Tag Archives: contests

Reach out with your creativity and you’ll be amazed who you may touch

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Saturday night while watching the Miss America Pageant, I thought of all the accomplishments that culminate to this one ending competition. These outstanding women had decided what they wanted, paid the price and were now reaping the rewards of their hard work. While watching the pageant, the finalists were on stage and a few of their accomplishments were written across the screen. For Miss Arizona, Jennifer Sedler, (who ended up as 4th runner-up) one of her accomplishments was having a poem published in 5th grade. In checking our records, it was our company Creative Communication, that published her poem “Hawaiian Seas” in the Fall of 2002.

When students enter our art or writing contests, they are students like everyone else. As they move on in life, talents are developed. A 5th grade student becomes Miss Arizona. Or another student, Angela Bishop, who wrote to me the following:

My name is Angela Bishop, and almost ten years ago you selected one of my poems to be published in the Southern edition of your book. I was 15 and it was the highlight of my young life. Although it has been nearly a decade, I just wanted to finally express the thanks I have felt all these years. I cannot thank you enough for accepting my work and publishing it. I have been writing since I was a child and have continued to write. I am currently working on my second novel. So, thank you, thank you, for the confidence you unknowingly gave me in 1999. I plan to keep writing for as long as I possibly can. Your poetry contest is a wonderful thing, and you open a window for tomorrow’s great writers to find their way through and gain the confidence in their work. Keep it going, you are making dreams into realities.

To both Jennifer and Angela and thousands of other students, I am glad that we have been there for you. We helped you in creating an accomplishment that you can be proud of and add to your resume. When students wonder if they should enter a contest, I give a strong affirmative. You may not be accepted to be published, but if you don’t enter you know there isn’t a chance of being published or being a top ten winner. Sometimes you have to take a risk and enter a contest. It may change your life. Just ask Jennifer and Angela.

Sometimes the greatest gift is believing in someone

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For Christmas, I gave my daughter the book “Do Hard Things:  A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations” (http://www.therebelution.com/book).  She shared with me the book’s philosophy that often society does not expect much from our youth and that in response, youth often meet that lowered expectation.  I thought of the thousands of teachers that we work with each year with our writing and art contests.

Many times I will receive a packet of poems or view images of art that have been submitted by a teacher and my first thoughts are “Get a new teacher.”  When an entire class of high school students enter poems equivalent to “a cat sat on a bat” or enter art with crayons on lined paper, I know that it is not the students who are failing, but the teacher.  Raise the bar and students rise to meet the expectation.  When we expect little, we receive little.

My students go to a charter school that has a curriculum that is always one grade above the norm.  In 1st grade they are taught 2nd grade math and writing and this continues like this to 8th grade.  At first my reaction was that will just frustrate the student.  But I found that when expectations rise, the quality of the student rises to the expectation.  I have taught at the university level for 30 years.  During that time I have taught the same classes at the high school and middle school level.   When I say the same classes, I really mean the exact same content.  For both my university students and my 7th/ 8th grade students, I teach them difficult concepts, and in both classes they master them.
My challenge to parents and teachers is to higher your expectations.  The youth of today are capable of great achievements.  The book “Do Hard Things” is written by two teenagers.  These are kids who want the challenge.  In working with your students or even your own children, raise the bar, create a challenge and you may find it more rewarding for them and you when they “Do Hard Things”.