Tag Archives: success

Defining Success

As I left the dressing room of a retail clothing store a couple of days ago, a sales associate stopped me.

“I keep looking at you, and thinking I know you,” she said.

“Really? From where?”

“I don’t know.” She thought for a moment.  “What do you do?”

“I’m a teacher.”

She started to look excited.  “Really? What’s your last name?”

“Eichholz.  But it used to be Smith.”

“MISS SMITH!!!!!” she yelled, and ran over to hug me.

She had been my student over 20 years ago, and was thrilled to find out that I am still teaching.

If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would still be teaching now, I would have said, “No!”  Even though I loved teaching (and still do), I always thought I would eventually do something else – something that might make people look at me with admiration instead of pity, something that parents might envision for their children as a potential career instead of telling them that it might be a good “backup” just in case they get injured playing football.

I’ve been thinking about that encounter with my former student for the last three days. Last night, I saw an article about Strayer University’s quest to change the definition of “success.” The article includes a must-see video where people score themselves from a 1-10 on their own success.

The video definitely inspires reflection.  How should we define “success?”

I know how I define success:  When a person’s face lights up when she hears your name 20 years later.

image from: Stockmonkeys.com
image from: Stockmonkeys.com
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Why My Daughter Won’t Be a Teacher When She Grows Up

image from: http://tariqmcom.com/beautiful-quotes-on-success-the-success-is-not-key-to-happiness/
image from: http://tariqmcom.com/

My daughter, who is 11, has a pretty standard response prepared for people who ask her what she wants to be when she grows up.

“A teacher – or maybe an engineer,” she says.

I smile inside.  I smile because I think she says, “teacher” for my sake – which means that she: a.) sees how much I love my job and b.) doesn’t think it’s a bad aspiration.

If I really thought she would like to be a teacher some day, I would not discourage her.  Many of my colleagues disagree.  They have told me that they would never allow their own children to become teachers.  I understand their frustration and disillusionment.  It’s not an easy career by a long shot (but, really, what career is easy?) –  and it can be taxing both financially and emotionally.

My own teachers in high school registered disappointment, one by one, when I told them I had decided to pursue a career in education.  Despite the fact they had inspired me, some of them obviously felt themselves to be personal failures for not convincing me to go to medical or law school – or to become a college professor at the very least.

I was undaunted by their discouragement, and I’m sure my own daughter would be, as well.

No, my daughter will not be a teacher.  Not because I will prevent her – but because I suspect she doesn’t really want to be a teacher.  Unlike me, she never spent hours teaching her dolls and stuffed animals when she was in pre-school.  Her patience with children younger than her has never been exceedingly long.  And, she never goes out of her way to explain difficult concepts to others; in fact, she rolled her eyes when I asked her to explain how to play Flappy Bird.

She will not be a teacher because that is not her passion.  She may not see that yet, but that’s okay.

Could teaching become her passion one day?  Possibly.  If it does, I will whole-heartedly support her.  But I will also support her if she decides to become an artist, a rock star, an astronaut, or a stay-at-home mom.  If she is willing to put in the work and sacrifice to follow her dreams, who am I to stop her?

In my post on The Science of Character, I included this quote, “Instead of asking students what they want to be, we should be asking them who they want to be.”

I asked my daughter to look at the Periodic Table of Strengths on the site, and her goals for the future her are: creativity, enthusiasm, kindness, fairness, appreciation of beauty, and optimism.

If she becomes that person – and, truly, I feel she is already well on her way – then I will feel that we have both been successful.

Make Your Own History

I ran across this video, which is a TED talk given by the author Brad Meltzer, on the Mindshift blog originally.  It is an inspirational speech that every young person should watch.  Meltzer outlines the three pieces of advice that he gives his own children:  dream big, work hard, and stay humble.  He gives various examples of famous figures who accomplished great achievements when they were relatively young, and reminds us all that it is the normal Clark Kents of the world who make all of the difference.

In addition to watching the video, you can also access the “flipped” version on TEDEd, which offers some multiple choice and open ended questions to go along with the speech.  (You will need to register before you can access this.)

Here is the link to the video in case the embedded version cannot be viewed:  http://youtu.be/9LR7Vb6mqts

For more inspirational videos for students, be sure to check out my Pinterest board.