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One to the First Power

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I have a strong belief that each and every child can succeed. Period. That’s right, I said it. Every single child on this earth has the potential to be absolutely great and do amazing things! And you and I, and every single person on this earth, have the power to support this. We should take this power very seriously because if we do not, we are doing a disservice for so many children who are great and amazing.

What is great? What is amazing? The answer to that lies in a perception that we will likely never agree on. But I think we can agree on the fact that families only send us their very best. I can attest to being prideful watching my own two children grow up. My heart bursts at the seams when they accomplish something special in their lives. Many of the children I work with in a volunteer youth intervention program are also the apples of my eye. And my education students, they are also amazing and great. They will tell you I’m most often identified as the educator who preaches, “One to the First Power.” Every single individual on this planet has the power in them to make a difference for someone else. For me, it has become my purpose to inspire educators to make this difference with our youth populations.

Let me start off by saying I understand the importance of expectations and firmly believe children need to have high expectations placed on them throughout their lives. This is how they grow, right?  Please understand that I am not saying we take those expectations away. What we need to do next is reevaluate the level of support accompanying these expectations. This is where the power comes in!

As an adult, I face high expectations each and every day. Partially put in place by me and partially driven by society. For me, the expectation to go to the gym is one that is important in achieving an active and physically fit lifestyle. (My favorite weekend priority is to try every carb I lay eyes on.) Alongside this expectation, I also recognize that I do not have the knowledge, expertise, or intrinsic motivation to workout on my own. To balance the expectation, I have to have some level of support to help me achieve this and be successful. Having a knowledgeable workout partner allows me to have a level of accountability, as well as a level of supportive knowledge and guidance to help me achieve my goals. Well, sometimes we expect our children to do something, but we do not provide them with a level of support, knowledge, expertise and motivation.

We all know our children today are different. Whether you believe ‘different’ is positive or negative, life for children today is different. A realistic expectation for each and every child today is to complete school. For some, this is their duty to achieve at a high-level. For others, the expectation to simply graduate is far-reaching and will be a huge accomplishment in itself. Given this knowledge, we must align our level of support with the needs of our learners. I have learned to celebrate the small successes in the realistic expectations that we have set and agreed upon. I have learned that the finish line is still the same  whether we are going at a jogging or sprinting pace. I have learned that for each success we obtain, we also face a new challenge. I’ve realized that my thoughts and visions for one child’s future cannot be clouded by another child’s path to get there. As a mom, mentor, and professional educator, I encourage you to set expectations, set realistic goals, and put into place in action plan to achieve them.

Another part in balancing expectations for our youth populations is understanding that at times, they must overcome challenges. It is not our job to take the obstacles out of the way, but rather help our children gather knowledge, strategies, and tools that will help them overcome adversity in their lives. As a mom, I can tell you I have been frustrated with school and athletics because of inequities, a parent who might speak louder, politics, or simply the unfairness that life presents. It is not my job to run in and make everything better. It is my job to keep the expectation high, provide a solid foundation of support, and allow them to use the situation to get stronger. I always want what’s best for my child (actually for all children); however, I have to stand back and let them face challenges so they can grow and develop the necessary tools to overcome adversities. If we always remove the obstacle for them, they will never have a chance to overcome it on their own.

Our children are different, and our world is different. Whatever role you play in the lives of youth, your power lies in setting high expectations, providing a differentiated level of support, knowledge and guidance, and allowing them to overcome obstacles. We might not be able to change the world, but if we start using our powers to change the life of a great and amazing child, we’ve got a darn good start.

Written by Stephanie Heald, Education World Contributing Writer

Stephanie Heald is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona Global Campus. She has a PhD in Education, a MS in Education, a BA in Elementary Education, and an AAS in Early Childhood Education. She also holds a dual advanced certificate in Building and District Level Educational Leadership from St. John’s University, where she graduated Kappa Delta Pi. Her journey has since included classroom teaching, coaching teachers, facilitating professional development, leading district and countywide literacy initiatives, and instructing students in traditional and online courses. While moving to five different states in as many years, Stephanie immersed herself in the local schools in addition to connecting online with educators across the world. This immersion not only allowed her to meet new educators and see local efforts but opened her eyes to the real need for a quality higher learning institute accessible to all. She has since traveled outside the US to Mexico and Haiti to help support the empowerment of globalized education.

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