Saturday, December 17, 2016

Why Don’t Our Fans Cheer?

I have started and stopped on this article a half-dozen time over the past couple of years, initially starting on it toward the end of the 2014 basketball season.  Then something would happen that caused me to stop and wait, perhaps thinking that our fans had turned a corner.  But for the most part, our fans still do not cheer like the could and I vowed to finish this article!  The ultimate example was our last basketball game of the 2015-16 season at Beckman Catholic against conference rival MFL MarMac.  What a disappointment, yet perfect example of why I pose the question.  More on that below.

First of all, there have been a few times in the last three or four years when our fans have been a positive part of the event, cheering loud and supporting our team.  In fact, since we became North Fayette Valley, some of the better instances have taken place when our fans have had a positive role in a game.  A raucous gym one night at a basketball game versus South Winn comes to mind.  It is no surprise that we have seen a little more cheering as Valley students and fans had a very good reputation for cheering and supporting their teams.  I remember a conversation with a Valley parent when we were in the planning stages for sharing asking if our fans yelled at football games because he “ sure the heck yelled at football games!”  In conversations about this topic there was hope expressed by a few of us that the Valley spirit would influence the North Fayette fans that tended to sit on their hands and generally display a lack of interest of what was happening in front of them.  At best, there has been a little improvement, but certainly not the kind of support generated by some other schools, nor that amount we had hoped for.  This isn’t to blame Valley folks, rather in terms of students, I wonder if they haven’t been muzzled a little bit by those kids that live in the North Fayette district.

So, why don’t our fans cheer?  I’m talking all of our fans, those in the student section and the adults that come to games as well.  I’m not talking about one sport.  I am talking about all of our spectator sports, starting with football and volleyball, and going through basketball and the other sports.  I will cut a little slack to wrestling fans as I have heard them make some noise at home events, pulling for all of the fellas out on the mat, but on the road they seem to have swallowed their collective voice.  I know some will say that our crowd is good at football games, but I disagree, having the ability to be across the field for most of the games and being able to hear our crowd.  Yes, in big games there is some collective cheering during important moments in the game, chanting “Defense!  Defense! Etc.”  And when games are still close, there is a loud burst of noise when the TigerHawks score.  But more often than not, there isn’t a lot of noise coming from our side of the field compared to other schools.  Why is that?

Some would say it is arrogance.  Because of our success on the football field we expect to do well, and anything less that playing in big playoff games is not that big of a deal.  Why would we cheer for anything other than those games?  Related to this might be another reason: Indifference.  Perhaps we don’t cheer because until we get to games that “mean something” or matter, we aren’t going to waste our time cheering.  Finally, could it be true that we are a “football school” and don’t care about supporting other sports?  I don’t think that is a satisfactory answer, though we do struggle to get strong crowds for most of our other sports.  

It has been suggested that there’s the cool factor, in other words, it isn’t cool to stand up and cheer.  I have never quite figured that one out, though I recognize that some people are self-conscious and don’t want to draw attention to themselves, yet being one of those types has not prevented me from standing up and cheering my lungs out when my beloved Huskers are playing.  There should be strength in numbers and for the individual that is self-conscious there is safety when there is a crowd.  I do kind of get it if the reason is not wanting to draw attention to oneself, but if that was the case, then there would only be a few people that don’t stand and cheer.  The impression given is that it’s not cool.  In the student section we have students that are viewed as leaders by others that simply will not cheer.

Maybe the reason is because we are selfish, which can be looked at from two perspectives.  One side of it might be “I’m the one that people should be cheering for. . .  I don’t cheer for others.”  Could it possibly be that we have students that because they are part of a particular group or clique believe others should cheer for them and they in turn are above cheering for others?  I have heard that suggested by students: “he’s a (fill in the blank) and thinks he’s too good to cheer for anyone else.”  The other way to look at it is that if others don’t cheer for you, why should you cheer for them?  Now some of those ugly character traits sneak in, specifically envy and jealousy.  Why should I cheer for someone if they don’t come and cheer for my team?  I would hope that we aren’t that petty.

Has administration, me included, crushed cheering and school spirit?  I have had people share this with me.  What gets lost in translation here is that we have never attempted to limit cheering.  In fact, we have strongly encouraged our students to be loud and supportive of our teams and their classmates.  What we have worked to eliminate are those “cheers” that are derogatory toward the other team or players, those chants that run others down.  Our expectation is that we have first-class fans that don’t lower themselves to poor sportsmanship.  We want our side of the gym to be loud and proud!  Perhaps as a school leader I need to model the kind of cheering that we desire.  Would that make a difference?  Maybe we need to model it, or show examples of what good, supportive fans look like.  Rather than address the negative cheering like they did in Wisconsin with a state-wide ban on specific cheers, we could do as they do in Michigan where they have Battle of the Fans sponsored by their state activities association to recognize outstanding student sections.  It may be very possible that we need to teach our fans how to cheer and be supportive of our players and teams.

There is nothing more energizing than school spirit and seeing the student body pulling for one another.  We are all NFV TigerHawks and when we support one another it is an incredible thing!  We need to figure out how we can get everyone to that point where no one needs to be coerced to stand up and cheer.  In the first paragraph I mentioned the MFL MarMac game at Dyersville.  What happened that night was with about three second left on the clock our boys were down by one-point and taking the ball out of bounds under the basket on our end.  It should have been a moment when everyone was on their feet cheering and providing energy to our players.  This was one of those situations that some of the guys on the court had dreamed about when they were little kids playing in the driveway.  Three-seconds on the clock . . . time for one last shot . . . Crowd going crazy!  Well, the crowd wasn’t going crazy.  Three people on our side of the gym stood up to yell encouragement to the boys on the floor.  Three people!  We can do better.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Facts You Should Know About College Students

I am going to rely on Tim Elmore again for what I found to be very interesting information in regard to current college students.  With most of you sending a child off to college in the next few years, there are some good bits of information that you might want to know.  If nothing else, you have a few more things to talk about with your college-bound child!

Seven Surprising Facts About College Students

Thursday, November 17, 2016

It Doesn’t Cost Anything To Be Nice!

At one time or another most of you have seen Scott Siepker.  Perhaps you do not recognize him by name, but recognize him as the guy who does the Iowa Nice video.  After that he went on to do Cyclone Nice, Hawkeye Nice, and even appeared regularly on ESPN producing spots for College Football Daily.  He continues to promote Iowa, as well as pursue his career as an actor, writer, and producer.  At the root of the Iowa Nice campaign is the fact that our state has capitalized on the perception — sometimes negative — that people from other parts of the country have about people from our state.  Apparently for some there is something negative about being nice, or that we Iowans have something to be embarrassed about by being nice.  Oh yeah, I’ve heard that "nice guys finish last," but I can show you a number of instances where that isn’t true.  When you watch Iowa Nice Siepker doesn’t apologize for the people of our state being nice, rather he points out many of the other things we have to be proud of.  But it’s clear to me, we do not need to feel any shame for being nice!

Treat others as you want to be treated.  The Golden Rule is a tenant in one form or another in all major religions of the world.  Every one of us wants to be treated respectfully and with kindness, in other words we want people to be nice to us.  I admit that when I was a kid growing up saying that someone was nice didn’t fit in with what was popular.  I even recall (embarrassingly) a conversation our school librarian had with my mom after the National Honor Society Induction my sophomore year.  The topic was “why doesn’t Todd have a girl friend” (yes, embarrassing that a teenage boy’s mother is having a conversation with a teacher about girlfriends) and the librarian answered her own question by saying, “Well, Todd is too nice for the girls in this school.”  Thank goodness that story was not overheard by another walking by, or passed on by my mother to any of her friends!  Geez!  

Today, I constantly encourage teenagers and others to be nice to one another.  I am not embarrassed to give this advice, nor to I choose to use other references.  Nice is good, and if more of us treated one another in a nice manner, we would have a lot better place to live and go about doing the things we do.  Today I am disgusted by the lack of civility modeled and demonstrated by our political leaders, and honestly, by many of us.  Never have I been witness to the polarity that exists in our country.  Apparently we have outgrown another pearl of wisdom imparted by our elders:  If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all!  Right now politicians don’t seem to hesitate to call others names, threaten, or accuse them of horrible things, often without facts and purposefully deviating from the truth.  There seems to be a mentality in our country that if you don’t see it my way, then screw you!  No one apologizes when they are proven to be wrong, and rather than admit to a lie, the book seems to say that one should keep lying until people either believe you or something else comes along to district people’s attention.  

Leading up to the election in November we hear that a lot people in our country are angry.  The image that comes to mind is the two-year old stomping their feet and throwing a tantrum in the grocery store because a mom won’t buy the cereal they want.  We have been told by one side of the aisle that “compromise” is a four-letter word that really means accepting defeat, and the other side responds with other ways of obstructing progress toward middle ground.  When people live in a world of extremes, negotiation is nearly impossible and common ground becomes elusive.  And like the world in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and into the 1980’s, there is no trust, and fear causes anger and frustration.  I get that people are angry about a variety of different things, and I have been upset by a few things that have transpired over the past ten years, but anger takes a lot of energy, negative energy, and that is not how I want to live life.  Nor is it how I think life should be lived at North Fayette Valley High School.

The beauty of a public high school is that regardless of how homogeneous the community, what diversity does exist is amplified in a school.  A school is a laboratory in many respects, as well as a model of the larger community.  There are disagreements on a daily basis, and at times strong emotions expressed.  School is a safe place as well as a place to learn, so not only do we honor the opportunity to express an opinion, we also have the chance to learn how to deal with the emotions that come when people disagree. It is a place to take risks and take a chance to express individuality, which often elicits a response.  And, it is a great place to see and learn about differences that exist, learning to appreciate that fact that we are not all the same in our likes and dislikes.  Within this melting pot, or pot of stew, life goes a lot smoother when we are nice to one another.  None of us likes to be run down or degraded, and that isn’t necessary when people recognize each of us has a right to express an opinion.  Being nice means saying nothing rather than criticizing.  Being nice means keeping an opinion to oneself about a hair cut or a clothing choice rather than giving a cutting remark.  Being nice means hitting Cancel rather then Send.  Being nice means sitting by that boy at a table who is alone, or smiling and saying “Hi!” to the girl walking down the hall with her head down.  Hey, we live in Iowa, and Iowans are nice!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Personal Branding: Something Important For All Students

The term “branding” has become a popular one in recent years, generally in reference to marketing done by businesses and institutions.  The purpose is to plant an idea or an image so that people will immediately recognize it and think about a specific company or school.  The Golden Arches immediately remind people of McDonalds just as the yellow Tigerhawk on a black surface symbolizes the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.  In some instances significant money is spent not only on the development of the image, but also on the impact that it has on the public, such as the subliminal impact of hidden images in the logo, such as the arrow in the Fed Ex logo.  However, branding is much more than the image or the logo.  And, branding goes beyond corporations and universities.  According to Jerry McLaughlin, “brand is the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organization, a cause, or an idea.  Brand building is the deliberate and skillful application of effort to create a desired perception in someone else’s mind.”  Today, the brand that each of our students is developing for themselves is very important for how they are going to be perceived in the future, and it goes much further than a logo.

Let’s take at look at what the NCAA shares with student-athletes because it can easily serve as a guide for all young people today.  From the NCAA on personal branding:  As a NCAA student-athlete, be aware of your actions in public and on social media (i.e. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.)  You build your personal brand from the moment you start communicating.  Think for yourself.  Ask a lot of questions.  Keep the big picture in mind.  And always remember: You represent your university first, your team second,  then yourself last.  

We have talked a number of times with students about making smart choices as to what they put out on the Internet about themselves, from postings on Facebook to images on Pinterest or Snapchat.  In the past couple of years lessons have been provided to help them better understand how to create a positive image of themselves online, and in a sense market themselves.  In essence, this is what personal branding is all about.  Through social media students have the chance to promote themselves to colleges and future employers, and rather than share pictures out partying with a beer in hand or forwarding on memes or messages that might be perceived as negative, they can build a picture that focuses on the positives.  

At the beginning of each school year we tell students to “clean” all of their social media.  About five years ago a former student of mine had mentioned to me how the University of Iowa had told students who were planning to apply to medical school to go through and get rid of all pictures and references on their Facebook page before they start the application process because admissions folks would go through everything on their background check.  In conversation that I have had with admission counselors from a couple of state universities, I was told that every potential student-athlete is vetted by interns who do extensive online searches to get an idea of what they may have posted so they can get a better, more thorough idea into the character and background of the students they are recruiting. If things show up, they are flagged and in some instances, are no longer recruited.  It is not just athletes that colleges look at.  With the simplicity of online searches, all potential applicants are vetted.  And it doesn’t stop with college.  Recent conversations with employers confirm that they are doing the same thing.  One of our largest local employers share how they go through social media, specifically asking potential employees to open their Facebook page and other social media sites for them to view.

Social media is an important part of many student’s life, with many pro’s and con’s in terms of the impact it has on their daily life.  It is very powerful and it makes sense that it is used to create every student’s personal brand.  There is a tremendous amount of positive information that a student can share out that they can use to market themselves to colleges and employers.  Tiger Woods, Prince, Triple H, and many other celebrities have logos that have contributed to their personal brand, and they are easily recognized by fans and others.  But it goes so much further than that, and today our students can use incredible resources to develop the positive image they want to project.  Their brand is important!

Friday, October 21, 2016

What Really Motivates Us?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to listen to Daniel Pink speak at a conference  about his research and at that time his recently published book A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future.  I walked away thinking that it was one of the best presentations I had ever heard, inspired to purchase his book to learn more about the role of creativity and how it would shape education, business, and industry.  The book did not disappoint and it served as a source of a lot of my fundamental beliefs that I hold today.

Four years after A Whole New Mind, Pink published a book that had even further reaching influence.  Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us has unlocked the key to how people perform at a high level and at the same time experience a great deal of satisfaction in all aspects of their life: work, school, and home.  What Pink discloses is that all of us have a deep, innate need to direct and be in control of our own life, as well as to create things.  Each of use has a strong desire to do better by ourselves and our world.

Pink, a lawyer by education with experience as an aid to former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, initially started writing about the changing workplace a number of years ago.  He relies on meta-analysis designed research and quickly started applying his findings to education as well.  In Drive, Pink shares that there has been a disconnect between what science knows and how business/education has used to motivate employees/students.  

For years business and schools, and for that matter, parents, have sought to motivate employees, students, and children through the carrot or stick philosophy.  A sweeter carrot or sharper stick would bring about the outcome that was desired.  The most common example in business are pay for performance and in education, typical grading programs.  According to Pink, that is a 20th-century mindset that does not work today.  He has supporters that share the same opinion.  A study conducted by the London School of Economics resulted in the finding “that financial incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance.”  The London School of Economics is home to a dozen Nobel Prize winners for economics.  In essence, the systems used in business and many schools are based “more on folklore than science,” and simply do not work.  According to these studies, the extrinsic systems of the past need to be replace by systems that place an emphasis on intrinsic motivation.  Rewards narrow one’s focus, and in today’s world we need workers that widen it.

In school we have students there are motivated by the carrot, in our case, grades.  But that is a very small percentage of students, and even for those “grade-chasers,” straight A’s do not always result in a high level of learning.  For some, the grade is an inaccurate measure of performance because of the system that is in place, and students find at the next level that they were more focused on the reward than the learning.  Shifting from an extrinsic system where an emphasis on grade rewards to one based on learning is at the focal point of our standards based grading program that we are moving toward.

Pink states that there are three elements of “true motivation” that should be put into action.  They are: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  In Drive he shares about successful companies that have employed these and have become more productive and successful.  Autonomy is control over one’s life and is prominent in businesses and schools that become high performing.  When students have control over their education through choice and personal accountability, the depth of their ownership in their own learning increases.

The desire to get better at something is how Pink defines mastery and is at the core of standards based learning.  In the system we are moving toward, mastery of specific content knowledge and skills, and the ability to demonstrate that, is the goal for every student. When students master something, there becomes a strong internal sense of accomplishment, especially when one is able to do something they did not believe they could do.

Perhaps the third, purpose, is the one that we have done the poorest job of using in school and business.  Purpose is to do something that is important beyond ourselves.  Today our schools are full of young, “me-focused” teenagers, and the millennials that have entered the labor force tend to be very self-centered.  However, they very much want more, and are very motivated by opportunities to impact others when given the opportunity.  They want to make a difference in the lives of others.  We need to give them that opportunity.

In the business world employers still have to pay workers adequately and fairly, but those who have given employees a day each week to go off and work on something they really want are finding invaluable rewards.  At Google, 20% of a workers time is spent working on anything they want and the result has been a number of new products that Google has developed and put on the market.  We have a couple teachers experimenting with what is commonly called “genius time” where students are able to work on anything they want and direct their own learning.  In addition to providing purpose, this learning is self-directed and often results in a very high level of learning.

Pink has given us the tools to improve how we teach and motive students.  Now we must have the “drive” to do so!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Why Do You Do That?

There is no way I can begin to estimate how many times people have asked my why I choose to be a high school principal.  Either that, or they say something along the line of “There is no way I would ever do that!”  Yes, it is a tough job and there are certainly those days when I go home at night exhausted and with some form of negative emotion, perhaps anger or disappointment, but most often, frustration.  But, I am not a stupid man — stubborn, but not stupid — and I would not keep doing this if the negatives outweighed the positives.  There are many more days that give me positive satisfaction than the tough ones, and I do subscribe to the philosophy of “if you enjoy what you do then you will never work a day in your life,” though this job is a lot of work!  What people who are not in the school building day in, day out do not know, is that every day is different and there are incredible things that happen that more often than not bring me great joy!  

So what are those things that bring me great joy?  The list could go on and on, but here are a few.  I love watching happy people.  Sometimes without even knowing what is going on, I get a smile on my face and a good feeling in my soul watching kids being happy.  It may be a girl running up to a friend with a skip in her step, a huge smile on her face and wide-eyed, to share some important news.  Who knows, and who cares what the news was! They are excited and you can’t help but crack a smile yourself.  Suffice to say, being in the presence of happy people makes the day go better, and a day doesn’t go by when you don’t see some of this.

I love seeing a student’s eyes light up when they “get it” or when they have a chance to talk about something they are passionate about, or when they hear some unexpected good news.  When any of these things happen I get a warm feeling in my stomach, and sometimes I have even gotten a lump in my throat.  In regard to passion, in recent years nothing has brought that to the surface with students as much as the Capstone project.  To watch and listen to a young man talk about fly fishing, and another about bass fishing was actually moving.  Or when a young lady produced a style show of prom dresses over the decades and headed off to college to study fashion and design.  Passion is hard to  disguise and is contagious.

It is really cool when a student takes a moment to go out of their way to share about something big that has happened to them.  This is far better than parents bragging up their child because when you hear it from the kid you know it is important to them. Of course you have to love humility, but when a student comes up with a look of pride and shares that she was accepted to her first college choice, that is memorable.  Or when you receive word through ACT that five students in the class scored 30 or better on the test, you just can describe the feeling you have.  

After sticking around for an extra day to finish up some work, a senior in the Class of 2016 got his check out sheet signed by Mr. Clark and as he walked down the hall to turn it in to Robin Albert, he raised both arms above his head and yelled a loud “Whoo-hoo!”  Making it all the more enjoyable to see and hear is that this particular young many was one of the softest spoken members of the class.  I had a few conversations with him over the past year, but he was far from a talker!  I loved that response because school has not been easy for him.

Another very important memory took place a few years ago at graduation when a student who has overcome incredible obstacles in her life, coming to this country from a life lived in what we consider primitive conditions surrounded by a lawless environment with gun toting criminals, was something I certainly could not identify with.  The first female in her family to earn a high school diploma, and since, to go on to college.  On that graduation day after the ceremony the small family was gathered outside and as I walked by I made eye contact, smiled, and nodded at the group on my way to my car.  As I opened the door I felt a tap on my shoulder and one of the family members asked me if I would join the young lady and her family in a photo to mark the accomplishment.  I was honored to be included and it is one of my favorite moments of my life!  

I have been at this teaching and principal gig for 30 years now, and the number of these types of things are far too numerous to count.  And, I have forgotten more than I remember!  Watching great teachers teach is another joy that I have.  There is no question that there are times in the classroom that are pure magic, when the preparation of the teacher leads to an outstanding learning experience for the students.  Just as important are the incredible things that teachers do that impact students, both in and out of the classroom.  One of those on the list is the complete 180-degree turn taken in a relationship between one of our teachers and a student from 7th grade through the student’s junior year.  It would be safe to say that a few years ago the student and parents did not like or have an ounce of respect for the teacher, as was displayed during meetings, phone calls, and email communication.  What has happened since, while not a miracle, is certainly one of the best examples of people treating each other with respect and putting the past behind them.  While the student has faced a number of struggles, this teacher has been there for him every inch of the way.  While it may be one of the most extreme turn of events, it is not unusual that when students mature and are given more than a couple of chances, sometimes the incredible happens.  I get a great deal of satisfaction when the incredible happens, but also when those little things like getting a student with a sad look on their face smile when you say “Hello!"

Saturday, October 1, 2016

This Dad Sent Back His Kids Trophies: I Agree With Him

I am not a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, but as a football fan, I have tremendous respect for the organization.  Since I was a young fan during the Terry Bradshaw and Steel Curtain era, the Steelers have played the game at a very high level and have been one of the most respect organizations in professional sports.  The Steelers have always been known for a ferocious defense that usually had at least one or two very aggressive hitters.  One of those in the not too distant past was James Harrison.  Harrison had a very successful professional career and I can visualize a number of punishing hits he dished out on the playing field.  Yet it is not something that he did on the field that has drawn my attention to him.  It’s not even something he did as a linebacker.  This article is all about something he did as a dad.  What did he do?  When his sons came home with some really cool looking participation trophies, he sent them back!

When Harrison played, he had to earn everything he ever achieved as an N.F.L. linebacker.  No one gave him trophies for showing up.  He was an underrated free agent out of Kent State University.  These guys don’t get big contracts or signing bonuses.  They are kind of like walk-ons at college.  They have to fight and scrap to get on the field and grab the attention of their coaches in those brutal summer N.F.L. training camps.  Harrison did that and eventually became a five-time Pro Bowl player that earned two Super Bowl rings.  Nothing was ever given to James Harrison, and he wasn’t going to stand for anything to be given to his sons.  If his sons were going to receive a trophy, they were going to earn them like he and his teammates earned those Super Bowl rings.

Don’t get confused that this is about win at all costs.  There is nothing to suggest that Harrison had that kind of an attitude when it came to his sons and their participation in youth sports.  He may have very well had that attitude for himself as a professional football player, but there is nothing to suggest this was his attitude toward his sons.  No, his attitude is one that I wish more parents had when it comes to raising their children: Nothing is given to you.  You have to earn it.  I have bemoaned what I have seen as a ridiculous practice in one of my favorite sports, wrestling, that I have seen develop over the years, and I believe has had a detrimental effect on the sport.  In youth wrestling in Iowa and I would guess other places, most youth tournaments have been turned into fundraisers for high school teams and wrestling clubs.  They aren’t about the development of young wrestlers.  How do you make more money for your team or club?  You attract more wrestlers to your tournament who’s parents are willing to shell out a $10.00 to $15.00 entry fee, pay $5.00 at the gate to get into watch their kid wrestle, and pay for food at the concession stand.  It can be quite lucrative for a small town high school program or wrestling club!  But how do you get the kids to come to your tournament rather than another one on the same day?  You give a bigger trophy to the winner and medals to everyone who comes.  Even the young boy that gets pinned three times gets a medal, stands on the podium, and gets his picture taken.  In essence, his parents bought him a medal with the entry fee and he has a tangible award for getting pinned three times.  What did he earn?  It is no different at the end of the soccer season when the coach or the league hands out a trophy to all of the players who were on the team, whether they won the league championship or didn’t win a game.  Everyone gets a trophy!  This is where James Harrison pushed back and said to the football league his boys played in, “You can keep your trophies.  My sons didn’t earn them." 

Harrison posted this on Facebook, along with a pictures of the trophies his sons brought home:
“I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very                proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them 'til the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy.  I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise to boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues"

I see the same thing in school.  We have some students that think that they should get a good grade because they showed up, or handed in a paper, regardless of the quality of work.  It has been my mission the past twenty years to raise the bar and demand more because to succeed in life you have to do more than show up.  An “A” on a paper or a test should be earned.  Grade inflation has ruined public education and all one has to do is talk to veteran teachers who have been in the profession for thirty years.  I have asked the question: “Is your “A” that you give today based on the same quality standard of work that it was 30-years ago?”  The response is 100% “No!”  So I have followed up with “Why?”  And that is where it gets difficult.  When teachers actually reflect on why this has happened they don’t like what they see.  Parental pressure and concern about the self-esteem of their children are the two most common answers.  Many educators got tired of the complaining and the challenges from parents, and basically gave in.  Many got tired of the fight.  Some felt pressure from principals because they were getting pressure from parents and their bosses.  And then the concern about building confidence through tangible reward era came about, and before you know what happened, yesterday’s “C” had become today’s “A,” and people like me have asked, “What have they done to earn it?"

No, I was never a fan of James Harrison on the football field.  He was a vicious player that I felt stepped over the line.  However, I am a fan of James Harrison, the dad that wants his children to earn what they get.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What Is A Good Man?

I ran across a quote a while back that I have held on to and pondered a number of times.  It struck me at the time I first read it, and since then I have continued to contemplate what it means.  The quote is: A good man can only live a lie for so long before he becomes just a man.  It kinds of reminds me of the chorus to a song I recall from many years ago, and like the words to a song, it can be interpreted different ways.

A good man can only live a lie for so long before he becomes just a man.

My initial attempt to make sense of this runs along the line of being true to oneself and not presenting a false image of who we are.  People often have an impression of what they believe they should be, most often linked with how they define success.  Based on that impression they sometimes succumb to creating a false image of themselves so that others view them as successful.  Based on the quote above, they live a lie, but eventually they are exposed and others see them for who they truly are.  I think back to a person that I knew about thirty years ago when I was a young teacher.  I’ll refer to him as Richard, a person who had returned to his hometown after receiving an education at one of our nation’s military academies and serving his country as a military officer for a number of years.  Once back in his home community he began a career in the financial business and by all accounts accumulated a great deal of wealth in a relatively short period of time.  He was more than a little arrogant, and was a fairly influential person in the community, though he was not highly engaged in voluntary groups, or for that matter, any community organizations.  Neither he or any of him family members “flashed” wealth, but it was believed by most they had a lot of money because they would take what at that time were considered exotic trips. 

Eventually stories started circulate around the community that Richard would take advantage of his pilot’s license and fly his wife to the east coast for a Friday night dinner at a five-star restaurant because he could, or send his wife and daughter to L.A. for a three day weekend and shopping spree on Rodeo Drive.  Then word of week-long vacations to the Caribbean and Europe started to circulate, though few if any people ever heard about them first-hand.  Were the stories true, or were they part of the typical small town rumor mill?  One would suppose that there was at least some truth to that because all of a sudden in the late 80’s, Richard suddenly disappeared, running out on his wife and kids and blowing out of town.  Gone like a ghost.  Why?  Well, not long after it was exposed that through his financial dealings he cheated a number of people and regulators eventually caught up with him.  The positive is that he was found and justice was served as he spent time behind bars.  He was exposed.  He wasn’t the patriot, wholesome family man, and honest businessman people had thought.  He lived a lie and was nothing more than a man.

I most often look at this quote and believe that it best references being honest with oneself, and the importance of continuing to become a better you.  Particularly after we have lived for a few years, we have a chance to reflect and assess whether we are being the best person we can be.  Everyone makes mistakes in life, poor choices, and probably shared a few white lies.  Many of us have acted at least a little selfish, some making the decision to do something for ourself rather than something that could benefit others.  We tell stories over a few beers and stretch the truth and as time goes on and our memory fades a bit, perhaps that truth-stretching is unintended.  Maybe we have been obsessed with chasing the gold ring and having nice things at the expense of developing strong relationships with sons and daughters, family and friends.

I once lived in a community where status was very important.  Even if one did not have a great deal of money or a job that is highly respected, they would buy expensive cars and boats, party hard in expensive clothes, and act as if they were extra-special and better than others.  I could not wait to move on, and it was nice to live in a couple of communities where people accepted one another for who they were, and people were not obsessed with putting on airs.  Being able to accept oneself and who you are is admirable, and hopefully that comes to each of us sooner rather than later.

A good man can only live a lie for so long before he becomes just a man.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Drama Queens: Gotta’ Love Them!

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When I first saw this I had a really good chuckle, and then I shared it with our guidance counselor, Bill Clark.  I cannot begin to estimate the number of conversations we have had over the years about the “drama queens” that create such chaos at school.  A few years back I referred to these girls as ones who “starred in their own soap opera.”  They love attention.  They believe that their experiences are different than anyone else’s.  And, they end up causing a lot of trouble and a lot of collateral damage.  A drama queen is an attention hog who isn’t happy unless they have 1) caused a number of people to express a level of concern and 2) they have caused emotional damage for at least one other person. In my years of public education, the unscientific estimate is that there are generally one to three of these in each class of 70 to 80 students.  

Social psychologists have written at length that we are currently living in a period of unprecedented narcissism among young people.  Never before have we had a generation of teens and young adults that are more wrapped up in themselves than those that we have today.  This is reflected in their music, as noted by Tim Elmore who recently wrote about how many of the popular songs today have “I” or “me” in the title.  The Youtube phenomenon allows anyone who wants to be seen or noticed to put their “show” up for anyone to watch.  I was amazed how popular and recognizable people I have never heard of from online “channels” are who were running the Amazing Race.  If you own a smart phone, you can shoot video and  get people to watch you!  

From the perspective of a school employee, working with drama queens becomes very time consuming and emotionally draining.   They can become a real problem.  Digging into this, there are various definitions that describe these people.  Wikipedia defines a drama queen as a person who habitually responds to situations in a melodramatic way.  The Urban Dictionary has a similar definition: an overly dramatic person.  Webster defines them as a person (especially a woman) who acts as though things are much worse than they really are.  In an article published in Scientific American, they are referred to as a person who reacts everyday with excessive emotion and behaves in a theatrical, attention-grabbing way.  Does this sound like anyone you know?

At school, the individual that has to deal with drama queens more than anyone is our counselor.  However, they have an impact on nearly everyone they are in contact with.  They often become “time suckers” and force people to spend time with them.  In order to do that, other work they may have, or other people they need to attend to, are often pushed off to the side, to be attended to later.  At times they create chaos because of the reactions and responses from other students.  Sometimes they turn quickly on their closest friends and the resulting fall-out taxes the resources we have available.  It is not unusual for them to threaten violence toward themselves or others, and many of them suffer from depression or anxiety.

Drama queens are very real.  Some of the ones we have at our school have become one due to trauma they experienced in childhood.  Research by the Child Trauma Academy found that some "children who experience trauma undergo changes in brain chemistry that result in them becoming moody, oversensitive to stimulation, and unable to accurately assess certain social and environmental cues."

Neglect is another factor in young people craving the attention and acting in the manner of a drama queen.  Parents that ignore or dismiss a child’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions may find their child behaving in a much more dramatic fashion in order to get their attention.  In fact, some children develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) and will do whatever is necessary to get attention, from dressing provocatively to telling wild stories.

A 2004 study by John Gunderson of Harvard Medical School suggests that drama queens may have come about due to their DNA. According to Gunderson,  "27% of the relatives of a person with BPD display aspects of the disorder’s problematic relationship style.”  Simply said, drama queens are often the progeny of drama queens.

When we accept that these students and their over-reaction to sometimes common events may have their behavior ingrained on their brain, we can develop strategies to that help us teach other students to distance themselves from them, and at the same time practice empathy.  As adults we can also be better equipped with strategies to help them acknowledge that their problems are no different than those faced by others.  Giving them time initially is a basic human response, but the learning  comes when lines are drawn  so that the drama queens develop an awareness of others.  When that is reinforced consistently, there can be less drama in our queens!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Cubs Have Nothing On These Guys!

On May 7, 2016, the Leicester City soccer team hoisted the Barclay Premier League cup high into the sky in front of their fans signifying that they were the champions of the most prestigious league in professional sports in the world.  Actually, they clinched the title five days earlier when the second place team, the Tottenham Hot Spurs from London were tied by their across town rivals Chelsea, making it impossible for them to accumulate enough points to catch Leicester City.

Known as the Foxes, the story of this championship team is the most amazing story in sport in terms of the underdog or the unexpected.  Taking home the trophy energized a community as it represented every David over Goliath, small city versus big city, small-budget versus deep pockets story one could conjure up.  A team of journeyman players, some who has spent more years playing in the “minor leagues” of professional soccer than on the big stage, came together and put on a season-long display of teamwork and unselfish play that will be long remembered by their fans and sports aficionados.

How impressive was their victory?  In a nation know for betting parlors setting a line on nearly any competitive event, and in a league with online betting companies sponsoring more than one team, the consensus odds on Leicester City winning the Barclay’s Premier League prior to the start of the season was 5000 to 1.  Comparatively, the odds for defending champions Chelsea were 6 to 5 and for Manchester City they were set at 12 to 5.  They finished 10th and 4th respectively.  The longest shot to win the Kentucky Derby rarely has odds less than 80 to 1!  Actually, there is really no analogy to make here because of the truly ridiculously small chance that anyone gave the Foxes to win it all.

To add more perspective, Leicester City had never won a championship of any kind in their 132 year history!  Hey, at least the Chicago Cubs won a World Series 107 years ago in 1908!  To compare, Cubs fans have another 25 years to wait before they can truly complain, though one would have to believe that they have the best shot of winning it all this year that they have had in decades. 

In England’s incredibly fair tiered system, Leicester City was in the third tier as recently as 2008.  To put that in perspective, that would be as if the recent World Series champion Kansas City Royals were playing in Double A ball eight years ago.  All of the leagues have what they call relegation, and in the highest level, the Premier League, the three teams at the bottom of the standings at the end of the year move down a league and the top three teams from the second division move up.  It happens all the way up and down the league structure.  So that means that in seven years the Foxes moved from tier three through second division and into the “major league” of British soccer.  And then they become champions!  That is an incredible story!

Hopefully for long suffering Cub fans this will be the year.  Perhaps the odds are too good for that to happen since they were the favorites of Vegas oddsmakers prior to the start of the season.  But if not, maybe they should call a Leicester City fan to see how they deal with years of frustration and disappointment since they had more practice . . . until now!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

It Has Come To This!

I am actually writing this article on the morning when the headline  on says AMBUSH, in reference to six cops shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which comes on the heels of a brutal week when two unarmed African-American men were killed by cops, and then five cops were killed by a lone gunman in Dallas, with another seven injured.  Then throw in the crazed truck driver that mowed down hundreds of people in Nice, France, killing at least 80 and one has to ask “Have we all gone mad?”  Racism, terrorism, guns, religion, politics . . . all of these have played a role in  what is going on.  I was a very young boy and have little memory of the “hot summer of 1969” when cities in our country burned, primarily due to civil unrest.  I am worried about what is happening right now because just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

Over the course of my 54+ years on this planet, I have seen unthinkable things happen, some of them to the extent that I have really questioned humanity and whether there is really any hope for the human race.  As I have gotten older it has been harder to accept the atrocities that man has been responsible for, yet I continue to believe that there is more good in this world than bad, though that belief is really getting a challenge here in the summer of 2016.  Toss in the incredibly mean-spirited and boorish campaign being led by our Republican candidate for President and my faith is really being tested.  With all of that said, I recently saw something that I never thought I would see.

Since I have been the principal at North Fayette Valley High School, one of the neatest things I have had the honor of being part of is the exchange with Uberlingen Gymnasium in Germany.  This is truly an incredible experience and in the three that I have been involved with, I have seen nothing but positive experiences and goodwill between people from two different cultures.  Yes, many of us in our community are of German ancestry and these folks really aren’t much different from us.  However, in the last two exchanges, because of world events there has been at least a little bit of trepidation about travel because of concerns of what is happening in other parts of the world.  From a more personal standpoint, my wife loves to travel and has been to Europe a handful of times in addition to a few other countries, and in recent years we have started paying attention to what the State Department has said about safe travel in other parts of the world.  In all honesty, along with my daughter, I was very concerned about traveling to Mexico last Christmas, even though we were headed to safer part of the country dominated by the tourist trade.  It is not uncommon for us to hear about “no travel” warnings because of unrest in various parts of the world. 

However, did you ever imagine that our country would be the one where warnings were given regarding travel?  Can you believe that other countries are warning their citizens that it is not safe to travel to the United States of America?  Well, it’s true.  On July 10, 2016, The Bahamas' Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration warned its citizens traveling to the United States of "recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers.  The government of the majority-black Caribbean nation emphasized in a statement that its travelers should avoid crowds and demonstrations in the U.S. Young men, specifically, should "exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police ... Do not be confrontational and cooperate.”  That warning came ahead of the Bahamian Independence Day when many Bahamians travel to the United States.  Earlier this year, the United Kingdom cautioned its LGBT community to steer clear of North Carolina and Mississippi due to recent legislation passed in both states.  It seems that the shoe is on the other foot.

I have never had the courage that my wife has had when it comes to exploring new places.  She can tell you a number of embarrassing stories about my fears when we have traveled, even here in the United States!  But that said, I believe that most of us have a strong belief in the safety of our country.  No, there are places that many of us would not feel safe, but we have a choice of whether or not we go to those places.  However, it seems very strange for the United States to be lumped into a group of countries that includes Iraq, Syria, Mali, Bangladesh, Mali, Laos, and Venezuela as dangerous places for visitors.  It seems disheartening to me that we are included on the same list as those countries where one would have to fear for their safety.  Yes, it has some to this.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Updated Information on the Effects of Social Media

I understand if people think that I have gotten a little lazy this summer with my blog posts, relying upon the work of others and just passing it on to you rather than writing my own.  And yes, to an extent, that is true.  However, I have been writing on a number of topics so that I have at least all of my first semester articles ready before school starts next month.  For this one, I am falling back to Tim Elmore again and am sharing three articles he posted in the past couple of weeks about social media.  Elmore has conducted a number of focus groups as part of his research and shares about what he learned about social media.  There are three articles that will basically give you the pro’s and con’s of social media.  After reading them myself, all of these observations are true about students at North Fayette Valley High School.  I believe that we have taken a very reasonable approach that has evolved over the years in terms of access to phones and media, but in the past year we have had conversation that perhaps we need to tighten things up.  This fall there will be at least a few teachers that will not allow student to have possession of their phone in their classroom.  I think after reading these articles you will understand why.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Iowa, Did You Know?

Five years ago this August I was in attendance at the School Administrators of Iowa Conference in Des Moines when this video was shown for the first time.  I had not watched it again until one of our teachers sent it to me recently. To truly digest it all a person needs to watch it two or three times and then reflect a bit upon some of the statistical information that is presented.  I can hear people saying “change is tough” and others “why do we have to change?”  Rarely do I have conversation of any length with people when some reference to the past isn’t made, often nostalgic.  But the reality is that change happens and things are not the same as they once were, and they are not going back.  Iowans are bright, hard-working people, and despite what critics say, we are still providing a top-notch education for our students thanks to dedicated and committed educators.  Can that be sustained?  Not unless changes are made.  Can Iowa compete in the global economy?  Only if changes are made.  Take a little time to watch this video.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

We’re On The Right Track

According to one analysis of educational requirements for the class of 2014, 32 states did not require that all graduates take four years of English and math through Algebra II or its equivalent, which is often defined as the minimum to be prepared for college.  At North Fayette Valley High School we have started to pay closer attention to the college readiness data produced by ACT when our students take that assessment, and we are finding that we are coming up a little bit short.  We recognize that we need to assess where we are at in terms of course offerings and requirements, as well as how we work with students who intend to go on to a four-year college and their course selection while in high school.  

There is some good news off the top as we have required four years of English Language Arts for a number of years.  And, we made adjustments a few years ago offering more specific courses with the goal of meeting the various needs of students going on to different types of post-secondary programs.  So from the perspective of providing quality preparation for college bound students in the area of English Language Arts, I am confident that our students are ahead of the curve.

When it comes to math, there has been research duplicated over the years that supports the idea that the best predictor of college success is whether a student takes a math class their senior year in high school.  We recognize the importance of this even though our requirement is three years of math to meet graduation requirements at NFVHS.  We strongly encourage our students to continue their math study, and during the 2015-16 school year, 52% of our seniors took a math class.  42% of those students have taken Algebra II or higher, though that does not include students who may have taken at least Algebra II or higher their junior year but are not taking a math class their senior year.  Of our seniors taking math, 36% have taken our Functions class or higher. 

Based on the data it would appear that we have some work to do in the area of math preparation.  That said, while we have between 85-90% of our students go on to post-secondary education, a large percentage of those students will go into a two-year type program where the math requirements are not quite as high.  This is somewhat of a double-edged sword because for years the perception  about going on to a two-year program has been that it does not require as rigorous of academic preparation.  However, in our changing economy there is a high demand for young people in highly skilled job areas that require a high level of math.  Because of that we have been pushing more of our students to continue their math study, but that has been a challenge because of long held perceptions.  As with many things, changing beliefs and attitudes takes a lot more time and effort than changing a rule or policy.  
“Students and their families rely on and trust the high school diploma as a signal of readiness,” said Alissa Peltzman, the vice president of state policy at Achieve, a nonprofit that performed the study. “It needs to mean something. Otherwise, it’s a false promise for thousands of students.”

When one looks at that quote we recognize that we need to give some serious consideration to our math requirement.  Are we doing a good enough job preparing our students?  Do we need to require four years of math for all of our students?  How do we help our students and their parents better understand the importance of taking high level math regardless of the college path that lies ahead?  This is certainly something that lies in front of us as we work through the implementation of Iowa Core Standards and work to better assess our student’s learning.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Failure and Motivation

Through one of our teachers I have run across a website that I find very informative when it comes to explaining how the teenage mind works, and more important, how we as parents and teachers can better work with our kids.  The website is called Mind/Shift: How we will learn and can be found at  I have not read a lot of articles up to this point but have added it to my Favorites and drop in from time to time.  A number of the articles I have read reference the breakthrough book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.  The fundamental tenant of her work is the difference between fixed and growth mindsets.  At NFVHS we have had some exposure to her work and while I have started and stopped a couple of times, her book is at the top of my summer reading list.  

The article that I have shared with you from Mind/Shift deals with how parents can support their children when they experience failure in school.  How we react when our daughter comes up with a low mark sends a powerful message that she internalizes.  Most important, when we react appropriately, learning takes place in a manner that the child can move forward.  Give this a read!

Talking About Failure: What Parents Can Do to Motivate Kids In School

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Legal Age to Play Football?

A few national sportswriters and pundits have started to bemoan what they allege to be the “war on football” that the media is engaged in, defending the sport for what it is and attacking those that are trying to eliminate it from the face of the American landscape.  Right now, there is significant research that supports waiting until youngsters are at least 12-years old before they are allowed to play contact football, specifically in a study  published in the medical journal Neurology by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine.  While the justification for this argument is the physical development of the youngster, there is another argument that based on who is making it and the substance of the argument, I find quite interesting.

You may be familiar with Dr. Bennet Omalu, or have at least heard a little bit about his research.  Perhaps you are aware of him being played by Will Smith in the movie Concussion.  Omalu is a forensic pathologist and the leading expert in the growing field of concussion research, as well as the individual that initiated the study of the brains of former NFL football players.  He identified what is commonly referred to as CTE.  Chronic traumatic encephalopathy can cause “major depression, memory loss, suicidal thought and actions, and loss of intelligence as well as dementia later in life.”  According to Omalu, what makes this particularly scary is that “the brain, unlike most other organs, does not have the capacity to cure itself following all types of injuries."

In late 2015, Omalu provided an op-ed piece to the New York Times in which he proposed that there should be a legal age established for children to reach before they can play football and other high contact sports.  In essence, he proposes an age of legal consent, where the individual makes a legal decision as to whether or not they play the sport.  According to Omalu: "Our children are minors who have not reached the age of consent. It is our moral duty as a society to protect the most vulnerable of us. The human brain becomes fully developed at about 18 to 25 years old. We should at least wait for our children to grow up, be provided with the information and education on the risk of play, and let them make their own decisions. No adult, not a parent or a coach, should be allowed to make this potentially life-altering decision for a child.”  Obviously, that could have huge implications for high school football, the sport with the highest level of male participation in the country.

Switching gears a little bit, there are those devoted to the other brand of “football,” the international game we refer to as soccer, that also resent the “war” being waged on their beloved sport.  For females, the sport with the highest incidence of concussions is soccer, followed by volleyball.  Leaders in the sport of soccer in the United States have taken steps at youth levels by instituting changes in the rules.  There were attempts at the development of various kinds of headgear for protection, but those proved either cumbersome or not effective.  So, another step was taken: a ban on “heading” the ball until players reach a certain age.  Purists in this sport are saying that the specific rule change is ruining the integrity of the game, the purity of the sport.  Heading is a fundamental skill of soccer and to remove it significantly changes the game.  So, it isn’t just proponents of American football that are facing a new reality in terms of the impact concussion research is having on a sport.

The issue of concussions is a serious one, and more is being learned each day.  Are concussions among our  youth athletes a major health concern?  I have not heard that.  But it is serious enough that youth football programs, and even the N.F.L. have developed programs and changed rules to make it more safe.  But, even with those changes, Omalu stated that in our country laws have been written to prevent children from harming themselves in other ways.  For example, it is illegal for those under a certain age to smoke cigarettes or consume alcohol. They cannot enlist in the military until they are 18 because of the seriousness of that decision.  So, based on the risks, Omalu reasons why not require young men to reach the age of consent before they can make their own decision on whether or not they play football?   Obviously the implications on high school athletics would be huge, and from my perspective, I do not see this happening.  However, it is a perspective that some people are going to listen to and could likely contribute to the declining number of children playing the game of football.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pressure In the Wrong Places

I can’t count the number of times I have made the comment “An 18-year old today is not nearly as mature as an 18-year old in the 1960’s and certainly not as mature as an 18-year old in my grandfather’s generation, commonly referred to today as The Greatest Generation.  Whenever I think about those 18-year old young men, some younger, who volunteered to go and fight in Europe or in the Pacific,  I envision those young men who made an incredibly mature decision to go and fight for freedom.  Many of those young men were already married at a young age, some of them having children and working a job.  When they set foot on foreign soil, they did so with the balance of freedom on their shoulders.  They were men that came from every walk of life and they knew full well what they were getting into, and why.  Today, I do not see adolescents and young adults faced with the same kinds of decisions or realities.

The paradox is that young people are physically maturing earlier than previous generations.  Young boys and girls today experience puberty at a far younger age that even a couple of generations ago.  That leads to a dynamic that is much different in terms of the total maturation process.  Sexually mature individuals are living for six years or more under the direct authority and supervision of their parents.  This extends the amount of time that students are dependent on their parents and delays the need for young people to make major decisions on their own.

What we have now is a population of highly educated young people leaving the nest that lack important life skills.  High school graduates today have a much higher level of education today than at any other time in our nation’s history.  They also have access to more resources than any time in history, yet college professors sometimes remark “26 is the new 18,” referencing their perceptions of how immature and unprepared people are for adult life.  In other words, adolescence has expanded into the twenties!

What has happened to cause this?  Researchers point to the notion that adults do not apply as much pressure on them as my great grandparents did during the time they were raising their kids.  More important, the pressure that is being applied is in places where it does not matter as much in terms of preparing individuals to deal with adult life.  In previous generations, parents put pressure on their kids to experience different work scenarios, prepare for family life, interact with people from different age groups, and develop a strong work ethic.  But that has apparently changed.  Today the pressure parents exert comes in different places that in the big picture do not make a big difference in preparing young people to become mature and productive adults.

So, what are the areas where parents are putting pressure on their children, and why doesn’t it help them become adults able to live independently?  Tim Elmore identifies three: grades, sports, and prestige.  Think about the amount of attention is given to each of these in your household.  Elmore states that “no one except our mom cares about your grades twenty years later,” and that their importance is overblown when it comes to scholarships and college admission.  Corporations and workplaces express that high school and college grades are not a very good reflection of job success. 

Overzealous parents are pushing their kids to excel on the playing field, hauling them all over the country to play on travel teams, and paying for private coaching.  The reality is, less than 1% are going to get college scholarships to play sports, and less than that are going to make their living playing sports.  Those kids are going to be software developers, nurses, and accountants, not point guards or shortstops.

Parents are also pushing their kids to be popular, and this pressure manifests itself in a number of different ways that in the big picture do not matter one iota.  Keeping track of and trying to accumulate as many Followers, Likes, and Views as possible is the new scoreboard for popularity.  In small schools in particular, the pressure to be popular also comes with challenges to value systems that students are still developing.  The reality is that this is fleeting, for some disappearing overnight should they take a social misstep.  For the rest, once graduation day is over, no one cares who the popular kids were.  There is no longer a need to have a pecking order.
When the young person moves beyond high school, it isn’t long before most of them recognize that they had been playing a game, and realize that those things they put a lot of emphasis on really do not matter.  And then, they recognize that they are not prepared for those things that are really important because the never had the pressure in those areas before.  For some, they experience emotional issues as they try to rationalize meaning with what they have accomplished up to that point.  Since they have not been prepared for the real responsibilities of life, they struggle, and many deal with those struggles by falling back into their comfort zone, which is a dependence on Mom and Dad.

If this is the case, then what should be done differently?  Again, according to Tim Elmore, the adults need to apply pressure on things that matter.  One example is to help children identify their strengths, develop them, and become very aware of their personal identity.  They need to know who they are and have confidence in what they can do.  People of character are also going to get further in life, and thus it is imperative that parents pressure their children to do the right thing, no matter the circumstances.  And finally, parents need to insist that their son or daughter develop a strong work ethic.  The need to understand that the quality of work they do is important, and that they also need to work to serve others.  These are the qualities that will lead to success in their future.