Success vs. Excellence…

personalexcellence2Success is often measured by comparison to others. Excellence is all about being the best we can personally be by maximizing our gifts, talents, and abilities to perform at our highest potential.  We live in a world focusing too often on success and comparison–just turn on the TV anytime and you get running commentary proving this point.  We are all guilty of doing this (trust me; I’m a recovering perfectionist, so I know this to be true).  🙂  Perhaps we should begin then to focus more on excellence and less on success; focus on being the best we can be and realize our greatest competition is not someone else but only ourselves.

For example, look at golfing legend Jack Nicklaus (one of my daddy’s personal faves).  His secret was to play the course and not his competition.  He simply “focused on playing the best he could play against the course he was playing.”  While other golfers were competing against him, he was competing against the course and himself.

In working with young learners, it is critical to teach and model this concept in action.  We always have a choice as individuals, as teachers, as parents, as coaches, as a learning community.  You can choose to focus on success and spend time looking around to see how the competition is doing—or—you can choose to look straight ahead towards the vision of greatness and excellence.  We can look at competition as the standard or as an indicator of our progress towards our own standard of excellence.  We can chase success or we can embark on a quest for personal excellence.  Why not focus 100% of our energy to become our personal best and let success find us?  After all, when our goal shifts to excellence, the outcome (and the byproduct) is usually success.  🙂

Speaking of excellence, here’s hoping you join us this evening for the excellent annual MISD Field of Readers Event @ 6:00 p.m. on the field at the MISD Multipurpose Stadium! 


success3Each night before my own children went to bed, my husband and I asked them what their success of the day was (even when we got the “eye roll).  The idea came from a story we read about the Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast, Bart Connor. He gave his parents all the credit because they did this with him.  He said, “Every night before bed my parents would ask me what my success was, so I always went to bed a success every night of my life. I woke up every morning a success. When I was injured before the Olympics, I knew I was going to make it back because I was a success every day of my life…”  What a confidence booster indeed…and you know what?  It works!

Teachers and classrooms who focus on and celebrate success create more success. Success becomes ingrained in the class culture and students naturally look for it, focus on it, and expect it of themselves and those around them!  When you implement systems and principles creating a culture celebrating and expecting success, this drives behavior and habits creating successful outcomes.

So how do we put this into practice? The ideas are endless, but here are two you can do right now:

  1. Create a success journal where you write down the success of each day.  Do this for a month and you’ll be amazed at your results!
  2. Ask the members of your household each night about their success for the day.  They get to verbalize it and YOU get to celebrate it with them!

Jon Gordon says, “What we focus on shows up more in our life.  If we look for and celebrate success, we’ll see more of it.”

So…how do you and your child celebrate success?  Here’s hoping you focus on and find creative ways to celebrate success daily.  🙂

Note:  Speaking of success, our 2nd graders perform their clever DINOSAURS program this evening at 7:00 p.m. in the LME Cafe; we hope to see you there! 

The little homerun lessons of life…

“Everyday is a new day which gives us a new opportunity to shape a child’s life.”  Thus begins the little jewel of a book called Life’s Little Lessons…An Inch-by-Inch Tale of Success by Joanne Scaglione and Gail Small.  This tale for children, parents, and teachers, inspires with a simple message, in fact, the authors have this to say: LLLbook “We hope to teach children that although life has it’s twists and turns…if we face life with our chin up we can accomplish anything!”  The story centers around a caterpillar named Cyrano who lives with his mom and spends a great deal of time in trouble with the school’s principal, Mr. Tweeterman.  Cyrano cannot make or keep friends, his teachers are so hard on him, and his dad has left home.  He is sent to Mr. BeeCallus’ class (known as the Bee Better class) where Mr. B recognizes his talent with a baseball…and you can probably guess the rest of the story.

Resonating throughout the book is the importance of learning life’s lessons when we’re young and how knowledge can lead us to greatness in the future.  When a young learner looks at me and asks, “Why do I need to know this, Mrs. Van?”, it is my sincere hope the WHY is always more important than the WHAT.

As we begin to start a new school year, there is great excitement and anticipation on the road ahead.  Here’s hoping you savor these last few days of summer time, family, friends, and fun…and here’s hoping the new school year allows each learner the opportunity to make multiple home runs of success!

If you could not fail…

The picture asks the poignant question:  notfailWhat would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?  Failure is often perceived as an enemy, yet failure often provides the best lessons in life.  As a child (who is attending summer school in math right now) reminded me today, “we all need to experience failure in order to appreciate the success even more.” What a profound and positive attitude to have as we move forward to success!  So…what WOULD you attempt to do today if you were guaranteed not to fail?

Willing to try…

During a conversation this morning with a learner in my office, the child noticed this little sign hanging on my wall and asked me about it.  I shared how my Granny B would often say things to me that took years to truly understand, but as I grew older, it all made sense (and wanting to remember these “Granny B-isms,” I stitch them occasionally).  The child commented, “Well, my Grandpa tells me smartness comes when you’re old, so you must be really smart now, Mrs. Van.”  🙂

Young learners who are willing to try their BEST (and keep trying) do succeed!  Mrs. Bass shared a touching story of beginning friendships during our Miller Team Rally just this morning reminding all of us of the importance of trying and being willing to try in order to be successful.  Teaching perseverance is not an easy task for a parent or a teacher.  Young students learn best by example; the important adults in a child’s life have a daunting responsibility indeed!

Numerous successes in big and small ways are celebrated daily.  One of the most enJOYable parts of my day at LME is observing our learners in action…and without fail, I see learners and their classroom leaders always willing to try!

EnJOY your weekend; go Panthers!  🙂

Stressed for Success…

There is much to be said for strong study skills; it’s something we stress in formative elementary years since patterns begin early.  As a student and lifelong learner (for too many years now), I have my personal study methods, all developed over prior failures and successes that work best for me.  As a mom, I try to provide a positive example to my children; they each have unique methods of their own to match their learning styles.  As an educator, I model habits and encourage personal best each day for our Miller learners.  This all sounds great, but it never changes…I still get stressed for any test no matter the success.

It’s Finals Week for my youngest daughter and she has one more to go now.  While she had to be checked out of her dorm room tonight (our car is cram-packed), she still has a test to go early tomorrow morning (thus I’m writing from a hotel room).  I’m watching her study Economics right now (not my best subject).  She’s sitting at the hotel desk in the executive chair, papers and notes spread out all over, using her visual aids, trying to ensure she’s ready for semester’s-worth of mastery.  Honestly, I’m stressed and she’s the one studying!  I’m thankful I’m not taking her final exam… 🙂

Test anxiety and stress are not uncommon; learning coping skills are critical.  I realize it’s been a stressful year with STAAR testing for our learners (and their classroom leaders).  We won’t have scores or data to better understand our outcome for a while.  I thank you for walking a challenging path with us this year as we ventured into new STAARy horizons.  As my own child likes to say, “I guess we have to sometimes be stressed for success.”

Success, no less…

“Success is a ladder that cannot be climbed with your hands in your pocket.”  This is something I’ve heard all my life (yes, a long time now!). 🙂  I even have this saying embroidered and hanging in my office.  While we encourage learners and classroom leaders every day to strive for personal excellence and success, it is often the pure willingness to keep trying that brings the greatest success to all involved in the learning process—whether it’s school work or life work.

I’ve often heard Mrs. Bass share one of her favorite quotes by Alex Haley during a discipline intervention:  “Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help.”  🙂  After a short explanation (especially to young learners who might need the visual), she goes on to prove the point that it takes all of us working together for success—for turtles on fences and learners in classrooms.  We sometimes need a helping hand, so it’s important to never be afraid to ask for help!

As we inch closer to the final instructional day this school year, here’s hoping we take our hands out of our pockets, keep trying, and help each other to reach our personal “fence posts” of success . . . and no less!

Note:  LME Field Day is tomorrow; we look forward to a great event!

Success…one step at a time…

A fourth grade friend, Lauren, shared this quote during her morning message and announcements with us:  “The elevator to success is broken; you have to take the stairs instead, one step at a time.”  We critically pondered this thought and shared several interpretations.

Success literally means, “a favorable outcome; doing what is desired or attempted to attain a goal.”  What the learners shared with me during our talk time was what they appreciated about this quote—the fact that it culminates in “a clear picture we can grasp, Mrs. Van.  We must climb our ‘success’ stairs one at a time in order to reach our personal and school goals.”  🙂 Out of the mouths of Miller learners…

Yes, success is best attained one step at a time and here’s hoping we all continue to succeed along the  journey this school year…and thanks, Lauren, for challenging our thinking process this morning!