nancy williams

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Archive for August, 2008

Preparing Our Students – From The Inside Out

Now that I’m a grandmother, I seem to be tuning in even more so to the children around me. Considering their needs and wants, their dreams and fears, their challenges and opportunities as they once again step into the role of student—a first time pre-schooler, a young adult on the college campus, or somewhere in between. It’s both exciting and challenging for students as they find their way around their school campus, rekindle relationships and make new ones, open their minds to learning, and discover more about themselves and the world in which they live.

Whether they’re entering the world of education for the first time or beginning their final year, we want to be sure our students are prepared with everything they need for a successful new year. So, let’s see. Registration complete and records current? Check. Dental care, physicals, and booster shots up to date? Check. Supplies and appropriate clothes purchased? Check. Carpool arrangements in place, bicycle tires aired, or perhaps cars tuned up for our young drivers? Check. Living arrangements in place for those college students leaving home? Check.

‘Seems like everything is in order, but wait just a minute. There are a few additional things I’d like to add to the list, valuable tools our students will need if they’re to have a successful year ahead—emotionally and spiritually as well as academically. They don’t come pre-packaged and they aren’t on sale at our local store.

Equipping our children for the ways in which life will stretch them in these areas will require our time and focus, our wisdom and emotional energy, our patience and love.

These are priceless gifts children of every age need each day. And they are looking to us—their parents and grandparents, their teachers and church workers, their neighbors and adult friends—to help them discover how to incorporate them into their lives.

While we know the value of these principles, the busyness of life often distracts us from giving them due attention. And yet, our children will need these tools in their minds and hearts as they face the opportunities and challenges of the new school year. We can’t assume they will pick them up along the way and we can’t rely on others to teach them. We must be their primary teachers, their guides, and their life coaches. Here’s my list. You won’t need pen and paper, just an open, loving, willing heart.

1. Positive self-image. Children need to hear they are special, that they are loved and valued for who they are and not just for what they accomplish. They may need our help at times to see the positive attributes they possess as they discover their value in God’s eyes.

2. Courage. Children face tough challenges, in and out of the classroom. They must learn how to tackle difficulties, and they need to hear our acknowledgment when they do.

3. Confidence. When they hear, ”You can do it!” they’ll more likely begin to say, “I can do it!” We can teach them the power of basing that confidence in God’s presence and his promises to guide their steps as they trust in him.

4. Resiliency. Children will fall down. We all do. However, they don’t have to stay down, if they learn how to bounce back. We must teach them how to pick themselves up, assess what happened, make necessary corrections, then draw on their courage and hope from within to move forward.

5. Respect, kindness, friendliness, patience, forgiveness. These are important building blocks of relationships—friend with friend, student with teacher, parent with child. As we give them these gifts ourselves, we model what we are teaching them to offer others. We can show them as well tell them how God wants us to reflect the fruits of his Spirit in our lives.

6. Self-control. Children must learn how to manage their own behavior appropriately, not an easy task in a society where we often hear the message, “You can have whatever you want and do whatever you want to do.”

7. Sense of humor. They must learn, there’s a time to be serious and a time to laugh. Teach them how to manage their humor in a healthy way, as they look in the mirror and as they connect with others.

8. Graciousness to accept victory; strength to accept defeat. They will experience both.

9. Awareness of God’s constant presence with them. Our children can draw a sense of comfort and confidence in knowing God is with them and has promised to help them manage life’s challenges as they draw close to him, seek his guidance and make choices that will honor him. Perhaps you and your children can choose a few key scripture verses of encouragement they can write down and carry with them in their notebooks or backpacks. Quiet reminders of God’s love and desires for them.

10. Our love and encouragement, along with our prayers for them. Our children need to know that when life knocks them down, we will be there for them, just as we will when they celebrate success. They also need to know we will lift them up in prayer to the Lord each day.

Our students are living in a world of both opportunities and uncertainties. Proverbs 22:6 (in the Bible) tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go.” So, let’s help them, from pre-school through college, to ‘dress for success’—from the inside out. The opportunity is now. The responsibility is ours. The future is theirs.

The Last Lecture

Dr. Randy Pausch, the professor at Carnegie Mellon University who inspired countless students in the classroom and others worldwide, passed away recently of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 47. An alumnus of Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Pausch co-founded the Entertainment Technology Center. His unique approach brought together artists, designers and dramatists to work alongside computer scientists and create a revolutionary and entertaining way to teach computer programming to young students.

While thousands of students at Carnegie Mellon and throughout the country have experienced his work, he gained more notable public fame outside the classroom for delivering what would come to be known as “The Last Lecture.” On Sept. 18, 2007, only a month after doctors told him that he had three to six months to live following a recurrence of pancreatic cancer, he presented a lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” Recently, I watched a video of his humorous and moving talk as he recounted his efforts to achieve his childhood dreams and shared insights on finding the good in other people, encouraging others to achieve their dreams, overcoming obstacles and living generously. His lecture has been viewed on television and the Internet by countless people around the world; and he co-authored a book featuring the principles he shared in his lecture.

His belief? Life is a gift. His observation? “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we will play the hand.” His compelling message? “Savor every moment.” A look at his life will reveal he did just that. Here are some of the life lessons he shared during his lecture.

• Never lose your childlike wonder.

• Hold on to your sense of humor.

• Don’t put the bar in place too quickly for others or you’ll limit their creativity, imagination and potential.

• Loyalty is a two-way street.

• Make memories with those you love.

• Never give up.

• Tell the truth.

• Be earnest.

• Apologize when you make a mistake.

• When you face difficulties, don’t bail too quickly.

• Value the feedback and counsel of those you trust and respect.

• Show gratitude.

• Be good at something.

• Work hard.

• Don’t complain.

• Find the best in everybody, even if you have to wait for them to show you their good side.

• Be prepared: luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

• Find your passion and follow it.

• Don’t let tomorrow wreck today.

• If you lead your life the right way, good things will come to you.

• Do your best to bring joy and wonder to every moment.

At the close of his lecture, Dr. Pausch referred back to his opening remarks about the focus of his lecture. “Did you notice? It’s really not about realizing your childhood dreams. It’s about how to lead your life well.” He closed by saying that the message of his lecture and his life was really a message for his children. A legacy of love and encouragement.

As I reflected on the life lessons he shared about the thoughts we entertain, the attitudes we embrace and the actions we take as we face whatever life brings, I turned to the counsel of another man who faced difficult life challenges. The apostle Paul advised us in his letter in Philippians (in the Bible) to “Rejoice in the Lord always…Let your gentleness be evident to all…Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayers and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” He went on to encourage us,“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about these things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” A legacy of love and encouragement.

Life is indeed a gift. May we savor every moment and with God’s guidance, lead our lives well so that we, too, can leave an enduring legacy of love and encouragement.