We Grow When We Tackle Challenges

“The best way for a young person to build character is for him to attempt something where there is a real and serious possibility of failure.” (Paul Tough, p. 85).

All of the reading that I have done these past few weeks has made me think of my own approach to risk and failure. In my personal and professional life I have a strong tendency to play it safe. I am guilty of letting my fear of falling on my face hold me back from trying something new.

A great friend of mine visited last weekend and this topic came up during one of our marathon conversations. She teaches third grade and her vision for her classroom is “We grow when we tackle challenges.” These third graders are extremely lucky to start learning this at a young age (and to have such an amazing teacher). But I think this motto is powerful at all ages. It’s scary to take a risk, but it is the only way to stretch ourselves to achieve new and original success. Reflecting on this theme has led me to some very interesting books (like this one) and a greater awareness of my own hesitancy to step outside the box. Posting on this blog is one (minor) risk and has opened me up to what I hope will be many more as I grow in my career.

Thank you, Ysette, for the chance to share on your blog and welcome back!

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The Hidden Power of Character

I first heard about Paul Tough’s book “How Children Succeed” on this podcast. I distinctly remember listening to the interview about this book while on a long bus ride and scribbling Paul Tough on a piece of paper to remember for later. It was another book that made me feel energized and excited about the potential in this work.

One point that struck me was when he described how character traits, such as grit, social intelligence, and self-control, can function as a type of safety net for students who don’t have much support from their family or their community. For students who are growing up in chaotic homes and the challenges associated with living in poverty, they have had to develop character traits that help them succeed and that they can fall back on when times are difficult.

Young people in foster care who make it to college are part of a small group. When you look at how many continue on to earn their degree, the number gets even smaller. There is obviously something that these students develop that has allowed them to go through the traumatic experience that is foster care and continue to strive to reach their goals.

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The Divine Fire of Youth

As Ysette said, I am very excited to share a few posts while she is enjoying her vacation. I will get to Paul Tough later this week, but wanted to start out with a new release about foster care that has been getting plenty of attention.

I bought Cris Beam’s new book “To the End of June,” last Thursday, right before Labor Day weekend. I was intrigued by the book, partially because I felt like everyone was talking about it. At first I couldn’t quite tell if “everyone” might just include people like me who have google news alerts for New York City foster care. At this point, it seems the book’s publicity has reached well beyond the child welfare world. It is a pleasant change to hear people talking about foster care without an outrageous news story sparking the conversation.

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