, Gym, Music, and Art? To be honest, I know my child can be a “handful”, especially when he gets cooped up in a room all day. His body is growing and he is full of energy that needs to have time to expend itself. I have supported your consequences whenever my child has acted out in class, however, I do believe that some of the blame is due to the fact that he is expected to sit for hours to “learn” without expression.

3. When I say “learn”, I mean to better prepare for testing! As his teacher who sits with him everyday, learns his habits, and understands his strengths and weaknesses, why does he have to be put through such misery? We both know that he struggles with test taking. This is NOT an excuse, but rather a diagnosis. Yet, every week, there is a test. Every month, there is a benchmark test. Every year, there is the State Exam! Wouldn’t the time wasted on all of these tests be put to better use to teach and learn?

4. Speaking of teaching….Science happens to be his love, as you are well aware of. His curiosity and love of learning are a perfect match for the science field. He loved the projects that were sent home and spent hours upon hours working on them. However, Science was only covered for approximately one half of the year, as it was switched out for Social Studies lessons. Being that both Science and Social Studies are crucial to spark curiosity and understanding of learning, it seems foolish for these subjects to be covered only partially throughout the year.

5. Lastly, I believe my children go to school to learn. To learn how to comprehend while reading a book, but more importantly to develop their own opinions about the story based on what they read. To learn their basic math facts of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, but more importantly to develop the knowledge of when, how, and why they would use math in life. To learn about their town, State, National, and World History, but more importantly to understand why decisions were made, what the outcomes were, and how he can learn from them and utilize it in his life. To learn about the exploration of Science, its chemicals, and its formulas, but more importantly to understand that it has been through curiosity and asking why and how that man continues to advance and provide the ever improving quality of life we have.

With that being said, I want to let you know- AND LET ME BE CLEAR:

I understand that politics are driving education. I understand that testing is mandated by state and national politics. I understand that you are forced to implement standards on students who are not prepared for them. I understand that you did not take play time away from my child. I understand that the focus on the perceived, declining Reading and Mathematics results have forced less focus on Science and Social Studies. I understand that you have less and less input on how to teach our children. I understand that as teachers you have persevered through it all. I understand that Teachers are the backbone to my child’s education, and I definitely understand that “YOU are a POSITIVE INFLUENCE on your students!”

I sincerely say “Thank You!” and appreciate every ounce of effort you give my child! Thank you for staying late, or answering the phone at home to explain the work. Thank you for “finding” time for the students to play, experience art, hear the music, and have some fun. Thank you for teaching, not to the test, but rather by providing meaningful lessons for students to learn from. Thank you for knowing my child and challenging his curiosity with the extra science projects you gave him just for fun! and coming in early for the Science Club you formed. Thank you for passionately believing that every child is more than any data can show. Lastly,

Thank you for caring, Thank you for loving, Thank you for pushing, Thank you for demanding,

Thank you for being an inspiration to my child!

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As You Place Them on the Bus……


From the thoughts of a Parent:  As I place my child on the bus to head to school, there are many thoughts that run through my mind.

  1. My child is growing up so fast, it seems like yesterday that he/she learned to walk.
  2. Even though he/she talks a lot, I hope the teacher sees what a wonderful, talented kid he/she is.
  3. I hope the teacher understands how close of friends he/she is with Timmy and allows them to sit next to each other.
  4. He/She really loves story time with me. He/She will sit and listen to me all night.
  5. I don’t understand why homework has to be so hard. I don’t understand how to do it, how is my child supposed to?
  6. I hope today is a great day, can’t wait to see him/her at the end of the day!

From the thoughts of a Teacher: As I place the students on the bus to head home, there are many thoughts that run through my mind.

  1. My students are growing up so fast, it seems like yesterday that they nervously first stepped into the classroom.
  2. Even though he/she is struggling, I hope his parents see how hard he/she is working.
  3. It is nice to see them developing new friendships, it makes them appreciate the ones they already have.
  4. They did a great job reading out loud today, I hope they are reading at home to someone.
  5. New concept today means they will struggle with today’s homework, I hope parents understand homework does not have to be 100% correct.
  6. I hope today was a great day, can’t wait to see them tomorrow morning!

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An Open Letter to My Son on World Autism Awareness Day


This letter was written by a friend, Jerry Turning, and posted to his FaceBook Page.  It is with his permission that I pass his words of wisdom on. On this day of World Autism Awareness, his words encompass a message needed for all sons.

 

An open letter to my son on World Autism Awareness Day:

Hi handsome. I’m not quite sure when you will read this, but there is so much I want to teach you, sometimes I get scared that I’ll forget some things or leave something out. So I decided to make a short list of some life lessons I want to teach you. They are in no particular order, but if you use them as a guide when life gets challenging, I think you’ll find your way:

Jerry T

1) You have Autism. That means you are special. You have been given an amazing gift to see the world differently than other people.

2) I spent a little while feeling sorry for you… for me… for us. I was wrong for that. You have made me a better person and you are absolutely perfect exactly how you are.

3) But that doesn’t mean you don’t face challenges. The world is not always as patient and understanding as we would like. I’ll do my best to change the world for you, but in the mean time you will have to learn to cope in this wacky world.

4) I will not allow you to use “Autism” as an excuse or a crutch. You are capable of anything.

5) Be open-minded. Learn to compromise.

6) But stand for something. Defend it ferociously.

7) Respect women. They are a more perfect creature than we are.

8) If you hurt someone… apologize (and mean it)

9) If someone hurts you… forgive (and mean it)

10) If you have to choose between popularity and loyalty… choose loyalty.

11) Trust… but only after they earn it.

12) Find something you love to do… get really good at it… and then convince somebody to pay you to do it.

13) One good friend beats 10,000 so-so friends.

14) Learn the difference ^^^^^

15) Be humble. Just when you think you have it all figured out, Life will teach you how wrong you are.

16) Talk to God.

17) Learn baseball. It is the perfect game.

18) Your Dad is just a man trying to figure it all out… just like you.

19) Your Dad will have your back… always.

20) You are your Dad’s hero.

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1 Simple Message for Success in the Classroom!


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So there have been requests as to how a teacher can develop a classroom with high expectations and hold students accountable.  Below is one of my handouts that would be delivered on the first day of school, and each student would be asked to read out loud and sign with the promise to do the best they can to achieve. There would always be one available for students to reread at a moments notice.  I would also cover this pledge with parents on Back to School Nights as I explained my expectations for the students in my class.  I believe it sets a high standard from the start and it is something that my students and parents appreciated. I do believe that if your students give you their best effort, success will follow!

SUCCESS

         To be successful in life, I must be disciplined.  I must be willing to give my best effort without being asked.  I must develop an ability to drive and push myself, especially when things are tough.  I must not be afraid to make mistakes.  Everyone will make them.  Winners are those people who learn from their mistakes and continue to strive toward their goals.  I must do what it takes to be a winner.  I must be willing to look past what others do because I understand that only I can control what I do.  With this knowledge, winners will never blame others for their mistakes.  Winners will assume responsibility for their actions, suffer the consequences, and resume the track of success.

I am the one who is responsible for the positive and negative praise that I receive for my work.  It is my decisions that will determine my reputation, and my fate.  Successful people are not born they are made.  I must strive to become successful no matter what path I choose, because I understand that if I don’t strive to be successful, someone else will.  I cannot blame others for my lack of success; I can only blame myself for my lack of effort.

“Am I proud…” Is a perfect way to start knowing if I am on the right track.  If I am not proud of my effort or work, then how can I expect others to respect my work or me?  Anything that has my name on it will reflect the type of person I am, and the type of person I will be remembered as.  I must understand that success is never easy.  Success is hard work and I must be willing to give a great effort in order to receive the rewards of success.

 AM I PROUD OF MY EFFORT TODAY?