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E Stands for Many Things, Including the Quickly Approaching End of My Desperately Optimistic L.I.F.E. Advice

March 30, 2010

Elephants, eggplant, egregious exaggerations, elemental enjoyment, epiphany, endlessly entertaining earthworms, eclecticism, earmuffs—the e list is practically endless, but alas, none of these things is the focus of today’s post. The e word I’m thinking of is—ta dah!—education.

If you are a student and a parent or grandparent or uncle or aunt or just a good friend to school-age children, this is one of the few times in your life when you and the children in your life will be going through the same kinds of experiences. If you aren’t a parent but plan to be one some day, you’re finally old enough to approach school mindfully and develop a few success hints of your own.

Here are some things you can do:

• Model the value of learning for its own sake; share your enthusiasm, the joy of doing a quality job, how to study, how to prioritize and organize, and other study skills. Be deliberate and vocal about your choices.

• Share your own experiences and struggles, framing them in a positive way so that younger folks with whom you share them will see your resiliency and learn about effective and proactive studenting. I learned this the hard way when I heard my own “_______ (fill in the subject here) sucks” comment that I shared privately—I thought—with my husband repeated by my son. I’m not recommending that you be inauthentic, but just that you remember that your passing comment may mean more to a younger listener that it did to you.

• Practice being proactive in your interactions with teachers and staff. Role play problem-solving. It was my oldest son who suggested that I “surrender” to a professor, complete with waving white flag, after he refused to take a TYPED (not word processed) paper with a cover sheet. I’d forgotten that he wanted NO cover sheets and that all pertinent information needed to be on the first page of the paper. These extra mandatory five lines of type would have thrown off the paper’s requisite top and bottom margins and required me to retype close to thirty pages. The surrender worked. He laughed and took the paper, cover page and all.

• Solicit the input of family and friends when you have a problem—perhaps even seek faculty advice too (she suggests a bit snarkily). Beware of awfulizing or blaming. Model clear and productive thinking. You don’t have to take advice just because you get it, so be nice too—no mockery or sarcasm or that-won’t-workery. Too much of this and you’ll lose all your allies.

Tomorrow, the end of D.O.L.I.F.E., but not the end of my advice since I have an almost Endless supply!

What are three insights you’ve had about being successful in school that you would share with someone younger than you to help guide their success?

And an E for Effort quotation: There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
• Beverly Sills

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