Focus on Achievement-#11 in a Series of Discussions
By Joan E. Gosier, CEO of HBCU kidz, Inc.
Definition of GAP [a problem caused by some disparity] Pronunciation: \gap\ Function: noun
Science +Math +Artifacts of Culture +Reading +Test Taking Tips (S.M.A.R.T)=Gap Closure
“If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-18
Why would there be a 26% gap in unemployment between blacks who completed college vs. blacks who did not finish high school?
Source: US Department of Education NCES Status and Trends in the Education of Blacks pg. 114
Every now and then, I like to reflect upon my career life prior to marriage and motherhood. I used to put in extremely long hours everyday and even had to go into the office to catch up on many weekends. One Christmas, I recall flying to Baltimore to visit my mom, lugging an extra suitcase full of files and documents, and trying to take advantage of having a few weeks to get a head start on the New Year for my employer.
My mom was shocked! She asked, “Why would U bring work home to do over your vacation break?” It was funny to try to explain that I had so much work to do that this was a perfect time to get organized and prepare for being ahead of the game when I returned to work. She thought I was a workaholic. However, there are simply some things one must do to get what U want in life. Sometimes it seemed to be hard for my mom and others to equate the amount of work that I had to put into my job to the lucrative paycheck that was deposited into my account each month. The funny thing was that at home I was taught the need to work. It was in the real world that I learned that anything worth having does not come easy, and if it is easy than it rarely pays a lot of money. I believe it comes down to choices.
Today, as I think about what I want to teach my children about the correlation to work, life and happiness, I want to make it simple enough for a 4 year old to comprehend. One day, last year, I visited my daughter’s kindergarten classroom. The substitute teacher allowed me to have about 30 minutes of circle time with the munchkins. We talked about the importance of coming to school prepared to learn and how it relates to being happy in life as a grown up. I asked the kids if they knew people who were walking around “grumpy, mean and bitter”? We all made faces to display these emotions. I asked them have they seen grown ups who were caring, smiling and encouraging?
We role played this as well. I asked them, “How would U like to feel when U are a grown up? Like this or like that?” As I reiterated the expressions they rewarded me with hearty laughter and engagement. Of course no one wanted to be the grumpy troll. So I asked them, “Why do U think people grow up to be grumpy? Do U think they wanted to be that when they grew up?” One kid volunteered that the grumpy people in his life don’t work and complain all day at home. Another one shared how her sister flunked out of school and is grumpy all of the time. My daughter and some of the other kids had expressions on their faces like,
“Wow! Glad nobody is that grumpy in my house!”
So I went on to explain that sometimes when people are unhappy about the choices they have made it is hard to be happy and to cheer someone else on to be great. So you may feel stuck. So we talked about how it feels to be stuck in quick sand and can’t get out. I explained to them that school is an opportunity to have a rescue squad to keep them from ever getting stuck. “U are given new tools, make new friends and given a safe place to think and to make smart choices that will help U find your way towards your deserved happiness. Your school work will prepare you to one day be able to achieve all of your dreams if U are willing to work hard and stay out of trouble.” We went on to further discuss the issues surrounding staying out of trouble which in their classroom meant to “Stay on GREEN and stay off of BLUE”.
Basically, they have a behavior thermometer that basically goes from green, to yellow, to red down to blue. Blue means the child is going to be sent to the principal’s office. I shared my personal thoughts that one should never be on anything BUT GREEN. The munchkins quickly disagreed. They offered reason after reason how and why yellow was o.k. too. There were two little boys who had BLUE several times already. I asked them a few questions about what it was like, did they enjoy it, was it fun, did they feel happy when they went, etc. Well, one shocked his classmates by explaining how he did not enjoy it all. They all practically gasped because he got a very serious and sad look on his face. It seems that they all figured he had a ball when he would be sent packing out of the room. I explored this revelation with the group.
“What types of things do U get when U are good? What are your favorite things that you like to do and have?” They all perked up again and began sharing all of the wonderful toys and dolls that they loved to play with and dress up. So I asked, “How do U feel when these things are taken from U or U are told that U will not get anymore?” They all shared their sad feelings of having time-out or restrictions from various fun activities. So I probed again, “OKAY. GREAT! So why would U strive to do something that does not bring U joy? Why would you make a point of NOT DOING what U need to do to make yourself happy?” They all looked up at me with wide-eyes and then one shyly admitted, “I don’t know.” Another more outspoken one said, “Sometimes it FEELS GOOD to do BAD THINGS!” Well, I later learned that that is a catchy phrase from one of today’s modern cartoons.
However, overall, we as a group concluded that if GREEN is the best reward that gets the MOST CHOICES why would U not strive for the choice that makes U happy vs. sad?
I actually began asking my munchkins what they wanted to be when they grew up when they were two years old obviously not expecting nor requiring a response from my cooing bundle of joy but just planting the seeds of self-expoloration and marveling at the gigantic world being their oysters. As I did more and more research and really started to learn more about their unique temperaments and God given gifts, eventually they began to babble back to me somewhat coherent yet consistent responses! For example, yesterday was my oldest daughter’s 6th birthday. When we asked what she wanted for her big day. She immediately asked for a Doctor kit because she thinks right now she wants to be a doctor, scientist, teacher and life guard. “So a Doctor kit would be the perfect gift!” she proudly explained to me. We spread the word to family and in the mail the other day comes a wonderful “OPERATION SURGEON” game from her Auntie.
Daddy and I obliged to honor her special request for a brown pediatrician Barbie and a Doctor kit that specifically had a stethoscope. My youngest was thrilled to wrap and later present these gifts because she knows how much her big sister truly wants to be a doctor. She, on the other had, proudly declares her desire to be a pilot, then an astronaut and then a life guard. So we must find her a rocket ship by December or a pink airplane she insists!
It can become really hard to find your passion once U hit the real world. That is why I always try to encourage my high school students when I am substituting to CHALLENGE THEMSELVES to find their inner voice that will guide them to what makes them happy, excited and thrilled to be alive each day. As a past career consultant, I used to give my clients a standard checklist of things to do such as the following:
1) Determine a list of past jobs or assignments that satisfied multiple needs (income/purpose/enjoyment)
2) Compare the potential opportunities to select a career path that leads to stability and success especially for long term needs of the children in the home
3) Seek out career counselors/job specialists that can assist in developing a 5-10 year career plan of action. Almost every town and city has a WORKFORCE center that provides FREE assistance.
4) Visit career sites such as http://www.jobseekersadvice.com/
5) Determine 2-3 reasons why permanent unemployment or underemployment in the family is unacceptable.
Just as my kindergarten munchkins prayerfully learned last year, these reasons will become worth striving for each day. Hard work, persistence and focus will make it well worth the effort in the end. Our munchkins deserve the best academic preparation, and they REALLY need us to give them the best opportunities during our productive years as well. We can do this!
This series is intended to be a work in progress. What I am doing as an individual, and what others are doing as well. Together we can learn some new things and reinforce some things we already knew. What do you think? Can we work together?
The Achiever in Training and S.M.A.R.T curriculum are exclusive copywritten and proprietary programs developed by HBCU kidz, Inc.
For more statistics and academic resources please visit http://www.HBCUkids.com and click on “Educate.” To comment on this article, visit the Blog. To communicate with other concerned Black parents, please visit http://www.blackparentconnect.com.
For more information about the program or the limited edition gift collection, visit http://www.HBCUkids.com. The site contains information and ideas to proactively promote positive images for African American children and their families. Contact Joan Gosier at 1-888-HBCU-kid
Joan E. Gosier