Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How Do We Teach Our Kids to Work Hard?

Ricky Arnold was a teacher before becoming an astronaut.
I recently heard NASA astronauts and scientists repeat the same thing again and again: “Work hard in school and you can be whatever you want to be. (Maybe even an astronaut.)”  It made me wonder how I can teach my own kids to work harder in school--especially as they get older.

My dad’s father dropped dead of a heart attack when my dad was only two.  His family lost the farm, and they were forced to move to into town and onto welfare, only to face more tragedy.  He worked hard in school so that he could get a scholarship to college, go to graduate school and move beyond the financially-desperate situation he grew up in.

My mom grew up on a farm too.  Her dad struggled to earn back the family farm they lost during the Great Depression.  Her mom, who somehow managed to get a college education, sewed clothes for her four kids as they scrimped and saved.  My mom studied hard, went to college and became a teacher.

Growing up, I never had any doubt that I’d go to college.  I worked hard, although not all that hard, and now I’m living a life most people in the world would envy. I have an education, a house, and enough to eat. 

My own kids are so far separated from the poverty that loomed close to my own parents and grandparents that I often wonder how they will be motivated to work hard in school, and in life. 

Of course, I don’t want my kids to suffer, but I’m concerned that their lives are almost too easy and that, here in Edina, they are surrounded by too much wealth and success.  I fear that they will take what they have for granted.  I worry they will feel entitled to live in a certain way, but not understand that it is a combination of hard work and luck that can result in personal and financial success.

Our society’s high expectations of wealth and leisure (especially those of our generation and our children’s) are setting us up for failure. We live in a bubble where people put wealth, beauty and celebrity on a pedestal.  We overspend and underachieve. We want it all for nothing.

I hope that I can teach my children that if they want to live in a certain way, and be fortunate enough to do something they love to earn a living, they will have to work very hard.  I hope I can teach them that happiness comes from earned achievements, not superficial ones.  I hope I can teach them to work harder than I did in school.

Of course, they already have a leg up. They have parents who care about education, are surrounded by amazing teachers, and a have supportive community. Many children who have the desire to get out of bad situations aren’t so lucky.

Liz Heinecke

No comments:

Post a Comment

A Community Gathering of Stories about Edina Public Schools