Inspiration and Motivation

Back To School- Making The Most Of Yourself

August 17, 2017

Message To Students:

A plane comes in across the Atlantic, ready to land at JFK airport. As it banks to line up for the runway a body falls out onto the beach at Rockaway, NY. It was later found that the young man had climbed up the wheel support to stow away to the United States. In another account, a coastguard ship rescued a number of people from China who tried to swim a shore from the ship that couldn’t get close enough to the shore. Some died before they could be rescued. These and numerous other stories can be told over and over of people risking their lives to come to the United States. Why are these people risking their lives to come here? OPPORTUNITIES! Opportunities…for a better life for themselves and their families—for a better chance at a job and education. Education is very valuable to people from all around the world. Education consists of the mental, physical, spiritual, and social status, and are all equally important. Education is a MUST! It is one’s passport to the future.

So, it is imperative that children, young people, and parents make the decision to make up their minds and repeatedly tell themselves “I’m gonna to make the best of my opportunities. I’m gonna go to school, be on time, pay attention, do my classwork and homework, I am going to be prepared to learn and make the most of my opportunities.” In addition to my professional beliefs, I also believe that God wants us to have the best chance at education and to be all that we can be. I know with all my heart that He wants us to “advance as fast and far as possible in every branch of true knowledge”. How do you do that? Through education…, which is one of the most important ways to do your best as our Creator has intended.

It is also vital for children, to know that school teaches more than what is in the books. It teaches you to think, to talk, how to conduct yourself, how to listen. Remember, when you are talking you are rarely learning— so listen more. School teaches you how to get along with others and that’s an important part of life. It teaches you to help others as well as yourself, so indeed help when you can. Make it a priority to assist a new student around the school, or to help a new student to feel comfortable. Simply stated…treat others as you would want to be treated. Try sitting by someone who is alone at lunch. Be supportive, be kind with the fellow students, and be respectful to your teacher.  

Now we may all have our specific subject preferences, which may not be math and/or reading. Nonetheless, still be thankful for this chance to learn. We all ought to be thankful for education, for classrooms that are cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and for a school bus that takes you to and from school— as many students walk miles to school and have to walk home for lunch. In a quick personal account, my 12-year-old nephew was with me on the Caribbean island years ago, and after a week he said to me “Uncle Tony when I go back to America I am not going to complain about anything”. He realized just how blessed he was to be in the land of opportunities.   Furthermore, be thankful to your teachers who make sacrifices to come and teach you everyday, to your parents who work long hours to give you all the good things that you have and stay up late with you to complete homework and projects.  A spirit of thankfulness is truly PRICELESS.

A couple more important tips I would like to share with students:

  • Be careful of the T.V. programs you watch and the music you listen to. Guard the avenues of your mind constantly.
  • When you read or watch good programs, learn new words and use them.
  • Make it your practice to speak Standard English—people make judgments about you, first by the way you look, by the way you speak, and behave.

It is extremely important for parents to encourage their child or children by example. Let them see you read and as often as you can—read to them. Let them read as they travel around and see writings on posters, notices, information on buses and trains, and road signs—make a game of it.


Message To Parents:

As parents, I know that all we want is to make sure our children:

  • Get a good education
  • Enjoy good health
  • Learn important life skills

However, throughout the span of my professional career I have come to the conclusion that the best thing a parent can do for a child is to instruct them in the ways of the Lord. For me, that is the foundation of life! To have faith in a God who loves them so very much in spite of what they may be going through or experiencing. In my opinion, the greatest gift you can give to your children is…the gift of hope! It is something that will benefit your child or children forever. I encourage each and every parent to start the day with a short, but meaningful devotion to ensure that God is always on the forefront. The goal is to have one’s mind right before you head out to meet the daily battle(s).

Next on the agenda is Success. Success in school is dependent on the parent—child—teacher partnership. And it literally has to be a partnership. All parties play major roles in the outcome we want to see. So, be adamant about establishing friendly relationships with your children’s teacher(s), set goals for the upcoming school year, and ask your child to help you set them up. Additionally, establish routines for the day’s activities (e.g. – worship, a place of study, reading, and eating, etc.). Also, check your child’s bag before and after school, and check the school’s web page for any important announcement. It is also a great thing for parents to volunteer at the school if possible, attend school conferences, and events, etc.—again…if possible. Be involved!

Do not be afraid or shy to talk to the teacher about your child’s likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, personality traits, and your vision for your child. The more information you share with the teacher, the better their understanding of the child’s needs, and the better their chances of meeting them.

For any parent(s) whose children may not be doing well academically, don’t immediately blame the teacher/school. Work together as a team in order to come up with a plan of action to get them up to speed or back on track. Importantly, remember to include the child in the plan. In Finland, and other parts of Scandinavia they have the highest success rates in education. Why is that??? From personal experience in working in Scandinavia—they consistently include the children in their plans and decisions.

Here is the take away message—keep the lines of communication open with the teacher in person, or phone, email, notes, etc.  Be sure to also effectively communicate frequently, to reassure the teacher(s) that you are on the same team. Also, do not hesitate to offer words of encouragement. Teaching any where from 20 to 30 students with varying personalities is a tough task. They need your support. Remember they are for the same goals as you are, which is to shape and develop young minds into becoming responsible, viable adults, making the most of their potential! Embracing their opportunities! Becoming all that they can be!

~Hopeton P. Thomas

 Hopeton P. Thomas  

Hopeton P. Thomas is a retired counseling psychologist and school counselor. He also possesses backgrounds in vocational and Dept. of correctional counseling and Theology. He counseled for 20 plus years with New York City’s department of education, during which he was awarded New York City counselor of the year in district 75.   Additionally, Hopeton is a husband and father of 5 children, and a grandfather of 9 grand children. He is also a writer and poet.

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