I Would Ask the Teachers

To my friends and family who are (or were) teachers: I need your assistance. But first, I will give a bit of background for context. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature with a minor in Education. I sometimes view myself as a “sell-out” who chose the corporate ladder over teaching America’s future. But I have forever been and always will be fascinated by education, curriculum and the public policies that surround both.

Today I was part of a discussion where education and the US labor force were examined. People were talking about how students are spending too much money on a college education, coming out with a great deal of debt, having to take low paying jobs and never being able to make those college payments. It was suggested that more people should learn trades instead of going to college because they wouldn’t have to spend the money, they would get paid more in their jobs and they would therefore help the labor market.

This proposal struck a dissonant chord with me because it was very much presented as an either/or scenario. I have always been a proponent of an education which is broad-based, non-specific and liberal arts in nature. I understand that this can cause an economic problem. But must we base our educational foundations strictly on the needs of the job market? My personal experience has been that one can receive a liberal-arts education and learn the basics of a job through on-the-job training. I also am thinking that learning trade-specific activities, during that liberal arts education, would produce exceptional human beings at graduation.

I am fully aware that I experienced an exceptional liberal arts education during my college years. But I am also acutely cognizant that I came out of college non-functional in many facets of real life. Throughout all of my education, I never learned how to balance a checkbook, how to cook a nutritious meal, how to buy a car, how to fix basic car issues, how to put hammer and nail to wood, how to survive a night in the wilderness, basic self-defense or the things that are so essential to a successful human life. Beyond that, I didn’t receive training on the sixteen personality types and how they interact with one another until well into my leadership career. Those lessons would have helped me immensely as early as junior high.

I understand that my question proposes a scenario which is quite impractical. I know that to teach all of these subjects would probably require 7 days per week in school during 12 months straight. I understand rewriting the American curriculum in totality is an ambitious undertaking. But it has been a while since I’ve looked at curriculum studies and I am very interested in comments on these questions, by both educators and non-educators alike. Am I too much a dreamer? Is it really impossible to develop both a trade-based, everyday skills-based and a humanities-based curriculum all together? What if we start earlier, as early as grade school perhaps? Thoughts and comments are truly welcome.

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What I Won’t Tolerate

I am in the my twentieth year of being in the business world. These years have come with many challenges. What happened today had happened in the past, but today I made a point not to tolerate it.

I went to a business lunch with my boss, who happens to be a male who is 8 years my senior. I am a woman and I happen to look younger than my current age of 42. We went to lunch with two men who are probably between the ages of 50 and 60. One of them was absolutely wonderful to me. He was respectful, friendly and a pleasure to be with.

The other gentleman, not so much. I knew his reputation of being a bully. But I was open-minded at first and wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I asked him about his career path. As he began his story, he looked at me. But soon he dove into the details involving specifics of lending and investments. And as he got into the particulars of his story, he looked at my manager only.  He went on for a good fifteen minutes like that; looking at my boss and ignoring me.

There is nothing that makes me as enraged as when I am overlooked in this manner. In the past, I may have been aggravated, but not let it known for the sake of decorum. Today, I said directly to this man,

“You’re going to need to look at me and talk to both of us if                                           you want this luncheon to continue.”

He played it off as if he didn’t realize it and didn’t mean to do it. There is no doubt in my mind that if I didn’t call him out on it, I would have been ignored the entire luncheon. My boss was wonderful and directed the conversation my way in an attempt to fix it. But afterwards he admitted that it was very awkward for him to watch; he was truly surprised that something like that could actually happen.  It’s tough to relate to that if you don’t experience it.

I am educated, I am competent and I will not be ignored. I hope every woman who experiences this kind of nonsense cuts it off right there in the moment. There’s still a great deal of work to be done.

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Life Finally Recognizes the Empath!

Over the past week I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting two extraordinary women through my endeavors in National Women in Business Month.  Both ladies own successful women-owned businesses; both are driven to bring out their clients’ true and full potential.  Both of their websites can be found here:

http://reneegambino.com/

http://storystrategies.net

What was so wonderful about engaging with both of these women was how validated I felt after hearing their approaches. They both talked about driving revenue from a completely different angle than I am used to hearing, but one that I have always personally relied upon. They talked not about reviewing logic and fact, but about what I believe truly matters in life.

I have always considered myself an empath and for years suffered as a result. At the beginning of my career, I was often coached for being too emotional. I was told to use more logic in decision-making. As a person in everyday life, I felt both everyone’s happiness and sadness around me and absorbed all of it like it was my own. It had been exhausting because I did not know how to harness it for the positive.

Both of the women that I met this week described how 90% of people make decisions with their emotions. They both described how many companies struggle because they have people at the top of the house that just don’t know how to connect with people or use their humanity to impact the bottom line.

In my recent years at work, I have been recognized and applauded for being able to connect emotionally with my team. The result of that ability has been extreme loyalty from my team members and harnessing their resilience and ability to overcome tough times. I truly feel like the business world is changing for the better, for the future by embracing what truly matters…human beings.

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Prioritizing Peace

As I’ve mentioned so many times before, I’ve lived inside of my head for years and years. That is good in that I have a rich inner life complete with vivid dreams and deep reflections. I have learned to use those advantages to help me write. Of course, that characteristic is also bad because of all the hours of sleep I’ve lost to constant head spinning.
In trying to relax, I’ve read several books on the Buddhist way. One of my most recent finds, “How to Solve Our Human Problems” by Kelsang Gyatso, discusses how important it is to lose our preoccupation with self-absorption. It discusses how stress finds its way deeper and deeper into our psyches through our ruminations on all the negative possibilities that could possibly occur, however remotely possible.

The key to peace is that you are supposed to focus on everyone else around you and how to make their lives better. You are supposed to view every living being as your equal counterpart and ensure that you are empathetic towards all. When you do that, all narcissism falls away and we stop causing non existent issues and solve actual pressing and important issues by working together and striving for peace.

I can’t help but reflect upon this ideal way of life during these incredibly challenging times. Our culture specifically has thrived economically for many people through complete self absorption. But we are leading the human race in the wrong direction. We have to put serious thought towards those countries who put human lives first and becoming wealthy a distant priority. We can learn much from those places that put a premium on their quality of life, not the quantities in their wallets. I truly believe that there is hope for humanity if we can see peace as the ultimate goal.

 

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Violence and Humanity

I would very much like to describe and solve the issue of violence and humanity within four nice, neat paragraphs. I would like to lament about the state of humanity but end with an optimistic last line about how we will all get through this together. But forgive me, I can’t seem to muster up that kind of optimism today.

Violence is a constant in our lives as human beings. Vegas was massive in the number of people killed or wounded in such a short period of time. The horror of Sandy Hook  has been resurrected, reminding us of a slew of 5-year old lives lost. Terrorists were carving people’s heads off with saws and blasting it across the internet, not to mention driving planes through buildings and vans through crowds.

Violence is happening every second of every day across this entire planet. It is normalized in certain countries and is happening to the young and innocent in countless circumstances. Shootings are common in inner city neighborhoods and just part of the normal course of the day. Domestic violence lives behind closed doors every second and terrorizes everyone within the household while people pretend it’s none of their business.

I have searched for answers in religion and looked for hope in constant daily acts of kindness. For the most part, most people are fundamentally good and we should be able to find solace in that. But it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me with every passing news story; we are in complete crisis as human beings. And it’s going to take more than “sending thoughts and prayers” everyday on a facebook page to fix it. No one has all the answers but we all better start at least trying to come up with some. We don’t have the luxury any more to standby and believe in the good in everyone. It’s not enough. And it’s time to put some energy into figuring this out, every- single- day. Not just on the days where there is horror on the news to remind us of how little progress we’ve made for humanity.

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Power to the Sisterhood

               “You can always tell who the strong women are. They are the ones building each other up instead tearing each other down.”-Unknown

It is funny to use the word sisterhood, as I grew up an only child. I also have a very challenging and strained relationship with my own mom. But I was lucky enough to have several unique experiences with so many incredible women along the way that I am able to call so many women my sisters. From the women who stepped in as second moms, to the girls I’ve known since I was in grade school, to the teachers who believed in me always, the sisterhood has had my back.

Last week, I spent two days with my female sisterhood from work at a Women’s Mentoring Offsite. We have been grouped together throughout the past four years to transfer our knowledge and support one another on our career journeys. We also look to create unique opportunities for Women in Business throughout our geographical footprint. I could have never imagined the actual transformations that have occurred to all of us as an active sorority during that timeframe.

Last year at our retreat, during a session where we were to bear some of the exhausting challenges we carry with us day in and day out, miraculous bonding ensued. One of the sessions that truly blew my mind proved to me how hard women are on themselves in general. So many of us, who are relatively hugely accomplished, constantly heard voices inside our heads telling us that none of it was good enough. We were always limiting our own potential and talking ourselves out of fantastic opportunities.

Last week, we bared even more of our souls because of the unique trust bonds that we have created. Some of us carry secrets because we believe the world might not embrace our true selves. Some of us carry guilt, remorse and even shame as we try to move forward in this challenge of everyday life. But to each of those threats we all responded with open arms and strong shoulders. When we sit amongst each other, we speak of nothing but support and encouragement. We put out our hands and say, “I’m with you no matter what happens. You can count on me always.” We can say anything within those four walls and not be judged; we can fall and be caught.

All of us felt a surge of pure empowerment as we left those meeting rooms, as though we could actually take on the world. There are so many daunting issues that women face worldwide right now. But when we join hands, we can unite, and take them all on. It’s up to us, and I have learned, year after year, that we are more than capable, even if we don’t always believe it.

 “Still I rise” – Maya Angelou

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