An Olympic Event—Minus the Award Ceremony!
The new school year is in full swing! Shortly before school started, I stopped by Target to grab a few things.
As I turned into the parking lot, I realized almost every family with school-aged children in the city—one of the fastest growing in the nation—had decided to go to Target too.
Inside, people packed into the aisles like termites in a lumber yard. We needed traffic signals to direct us from one aisle to the next!
When my kids were school-aged, I had to mentally gear up for back-to-school shopping, or as I call it: a parent’s Olympic event—minus the awards ceremony!
Before heading out, I’d have a little chat with myself to go over my “school supply shopping manners”:
- Pause before using “the angry voice.”
- Watch for small children who can be run over by huge carts.
- Just nicely move on when you encounter that one parent probing all 1,028 pencils looking for the perfect one for his or her little prince or princess.
- Turn tension into teachable moments.
- ENJOY the children . . . they won’t be little for very long.
. . . And then parking the car would turn into a competitive sport and all my goals would fly right out the window.
Some years were better than others.
What’s Really Required?
The back-to-school season is a massive moneymaker. We’re blasted by messages from every direction about what kids MUST have. This year, while surviving Target, I observed the most prominent messages out there about helping kids get the best start to their year.
Here are some of the “absolute necessities”:
- The “right” clothes to be accepted and popular
- The “best” backpack (however “best” is defined—usually by what costs the most!)
- An Amazon Prime account in case an item is sold-out in stores and is needed immediately
- An extensive list of extracurricular activities—enough to be appropriately recognized in the yearbook 10 months from now
- An understanding of technology and a personal computer or tablet—even for preschoolers!
- An “in” haircut, properly suited to your child’s face shape
How times change! I’m not concerned about the change itself. Change is vital. It’s necessary for growth. I AM concerned that one of the most influential systems in our children’s formidable years of personal development has shifted in an extremely subtle, extraordinarily dangerous direction.
Education. Environment. Experiences.
Education, environment, and experiences are the three most influential agencies contributing to our personal development. Decades ago, psychologists began to examine these three big Es and how people grow up to become healthy, fulfilled, responsible adults . . . or the opposite.
Erik Erikson, one of the foremost psychoanalysts of human development, outlined eight interrelated stages he defined as necessary for healthy growth and life fulfillment.
He identified the development of trust, self-will, competency, love, integrity, and responsibility. Another theorist, Abraham Maslow, used a pyramid structure to outline the various needs we must have met in order to develop to our fullest potential.
Maslow proposed that growth is like stepping stones; only by meeting fundamental needs is one able to move on to the next “stone.”
The basic needs for survival:
Must be met for growth to occur. Maslow would say that if a child is hungry, tired, and uncomfortable, he or she will find it very difficult to develop friendships, love, and competency.
Likewise, those raised in relatively healthy educational, environmental, and experiential systems are more capable of pursuing creativity, accomplishing goals, and finding fulfillment and purpose in life.
Naturally, the educational system must teach reading, writing, math, science, and other courses to develop children’s knowledge. Ideally, though, those courses develop the mind and body too.
I remember writing my times tables over and over, thinking it was a total waste of time. But that practice not only taught me basic multiplication. I also learned about problem-solving and perseverance.
And I now know that learning through the process of repetition created neural pathways in my brain. However, had I endured experiences of abuse that I never talked about and felt fear and insecurity, what I could have learned would’ve been compromised.
Education is far more complex than lesson plans and school supply lists. Experience and environment have a huge impact on what and how we learn.
The M.A.P. to Success
Have you asked yourself, What am I doing to educate those younger than me? Whether teachers by trade, parents of school-aged children, or anyone else, all adults are teaching something . . . What are YOU teaching?
When you relate to others, are you focused on achievement, hairstyles, cool clothes, athletics, and popularity? If you’re a parent or a teacher, if your student doesn’t pass a class, do you consider it loss or do you look for what can be learned from failing? What about failure outside the classroom?
Honestly, we don’t use the word failure in our house. Instead, we use words like: “Let’s try that another way,” “Now we know what not to do,” and “Let’s examine our options.”
Reframing our words and our focus has never been more needed! To do that, we need direction—a reliable M.A.P. that points the way and reminds us to stay on the right road. Let’s start with three essentials:
Mind: Paul’s final words to Timothy are powerful here:
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. BUT YOU should keep a clear mind in every situation. (2 Timothy 4:3–5, emphasis added)
We live in a time where people don’t want knowledge; they want power, popularity, and prestige. Each person has a mind to use as he or she chooses.
Are you training and using yours in ways that others can learn from . . . that take control over your emotions . . . and that lead to honoring God rather than pleasing others?
Actions: Our actions reveal the true character of our hearts. First Corinthians 13 tells us that without love, it’s all just noise. How are you showing kindness to the weak? Loving those who choose different lifestyles? Being generous with your gifts and talents?
Purpose: How fulfilled are you? Have you given up? Why? If you need help learning about purpose, look to the disabled or to those society believes don’t have much to offer. To be blunt, I’ve learned more from those with disabilities than from anyone or anything else. They have forced me to slow down, examine, reflect, and develop character qualities in ways I would not have if comfort had been my top priority.
Education is not limited to the classroom; it’s a lifelong endeavor we pursue from all who have something to teach. It’s time we stop labeling who and what provides the “best” education. We are all involved in the process throughout life.
So, there it is . . . your M.A.P. to a remarkable, successful school year—and life!—whether you’re a teacher, parent, student, or just a woman crazy enough to brave Target in mid-to-late August!
Let Me Hear from You
Let’s take a page from Philippians 4:8–9 and focus on what is worthwhile—in this case, our minds, actions, and purpose. Spend some time this week evaluating what needs to be reframed in those areas of your life.
- What have you put into your mind lately?
- In what ways do others see Christ in you?
- What have you learned about purpose from those who are different?
- What is God calling you to?
- Are you forcing your kids to pursue something in life for them or for YOU?
- How do you define success?
So many questions, but it’s not a test or for a grade. Like education should be, it’s a process! Let’s talk about how this kind of educational “reframing” affects you; you are an educator whether by occupation or relationship.
Life is a continual school of teaching, learning, and growing. How can we make it the best for the lives we touch?
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