The other afternoon while I was talking to a friend whose child is suffering injustice at his high school, I remembered a magazine query I responded to a short while ago. The inquiry asked, “What do you say to a child when the child doesn’t like their teacher?” In my friend’s son’s case, I suggested to him that he follow the same course of action I offered to the magazine. I told him not to focus on the coaches or the attacks of the moment but to “keep your eyes on the prize”.
Keep Your Eyes on The Prize
Chances are you are familiar with the phrase keep your eyes on the prize. Most people know “Keep Your Eyes on The Prize” as the title to a folk song that provided marching orders for the courageous participants of the Civil Rights Movement. But keep your eyes on the prize is so much more. Keep your eyes on the prize is a way of life; it’s part of the process that every successful person uses.
There are times when people give you advice and you doubt they understand your circumstances. This was not one of those times. When my friend shared his son’s story, he did so appreciating that I completely understood the situation. He knew that my son had more than his fair share of trials and tribulations. Not only did my son have teachers who didn’t like him but like my friend’s son, he also had coaches who tried to sabotage his dreams.
So, I offered my friend’s son the words I have always offered my own son, the words I will offer my son until I no longer have breath to speak. I encouraged my friend to remind his son to never lose sight of his hopes, his dreams, and his goals no matter the challenges or opposition. Tell your son I said, “to keep your eyes on the prize”.
It’s important to note that the words, “keep your eyes on the prize”, are the same words my parents told me, and their parents told them. My son was taught those words at an early age so that he would understand that school is like life, there are no guarantees that you will be liked. Moreover, he was instructed that school like life is neither a beauty pageant nor popularity contest – you cannot live your life seeking the approval or acceptance of others.
I’m positive that if you were to ask my son what his thoughts were about liking teachers or teachers liking him, he would tell you the same thing as a college senior that he would have told you as a kindergarten, “I go to school to get an education because learning is key to my future”. Thus, my advice to my friend which has its origin in my ancestral tradition is for parents to raise children who know how to keep their eyes on the prize.
Who Do You Want to Be!
In the case of liking or being liked by a teacher, make certain your children know that the prize which they must not lose sight of is their education. Let your children know that when it comes to an education, receiving the prize must not be compromised by theirs or a teacher’s disposition.
Teachers come and go. Teachers last for a semester or a year. However, an education – a student’s prize – lasts a lifetime.
Oh, and just one more thing, while I am being a bit more personal than usual, I should add that my son has managed and continues to keep his eyes on the prize in the face of mounting negative societal expectations and stereotypes, increased racial and socioeconomic hurdles, and the responsibility to carry the burdensome weight of the hopes of an entire community. His prize is becoming a Ph.D. in electrical engineering – a hidden figure – who uses technology to enhance the lives of people who have been historically underserved and underrepresented.
And the pursuit of his prize has meant that as an African American male for the entirety of his academic career pre-K through college, he has only once had a teacher/professor who looked like him – African American and male. Given the state of our Nation, you can no doubt imagine, it would have been easy for him to focus on some real or perceived slights and dislikes by teachers and professors, but he didn’t because to do so would have only caused him to take his eyes off the prize.
Whether your child’s life’s mission is to create products and services that enhance the human condition or to do something altogether different, make sure your child knows that to be successful they do not have the luxury of worrying about whether a teacher likes them or they like a teacher. You need to utter only six words mom and dad: keep your eyes on the prize.
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