Category Archives: Education

AMIGOS: Leadership Through Experience

Copyright JC Politi Photography

For one year, from 2008 to 2009, my husband and I lived in Houston, Texas. We lived through Hurricane Ike, which was directly over our house for about 7 hours; finding a copperhead in the bathtub; and a torn pup-ACL. It was not our best year.

But I also found Amigos de las Americas (AMIGOS) when I lived in Houston. I worked for this unique organization for about two years, fundraising to support their international youth leadership programs. This organization really touched me.

The people I met doing this work, from the dedicated and passionate staff at the office in Houston, to the parents and former volunteers who now serve on the board, were some of the most thoughtful and hardest-working people I have ever met. And don’t get me started on the young people who were participating in the programs.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua to see the programs in action, which was a special treat. I have shared some of the photos from that trip here and on my new photography website.

This organization is truly unique. When I worked there, we received letters from parents all the time saying that their child left home as an unruly teenager and came back a grown up. This was a consistent refrain from the parents.

Young people came back and talked about how much their world view had expanded from the experience and how it was going to influence the trajectory of their future pursuits. And I have met many former volunteers for whom the program did just that.

I was skeptical about AMIGOS in the beginning. I asked a lot of questions ranging from “Does AMIGOS have a religious bent?” to “Is there government involvement in AMIGOS?” The more I learned about this organization, the more impressed I became.

The intensive training that young people are required to complete in order to participate in the program should be a model for any organization or person doing international development work. The training requires kids to work through issues of cultural awareness and distrust of volunteers from the United States.

One very unique aspect of the AMIGOS program is that it is youth led and driven. Projects in Latin America are run by teenagers and college students who have been volunteers in the program. The training provided to the volunteers who work their way up the ladder to become project staff covers topics that I did not learn about until I was around 30. Topics include critical conversations, supervisory skills and budgeting.

This organization simply does it right.

I thought I would dedicate a post to this inspiring organization, in the hopes that there may be some of you out there with kids in high school or college, who might benefit from this program. Or perhaps you are in high school or college yourself and would like to learn  more.

AMIGOS just came out with a new video that illustrates the great work the organization does year after year. That is what inspired this post. But I encourage all of you to check out this organization’s website to learn more about the organization.

What do you think? What is your favorite non-profit organization and why? Have you heard about AMIGOS and considered sending your child through the program? Would you have fears or concerns about doing this? Did you ever participate in a program like this? What was the best part and what was the worst part?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

21 Comments

Filed under Culture, Education, International, Parenting, Photography, Photos, Poverty, Religion, Stereotypes, travel, Youth Leadership

Tunes Tuesday: Are you registered to vote?

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

The first presidential debate is tomorrow evening. Regardless of which candidate you plan to vote for  – and especially if you have not decided yet – I hope you will take a moment this week to make sure your voter registration is up to date.

Most states have a registration cut-off about a month prior to the election. In Colorado, the cut-off is October 9th. If you miss that deadline, you cannot vote.

Again, regardless of who you plan to vote for, the only way to have a meaningful democratic election is if we all take our voting responsibility seriously and get out and vote!

To check out the registration requirements in your state, go to www.registertovote.org.

Since it is Tunes Tuesday, I am going to recycle one of the best moments from the 2008 campaign and highlight the seventh graders from the Ron Clark Academy, who wrote and performed the song “You Can Vote However You Like.” If this song doesn’t pump you up about the future of our country, you might need to get a check-up!

You Can Vote However You Like
Ron Clark Academy

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

(McCain supporters)
McCain is the man
Fought for us in Vietnam
You know if anyone can
Help our country he can
Taxes droppin low
Don’t you know oils gonna flow
Drill it low
I’ll show our economy will grow

I want Obama
FORGET OBAMA,
Stick wit McCain you gone have some drama
MORE WAR IN IRAQ
Iran he will attack
CAN’T BRING OUR TROOPS BACK
We gotta vote!

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

McCain’s the best candidate
With Palin as his running mate
They’ll fight for gun rights, pro life,
The conservative right
Our future is bright
Better economy in site
And all the world will feel our military might

(Obama supporters)
But McCain and Bush are real close right
They vote alike and keep it tight
Obama’s new, he’s younger too
The Middle Class he will help you
He’ll bring a change, he’s got the brains
McCain and Bush are just the same
You are to blame, Iraq’s a shame
Four more years would be insane

Lower your Taxes – you know Obama Won’t
PROTECT THE LOWER CLASS – You know McCain won’t!
Have enough experience – you know that they don’t
STOP GLOBAL WARMING – you know that you won’t

I want Obama
FORGET OBAMA
Stick with McCain and you’re going to have some drama
We need it
HE’LL BRING IT
He’ll be it
YOU’LL SEE IT
We’ll do it
GET TO IT
Let’s move it
DO IT!

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah

I’m talking big pipe lines, and low gas prices
Below $2.00 that would be nice

But to do it right we gotta start today
Finding renewable ways that are here to stay

I want Obama
FORGET OBAMA,
Stick wit McCain you gone have some drama
MORE WAR IN IRAQ
Iran he will attack
CAN’T BRING OUR TROOPS BACK
We gotta vote Barack!

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah

(SPOKEN)
When I say John
You say McCain
JOHN
McCAIN
JOHN
McCAIN

When I say Barack
You say Obama
BARACK
OBAMA
BARACK
OBAMA

What do you think? What do you think inspired these kids to create something that, in the middle of a divisive political battle, was able to unite and inspire the entire country? Do you think more schools should encourage this type of youth involvement in elections or do you think that parents would oppose this type of activity?

I would love to hear your thoughts! Thank you for reading.

32 Comments

Filed under Culture, Economy, Education, History, Music, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government, Social Media, Youth Leadership

Travel Photo of the Year Contest and the Booker Award

Heather over at Bitsnbooks has presented me with the Booker Award, which is a little different from the other awards floating around. I love any award and am so grateful and humbled to be recognized by my talented peers. I hope you will take a moment to check out Heather’s blog.

This particular award is fun to accept for a geeky gal like me. The rules for accepting this award are to:

1. Nominate other blogs, as many as you want but 5-10 is always a good suggestion. Don’t forget to let your recipients know.

2. Post the Booker Award picture.

3. Share your top 5 books of all time

First, I will post my five favorite books of all times. This is a tough list to come up with, as I have loved many books over the years, but there are a few that have really stuck with me:

1.)    The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)  – I have shared some quotes from this book in past blog posts. This book may have just come into my life at the right time, but I don’t think there is ever really a wrong time to reflect on what is important to you. The messages in this simple story are potent and powerful at any time of life.

2.)    The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) – This book knocked me over. Again, a story with a very deep message. This book delivers a strong social justice message and you end up feeling like you know and love this family by the end. I have only cried in a very few books, but the last paragraph of this one will live with me always.

3.)    Roots (Alex Haley) – This book made me cry from the start. It is an important portrayal of one of the largest scars on the American history – the fact that slavery was accepted and justified by our government. It puts a human face on something that most people would rather not examine closely. A very moving read.

4.)    Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) – There is something about this book for me. The writing is so lyrical and beautiful, my blood pressure goes down with the first sentence.

5.)    The Elements of Style (Strunk and White) – Someday I will know whether a period goes inside or outside of quotes, but until then, this book will be on my desk.

I would like to present this award to the following bloggers:

Hugh Curtler

Musings of an Old Fart

Waiting for the Karma Truck

Carr Party of Five

Magnolia Beginnings

Analyfe

Life with the Top Down

Real Woman’s Health

Writing Your Destiny

The Healthy Warrior

The Jotters Joint

The Curtain Raiser

Talk to Diana

Third Eye Mom

The Bookshelf of Emily J

What do you think? What is the one book that has really impacted you? What is the one book you have read more than once and why?

Please don’t forget to vote in the Bucket List Publications Travel Photo of the Year Contest! There are 18 finalists and I have some stiff competition. I would love your help!

Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina
Copyright JC Politi Photography

You can vote every day for the next few days. All you have to do is go to see all the finalists and click on this picture and click “like” or share to mark it as your favorite! You can send it to friends and family to encourage them to vote though Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and lots of other ways. It would mean a lot to get your vote!

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much for reading!

57 Comments

Filed under Awards, Blogging, Books, Culture, Education, History, International, Love, Photography, Photos, travel

What is the Price of an Educated Child?

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What are we willing to pay for? That is the question that comes to mind for me when I read Thomas Friedman’s opinion piece in the New York Times called “Average is Over: Part II.”

The article discusses the disconnect between what politicians espouse about keeping jobs in the United States and the current realities facing CEOs whereby, through necessity, work is becoming more globalized every day.

Friedman argues that parents in the United States believe that their child is simply competing with her neighbor or with other kids in the United States, but that that is simply not the case today.

He argues that in a globalized society, kids compete against their peers all over the world. He goes on to say that this insular view of the United States education system is one reason that investment in K-12 education has suffered, because parents are content with the quality of education in their child’s school as compared to the school down the street.

He points out that soon there will be a way for parents to easily compare their child’s school with schools around the world, which he says will enable parents to advocate for better schools with policy-makers.

Photo Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Friedman has a point, but he is missing a significant contributing factor in this discussion – namely, our unwillingness to raise our taxes to invest in our infrastructure. Once we are able to compare our schools with schools around the world, we must also find a way to compare the tax rates between countries.

It is a commonly held belief by many in the United States that our taxes are too high. A blogger friend has written extensively on this subject and you should check out his thoughts when you have a moment. I have also written about this previously.

The fact is, you get what you pay for. Educating our children comes at a cost. Taxes are the price we pay to educate our children, protect our streets from crime and pave our roads, among many other things.

And,really, what price can you place on our children’s future?

What do you think? Why do you think people are so vehemently opposed to higher taxes for better schools? Have you seen your schools suffer as a result of this lack of investment? Do you think that there is a better way in which our tax dollars could be invested?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

60 Comments

Filed under Business, Campaign Finance, Education, International, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government

Tunes Tuesday and Canon in the National Parks: Kodachrome

A fellow student
Copyright JC Politi Photography

I wrote a few weeks ago about the Canon in the National Parks free classes. I went to one of the classes yesterday and am still glowing from the experience. I learned enough to take my camera off the automatic mode and that is saying a lot!

I learned how to focus on an object and blur the background and how to capture things in motion or to show the motion and how to adjust the exposure of a picture.

Background not blurred
Copyright JC Politi Photography

Background blurred – you have no idea how exciting this is for a newby photographer!
Copyright JC Politi Photography

I should mention that I invested in a new camera, which I could not be more excited about. It is a new technology called mirrorless SLR and it has all the functionality of a digital SLR, but for a fraction of the weight. I got a Sony nex7, but most of the major camera manufacturers make these cameras now. I understand Canon is coming out with one in the Fall.

This new type of camera has gotten some great write-ups in photography magazines and blogs and it is really worth checking out if you are in the market for a new camera.

But back to the class. We met at the visitor’s center outside Rocky Mountain National Park so we didn’t even have to pay an entry fee to the park. People borrowed Canon equipment, although I was too excited about my new camera to use their equipment. They divided us into beginners and intermediate/advanced.

I took the beginner class, but think I will try to get back next weekend for the intermediate course.

What a wonderful opportunity for people just getting into photography or even for those who have a better grasp of the technological aspects of the art.

I really encourage anyone who can make it to one of these sessions, to do so. It is a priceless two hours and is absolutely free.

This leads me to a Tunes Tuesday pick that always has me singing along. Today’s Tunes Tuesday pick is Kodachrome by Paul Simon.

My favorite photo of the day
Copyright JC Politi Photography

What do you think? Are there any things that you would like to take a class to learn? Do you know of any affordable options for people to expand their skills in a particular area? If you are a photographer, do you have an opinion on mirrorless cameras versus DSLRs? And do you have any other ideas for affordable ways to build photography skills?

Kodachrome    

When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall

Kodachrome
You give us those nice bright colors
You give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away

If you took all the girls I knew
When I was single
And brought them all together for one night
I know they’d never match
My sweet imagination
And everything looks worse in black and white

Kodachrome
You give us those nice bright colors
You give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away

Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome (away)
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome (away)
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome
(Leave your boy so far from home)
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome (away)

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

43 Comments

Filed under Education, Music, Photography, Photos, Uncategorized

Helicopter Parents and Tiger Moms: Turns Out Neither Knows Best

Copyright JC Politi Photography

There was an opinion piece in the New York Times this weekend called “Raising Successful Children” which generated quite a bit of discussion.

The article examines the latest parenting research which found that giving children autonomy and allowing them to make mistakes leads to the best long-term outcomes.

My parents did a great job with this. I was sent to a sleep-away summer camp for the most of the summer every year in my formative years. I feel like this helped shape who I am more than almost anything else.

I worked for a wonderful organization called Amigos de las Americas which provides opportunities for young people to live in remote villages Latin America, where their autonomy is simply not in question.

These types of experiences can really help young people develop confidence in their abilities. The Times article lays out research to prove this hypothesis.

But it seems that it has become harder for parents to give their children space to make mistakes and to develop their independence. The article points out that there has been much attention devoted to “helicopter parents” and “tiger mothers” in the news in recent years.

I am not a parent and I can imagine that it would be difficult to find the balance between protecting your children and letting your children forge their own path. But I am intrigued and curious about what makes it more difficult for parents to do this today than when I was younger.

Certainly, when I was younger, we had parents who lived vicariously through their children, but I don’t feel like there was quite as much of what I see as overprotecting children.

What do you think? Do you think that parents are more protective now of their children that when you were young? Do you think this has to do with the increased dangers in our society like gun violence and crime? Do you struggle with this as a parent? Have you found any tips or strategies you would like to share with others?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this, you might also like:

The Ritalan Generation: Why do some children fall behind in school? (newsofthetimes)

The Power of Strengths and Weaknesses: Giving kids permission to just be (newsofthetimes)

A New Kind of Playground: What happens when young children are connected with technology? (newsofthetimes)

52 Comments

Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Education, Love, Parenting, Relationships, social pressures, Technology, Youth Leadership

On the Road: Opportunities for Personal Growth through Solo Travel

Patagonia, Argentina
Copyright JC Politi Photography

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.
– Alice Koller

Have you ever traveled alone? Would you? Why or why not?

An article in Lonely Planet tackles this issue and provides some tips for women travelling alone. The article is called, “Conquer Your Fear: 4 Tips for Solo Women Travelers.

This article made me think about my own experience traveling alone. When I was in my mid twenties, I lived in Austin, Texas and spent a few years learning how to be alone, getting to know myself better outside the constraints and expectations of family and friends, truly learning how to savor opportunities for solitude.

To further my personal growth, I planned to travel alone to the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion national parks. But at the last minute, I got cold feet and asked a friend to go along. That turned out to be a bad decision; this person is, sadly, no longer a friend for a variety of reasons.

The chemistry on the trip was not good and it put a dark cloud over the whole experience. I was disappointed in myself for chickening out and promised myself I would not let that happen again.

Ocean City, Maryland
Copyright JC Politi Photography

About a month later, I took my first solo trip. I drove up the west coast on the Pacific Coast highway in a rented convertible. This trip was absolutely life-changing and ignited my passion for solo travel.

After that trip, I took many trips by myself, including a month-long trip to Guatemala before I spoke a word of Spanish.

While I love traveling with my husband or with friends, solo travel will always hold a very special place in my heart.

There is a beauty to being able to control every aspect of a trip, from what sites to see, to what time to wake up.

You can even control bathroom breaks without worrying about disrupting someone else’s plans. Such luxury!

Venice, Italy
Copyright JC Politi Photography

Getting over the initial nerves of a solo trip can be a challenge, but it can also be one of the best opportunities for personal growth.

I am glad I overcame my fears and would love to hear readers’ stories about their fears or passions for solo travel – or both.

What do you think? Have you ever taken a solo trip? Where did you travel? If you haven’t done this, do you have fears of this type of experience? If you have done this, what did you learn along the way? Why do you think we have a fear of traveling alone? Do you prefer to travel alone or with another person? Why?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this, you might also like:

Around the World in 80 Days: Would You Do It?

What Makes Amelia Earhart So Captivating?

Is There Room at the Inn? The Eternal Quest for the Perfect Getaway

52 Comments

Filed under Culture, Education, Environment, International, Parenting, Photography, Photos, social pressures, Stereotypes, travel, Women, Youth Leadership

Why Are There So Few Women in Math and Science Professions?

There is a fascinating story on NPR this week about the lack of women in math and science fields that is worth a read.

It explores the reasons that there are more men than women in these fields and the reasons that many women do not stay in these fields. The article lays the blame on women’s awareness of stereotypes regarding their competency in these areas.

The author makes it clear that the problem is not all in women’s heads, but rather lays the blame at the feet of the pervasive messages that women hear on a daily basis about their abilities, or inabilities, in these areas.

I find this fascinating. When I was in middel school, I was told I was bad at two things – OK, maybe 3 things – math, science and art. Whether the people who told me these things recognized that they sent me this messages as a teenager or not, these messages stuck with me over the years; in fact, these messages have stuck with me to this day.

I worked in the field of domestic violence for many years and was always interested in the programs that many shelters have for children who have witnessed domestic violence, where they use art therapy to help children heal and cope with their untenable family situation.

As someone who was told that art was not a personal strength, I always felt more stressed by the idea of this type of therapy than soothed. The messages we are told when we are young stick with us.

The story on NPR seems to confirm this and posits the theory that this is one of the main reasons that women, even women in high level math and science professions, do not stay in those positions.

The story points out a fundamental challenge, in which there are not many women in these fields, and women seem less likely to enter these fields because they do not see themselves represented in these professions.

Quite a chicken and the egg conundrum.

What do you think? Have you, or your children, had any personal experiences with being told that you were not good at something? Have you found ways to counter these messages that work for you? Do you have any ideas about how more women could be encouraged to enter the fields of math and science? Or do you think that it is not really a problem to have this field so dominated by men?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

 

 

51 Comments

Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, equality, Ethics, Health, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Relationships, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, Women, Youth Leadership

Do you Prioritize Your Life or Your Work? Maybe It Is Time to Rethink

An article on the Harvard Business Review blog called, “If You Don’t Prioritize Your Life, Someone Else Will,” really made me think. I also read a thoughtful blog post on a similar subject over at Truth and Cake called “Save Your Own Ass.”

The concept behind both of these posts is simple: take care of yourself first because if you don’t, no one else will.

The Harvard Business Review article tells the story of a man who attended a meeting the day after his child was born, because he thought he should. While attending the meeting, the man realized that he really should have been with his wife and newborn child instead of at this routine business meeting.

This got me thinking about times when I have felt conflicted between work obligations and home obligations. One of these moments happened just last week.

As many of you know, we had a wildfire directly in front of our house last week. I was scheduled to drive five hours for an all day work meeting last Friday. I felt that I had to go to the meeting, but was concerned to travel so far from home at that moment.

I felt like I “should” make the meeting. My bosses over the years have been very supportive when I needed to bow out of something because of an emergency at home. It is not pressure from my employers that has made me feel that I need to meet my obligations at work, regardless of the situation at home.

I ended up calling into the meeting last week instead of travelling, which I thought was a good compromise. And we were fortunate that the weather and the firefighters helped quell the fire quickly. My colleagues at the meeting were very understanding as, I’m sure, the colleagues of the author of the Harvard Business Review blog post would have been on the day after his child’s birth.

I don’t know what makes these types of decisions more difficult than they need to be. Perhaps at times like these I need to remember to repeat my new mantra gleaned from the sage bloggers at Truth and Cake and the Harvard Business Review: Take care your yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will.

What do you think? What is it that makes us often feel the need to neglect the things in life that are most important, even when it is not necessary that we do so? Is it because we take for granted that the people and things we love will always be there, but work is fleeting? But doesn’t that make it even more important that we tend to our personal needs, lives and loves? Have you learned any lessons about this the hard way or the easy way that you would like to share? Any tips for people who struggle with these types of decisions?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

If you liked this, you might also like:

The Freedom of a Vacation: Why Would We Give That Up? 

The Importance of Slowing Down in a Busy Bee Culture

Does Anyone Care About the Lack of Women in Leadership Positions?

Give Me a Break: Why Do the US Jobs Offer So Little Vacation Time?  

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Forest Fires, Health, Parenting, Peace, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Women, Youth Leadership

The Ritalan Generation: Why Do Some Children Fall Behind in School?

David Brooks has an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times about how today’s schools leave some children behind.

He points out statistics showing that boys are falling behind girls in school and he posits a theory that this is because our school culture has become too homogenous. He claims that contemporary schools only promote teamwork and collaboration, instead of also including competition and military values.

His theory is that a diversity of teaching styles could help prevent some of the more active children from falling through the cracks and acting out.

I like the idea of diversity of thinking and feel that always adds value. But the bigger issue for me has to do with the homogeneity of the courses and teaching methods in schools today. The focus on teaching to a test has required teachers to shy away from using less traditional teaching styles and methods.

If teachers were able to tailor their classes more, perhaps they would able to find alternative ways to engage students with different learning styles.

Another factor to consider when discussing hyperactive children in the classroom is the overuse of medication that has proliferated over the past twenty years. I wonder if this is a direct result of the inability of teachers to tailor their classes because of the pressures to teach to the test.

That direct correlation may be a bit of a stretch, but if we are going to talk about kids who are falling behind, we must talk about the impact of the overmedication of our youth.

Kids in my generation were not overmedicated and there was no pressure to teach to a test. We had plenty of hyperactive kids – in fact I was probably one of them – but without medication, we turned out fine.

That last statement makes me sound like an old lady, talking about walking three miles barefoot to school in the snow when I was younger, and maybe that is who I have become. But I think it is interesting to explore our cultural history in order to find a path forward.

I have a philosophy for the most part of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I am sure the education system had significant problems when I was younger, but it does seem to have even more challenges now.

I am not a teacher, but I know that several of my readers are and many parents also read this blog. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts about this and suggestions for solutions to ensure that all kids can learn the skills necessary for future success.

What do you think? Do you feel like the culture in schools is homogenous to a fault? Do you think that this could be addressed, in part, by allowing teachers to have more flexibility in the classroom? How do you feel about the medications that so many kids are prescribed today? Do you think that hyperactive children are falling behind in school? And what suggestions do have to address this issue?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this post, you might also like:

How Micromanaging Educators Stifles Reform

Making Education Brain Science

Forget Them! What Do YOU Want to Be When You Grow Up?

 

 

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Education, equality, Ethics, Parenting, Relationships, social pressures, Sports, Stereotypes, Youth Leadership

Simple Secret to Success: Just Do It

Copyright JC Politi Photography

The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
Lao Tzu

Are you optimistic or pessimistic? And how do you think this impacts your ability to set and reach your goals?

An article in the New York Times called “How to Make Optimism Work for You” offers tips and suggestions for increasing optimistic attitudes in people looking for work.

Suggestions include:

Face your fears head on. Step outside your comfort zone to help eliminate fear, anxiety and negative thoughts that can stand in the way of success.

Re-evaluate events in your everyday life. Tell yourself that maybe things aren’t so bad.

Practice mindful meditation. Allow feelings and thoughts to pass through your mind without judging or reacting to them; that helps create a sense of detachment from negative experiences.

Take control over how you feel instead of letting feelings control you. A sense that you control your destiny can help you bounce back from setbacks and maximize your enjoyment of life.

Laugh. Use positive feelings to counter negative ones.

Be fully engaged. Get involved in activities that are meaningful to you, whether it’s a career, hobby, sport or volunteering. Do it, as Bill Richmond says. Then learn how.

The last suggestion is the suggestion that intrigues me most. The article includes a portrait of a 90 year old man whose life reads like a who’s-who of Hollywood. His motto is “Do it. Then learn how.”

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I know many will be appalled at this suggestion. I am not one of them. I have always been impatient with the planning phase of projects, preferring to jump in and begin.

This may be a weakness on my part but, in fact, I can think of few times when this philosophy has backfired. Perhaps I have had to tweak something after beginning, but taking action has rarely been the wrong choice.

I should mention that Mr. Richmond, while quick to take action, also seems to be quick to recognize his need for further development in whatever he has begun, taking courses in whatever discipline he has chosen to work in next. But he takes the courses after he begins, not prior to taking the first step.

His advice resonates with me: “The important thing,” Mr. Richmond said in an interview, “is to visualize what you want and go after it. Be ready for an opening — serendipity — all the time.”

Many of us have a fear of failure or a need to be perfect, so we never take that first step. Many prefer to remain in the safety of the planning phase of a project until the real opportunity – or serendipity – has passed.

That is not how I want to live. I would rather fail, but fail while trying to actually do something. Inaction feels like the greatest failure to me.

You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.
Wayne Gretzky

What do you think? Do you prefer to have all of your plans in place before you make a major life decision or are you more willing to learn as you go? Do you think these tendencies are natural or learned? What do you encourage your kids to do when they are embarking on a project? Have you learned any lessons you would like to share with others about this?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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The Power of Strengths and Weaknesses: Giving Kids Permission to Just Be

Photo Courtesy of Danny Brown

The old man pointed to a baker standing in his shop window at one corner of the plaza. “When he was a child, that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery  and put some money aside. When he is an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

“He should have decided to become a shepherd,” the boy said.

“Well, he thought about that,” the old man said. “But bakers are more important people than shepherds.”…

“In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends.”

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

 

A New York Times article, “Redefining Success and Celebrating the Ordinary” has been on the list of the most e-mailed articles for some time now. This topic fits with the theme of the last few weeks on this blog, so I thought I would explore this issue further.

The article discusses the tendency, at least in the United States, for people to push their children to excel at all levels, filling their time with activities and events which provide further opportunities to compete with their peers.

I am sure many of you read about a commencement speech earlier this year where the speaker told the students that they were not exceptional. The reactions to this speech were heated.

But perhaps the speaker was just trying to give the students permission to find value and define success differently than their parents and society prescribe. Perhaps the speaker was trying to help students understand that it is OK to have both strengths and weaknesses.

The constant drive to compete is positive in many ways. It can lead to innovation and progress.But at what price? Where is creativity encouraged?

What about the artist who is not strong at math or writing, but can compose a symphony or paint a beautiful landscape? Where is the encouragement for this type of success?

Where is the recognition of people who may not be academics, but build and maintain personal relationships better than most?

Part of the stress many of us feel, where people run themselves ragged at all times and fail to disconnect from work, even when on vacation, seems to come from this drive. People think, “If I don’t stay connected, will people think that I am not a hard worker? Will I appear to lack ambition?”

What are we teaching our children with these messages? Are we teaching our children to develop the same neuroses that we have developed, where the prioritization of work over relationships is sorely misaligned?

This problem has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. It is striking to me, how every speech by a major politician is peppered with statements that the United States is the best country in the world.

There are many areas where the United States excels and there are also areas, like healthcare, where the United States has much to learn from the rest of the world. The US has strengths and weaknesses, just like any person or child. And is there really anything wrong with that?

What do you think? What do you think accounts for people’s relentless drive to be the best and to push their children to be the best? Have you dealt with these pressures as a parent or an employee? Do you have any tips for others who would like to readjust their priorities and goals? Do you feel that this drive alienates potential teammates in a workplace or a social environment? Why do you think this issue has gotten so much attention lately? Do you think the intensity of the pressures have increased recently? And if so, why do you think that is?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

 

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The Freedom of a Vacation: Why Would We Give That Up?

Copyright JC Politi Photography

 

Without the ability to be gay and treat serious things lightly after the serious thinking is done and the decision is reached, I doubt whether any man could long carry the job of being President of the United States.
Eleanor Roosevelt

An article in the New York Times called “Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let it Happen to You,” is interesting, especially in light of the robust discussions we have had on this blog about the challenges of finding work-life balance.

The article discusses things that we do to ensure that we are unable to relax, even when on vacation.It offers several helpful tips and suggestions.

We all know how this works and this article validates our experience. The first few days of vacation, it can be difficult to unwind. The last few days of a vacation, we dread returning to real life. Hopefully, we can find a few days in between, where we actually relax.

With the onslaught of technology, especially e-mail and smart phones, many of us remain connected even while on vacation. I am guilty of this myself. I don’t want to return to an avalanche of messages in my inbox, so I handle minor things while on vacation.

But I have considered the dangers of doing this. If something significant occurs and I learn about it while on vacation, what happens to the relaxation and disconnection that is meant to help prepare me to handle these crisis in a better way upon my return?

I lived in New York City when I graduated from college. I remember being overwhelmed by the intensity of the city. I thought Central Park would be a refuge from all of that, but I found the intensity still palpable; it like people were intensely relaxing.

I have written much here about the importance of slowing down and finding a balance between work and life. But if we cannot even give ourselves permission to disconnect when we’re on vacation, what hope do we have?

CopyrightJC Politi Photography

The good news in the article is that we seem to view three day weekends and one day holidays differently than we do vacations.

So, this 4th of July, for those of you in the United States, let’s commit to turning off our work messages completely.

Let’s enjoy the heat that slows everything to a snail’s pace and notice the coolness of the water when we swim and the savor the tastes of the food on the grill and a refreshing cold drink. Let’s take time to laugh with family and friends and play with our pets. Now THAT is freedom!

What do you think? Do we feel the need to remain connected when we are on vacation because of the expectations of our employers or do our employers have these expectations because we remain connected on vacation? Do you have trouble disconnecting when you are on vacation? Do you check e-mail when you are gone?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Four Strategies to Achieve Higher Employee Engagement

 

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As readers of this blog know, I do not usually stay on any specific topic for more than one post, but we seem to have hit a nerve on the last few posts, so I am going to keep with this theme for one more day.

There was in interesting post over on CNN’s Management and Career Blog entitled “Exposing Management’s Dirty Little Secret.”

The tagline of the article reads: If employees aren’t as enthusiastic as they could be, it’s not because the work sucks; it’s because management blows. While obviously, this is a broad statement, there is certainly some truth.

The article talks about three factors that contribute to employee satisfaction and engagement:

The scope that employees have to learn and advance (are there opportunities to grow?);

The company’s reputation and its commitment to making a difference in the world (is there a mission that warrants extraordinary effort?); and

The behaviors and values of the organization’s leaders (are they trusted, do people want to follow them?).

My husband works in Human Resources and much of his work focuses on efforts to track and improve employee engagement in corporations. We discuss these issues frequently and agree that opportunities for growth and adequate compensation are critical components to keep employees engaged. And they are certainly the basic ingredients for success.

But the discussions on this blog over the past few days have made me think about a fourth, equally important but more elusive factor. What kind of work-life balance does a particular job offer its employees?

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We have discussed some of the reasons many women leave high level positions in earlier discussions. But this issue is certainly not confined to its impact on women. And change will only come if we expand the discussion to include the impact on men.

A few thoughtful readers commented on the benefit to a company’s bottom line of having healthy, balanced employees. I do not have data to support this claim at my fingertips, but I would imagine that companies that provide these types of intangible benefits have more loyal employees and less turnover.

This must impact the bottom line.

What do you think? What makes you want to stay in a job or look elsewhere for work? Do you know of any companies whose employees are exceptionally engaged? To what do you contribute this success? How much of a role do you think a manger plays in this and how much is determined by the overall corporate culture? What energizes you at work?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

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Sheryl Sandberg’s Top 3 Tips to Keep Women in High Level Jobs

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Yesterday’s post about an article in The Atlantic magazine entitled “Why Women Can’t Have It All” written by a women in a high-level position with the State Department, who chose to leave her job in order to spend more time with her family generated quite a discussion yesterday. I would like to continue the discussion today.

Many thanks to Diana from TalktoDiana for her passion and engagement. In the comments section, she shared this TED Talk, by Sheryl Sandberg, who is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, which I would like to share with all of you today:

This video confirms many of the statistics included in the Atlantic article. Ms. Sandberg also posits some theories about the root causes behind the statistics. She discusses three important reasons why she believes that there are not more women in leadership positions, and offers advice for women who would like to change these realities. Her advice includes:

Women need to sit at the table

Make your partner a real partner

Don’t leave before you leave

I will not go into detail on these three reasons, as I could certainly do no better job than Ms. Sandberg in explaining this complex issue. But I encourage you to watch the talk if you are interested in helping think through this more.

The first reason will resonate with most women. Women simply have less faith in their abilities to succeed than men. It is a fascinating reality that I do not fully understand, but we have all seen and felt it in action. As an example, Sandberg highlights data showing that most women do not negotiate salaries and most men do.

The second reason will also resonate: women need to stop doing all the work at home. The statistics – and people’s personal realities – show that this is an expectation which makes it hard for women to reach professional heights they might otherwise like to reach. Perhaps women need to stop enabling this reality. (I should mention that I do not suffer from this particular problem. My husband is much tidier and a much better cook than me – good man.)

The third reason really intrigues me. Don’t leave before you leave. Sandberg points out that many women make professional choices and changes before life circumstances require them to do so. I know this to be true, as I believe will other women.

I remember applying for a job several years ago. We had just moved to a new city and I had been volunteering and looking for work for several months. While my husband and I have been fortunate professionally, our lifestyle requires two incomes.

My husband and I had been trying to conceive a baby and I was absolutely convinced that I was pregnant, which is probably a subject to which many couples can also relate. I was called in for a promising job interview.

I distinctly recall talking with my best friend about whether or not I should disclose the fact that I was pregnant to the potential employer. My best friend, who is one of the superwomen described in the Atlantic article who is currently doing it all with a high level job and two small children, said “Don’t say a word.”

I turned out not to be pregnant. Wise advice from a wise woman. I believe that this type of thinking is what Sandberg refers to in the TED Talk. I am not sure why women do this, but we frequently adjust our plans based on what might be, rather than what is. I appreciate Sandberg’s advice and plan to put her suggestions into action. Thank you again to Diana for sharing this TEDtalk with us.

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday, I also came across an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Being Murphy Brown in a June Cleaver World.” Apparently, there is an entire column in the Wall Street Journal called The Juggle dedicated to just these issues. This article just confirms my suspicion that regardless of the choices a woman makes she will feel inadequate in one portion of her life or another.

There is so much to discuss here. But I believe the key is to start having an honest dialogue about how society can enable women and men to contribute to professional society, and also allow them to have fulfilling and contented lives at home – without guilt.

I am thinking about gathering personal stories about people’s experiences with these dilemmas to turn into a book. Women and men both have a lot of stories to tell. I would love to speak with high-level professional women to learn about how they have handled this and lessons they have learned along the way.

What do you think? Does the TED Talk resonate with you? Do you have feelings of guilt regarding your adequacy as a parent or a professional, or both? Or have you been forced to make these difficult choices? How did you decide which road to take? How do you think we start to shift the paradigm, as Hugh suggested yesterday? What else does this bring up for you? Do you think there is a book idea here or are there too many books on this topic already? Any thoughts on how I should get started?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading.   

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