Challenging Definitions of Success


Are you ready to challenge your idea of success? I went through the process almost 10 years ago with an organization aptly named Challenge Success! As a K-8 principal, I found the students in my middle school struggling with work overload. It was crazy!

The signs of stress and overload were all around us:

  • It was taking seventh and eighth grade students 4-5 hours a night to complete homework assignments. And sometimes that wasn't enough time!

  • Children were staying up so late to complete schoolwork that they were sleeping in the next morning and missing the beginning of the next day.
  • Parents were staying up with their kids, trying to find a balance between being a support system, a tutor, or actually helping complete the assignments.
  • Student athletes were taking homework with them to games in case there was a game delay; they didn't want to miss an opportunity to get schoolwork done.
  • Need I mention that this was not a healthy situation for anyone?

    • Students were frustrated, stressed, and exhausted.

  • Parents were frustrated, stressed, exhausted, and angry.
  • Teachers, and often, administrators, didn't know how to respond to the angry parents and upset students when confronted, and they were being confronted on a fairly regular basis! Educators were trying their best to provide curriculum and learning opportunities for students that would help them become independent, responsible individuals ready to face the rigors to be found in high school. But something was misfiring!
  • Enter Challenge Success (originally called Stressed Out Students-SOS) from Stanford University. This organization had started a year or two before a news article caught the eye of one of my teachers... and the rest was history.

    With their guidance, we learned. From their conferences. Their many resources that provided information in the area not just of education, but in the fields of health and psychology, as well. Their website provided facts and figures on which we could trust. They had suggestions for how to make changes in the school culture and the presentation of our academics so the level of education was not compromised, but simply modified and taught in a more thoughtful way. A way that allowed students to be more successful while experiencing less stress. A way that helped us get off the "hamster wheel" that, without our even realizing it, had become our way of life.

    And now, 10 years later, they have a book with what has been learned along the way. Best practices from schools that had the courage to take a stand. Schools that didn't mind telling their parents, "We're not perfect, but we aren't static either. We want to provide the best for your children, and will leave no stone unturned in the effort to do so. Take this journey with us, and let us all learn a better way."

    I was proud to be a part of that movement, and I'm proud still. No longer am I the K-8 principal at that school, but I will forever be grateful to Challenge Success for being my teacher and my guide. They opened my eyes and, because of them, found an interest in brain science, mindfulness, and a very different view of success.

    Instead of getting your child's teachers presents at the end of the school year, walk in on that first day of the new school year with a gift to the entire school. Get them a copy of Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids.

    Your school will thank you. And so will your children.

    Follow Dr. Wolbe on her website, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

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