The Measure of Success

So I’ve been tremendously inspired lately by our students…….Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been blown away by what many of our kids have accomplished, and the various and very different ways that they are finding success. It got me thinking about how we measure success as educators and adults, and it got me wondering about whether or not we differentiate and prioritize what goes into our idea of a successful student. During last week’s student led conferences I asked a number of parents and students what their idea of success was, and I got some very interesting answers……

The majority of parents that I interviewed got stuck on the idea of grades, or academic achievement as the most important factor in determining success in a student, whereas the students (Middle School kids) that I asked thought that things like friendships, learning from their mistakes, academic growth, and whether or not they were liked by their peers were the most important factors……..I found myself siding with the kids answers honestly, but looking back I wish I had asked them the following follow up question…….what message are we sending to you as teachers? Do you think that the teachers or the adults in your life believe that grades, or making the honor role, or scoring better than your peers academically is the true definition and measure of success? I wonder………

Over the past few days I have watched our students succeed on the soccer field, in the pool, on the volleyball court, on the stage in the ridiculously good drama performance of Oliver, with their service learning responsibilities, and with the showcasing of their electronic portfolios during student led conferences. All in all, hundreds of young adults succeeding in so many different ways, and growing so immeasurably in ways and areas outside of the classroom. I guess for me, the idea or definition or measure of success cannot be simplified down to a single thing……..it incorporates so many things…….so many aspects of a young person’s life……..and so many variables that go into shaping a young person’s character.

I think we need to be careful as adults and educators not to place too much of a priority on any one aspect of a student’s growth, and look to develop and celebrate the areas where a student is showing success in their lives. Kids, as you all know, go through various stages of maturation and development, and a students “time” may not be Middle School, or High School, or University for that matter. It’s no secret to the people who really know me, that I was very much a late bloomer when it came to academic success, but I found successes socially and on the athletic field which set me up for the person that I’ve become. I guess the true measure of success in my opinion, is whether or not a student is growing and learning. Is a student getting better academically? Socially? As a Teammate? As a person? If so, then we’re doing our jobs and we should celebrate these successes with each individual student……if not, we need to find out why and get those students on track.

Look at your students this week everyone, and measure them against themselves…….not their peers, or someone’s packaged idea of success…….and celebrate them. I cannot wait to speak with the “Oliver” kids, and to let them know how amazing they were up there on stage yesterday. They showed courage, teamwork, personal growth, academic  growth, and self confidence…….that to me is true success. Have a great week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week……..
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful – Herman Cain

Article Attachment #1 –
Nongognitive Factors As levers for Improving Academic Achievement (Marshall Memo) Noncognitive Factors As Levers for Improving Academic Achievement
Article Attachment #2– What Habits of Mind Do Students Need to Be Successful (Marshall Memo) What Habits of Mind Do Students Need to Be Successful
Article #3 – On Being a Student (Donald E. Simanek)
http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/goodstud.htm

TEDx Nevada Talk – Logan LaPlante (Amazing 13 year old….please watch this!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=h11u3vtcpaY

TED Talk – Richard St. John (Secrets of Success)
http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_st_john_s_8_secrets_of_success.html

The Dictionary definition of Success:
The favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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