Thursday, July 30, 2015


When I was at school I was always around the 50-60% mark in academic achievement (That was a pass for the scale that we used in New Zealand at that time).  I never gave myself much hope of ever really excelling scholastically.  It wasn't a good feeling.  Then, when I was at high-school I used to sit next to my friend, Avril, who was very good at shorthand.  Every time I would try to talk to her she was practicing.  If I couldn't waste time talking to her, I thought I had better practice, too.  Bingo!  For the first time, I got a taste of success.  She topped the class and I came in 6th.  What a revelation I had that day!  I could do it!  I didn't have to be just average any longer.  It was an incredible sense of achievement and one that changed my thinking thereafter.


After completing my nursing training, I decided to give University a try.  My father said, "We aren't that kind of people!"  Previously I would have believed him, but with my new-found confidence, I thought, 'See ya!' and off I went.  Then, in later years, I met up with an old school teacher I had in high-school and when I told her I had just completed a Diploma in Nursing Studies, she said, "But you weren't academic material!"  I went on to complete a Bachelors' Degree.  My husband's brother found an old high school school report where the Principal stated, 'John would not amount to anything academically!'  What a terrible pronouncement to make over someone!  My husband, both his brothers and I all failed a year at high school in New Zealand because every student that didn't drop out took national exams in the last three years of high school.  Only 50% were allowed to pass to keep the standards high.  If you failed you had to repeat the whole year.  The brothers all attained University qualifications and became school principals.  I became a Registered Nurse.  It's grit and tenacity that got us there!

The possibility of succeeding is an absolutely vital ingredient in every person's life.  Failure either creates a deep sense of hopelessness or spurs you on to overcome it.  Without hope, kids get into trouble.  Everyone wants to make their mark on the world somehow, and if they cannot be recognized for having expertise in something positive they will get it negatively.


Your kids don't have to be top of the class, win every race or play first violin in the orchestra to create a great feeling of accomplishment.  We need to expose them to various activities or studies to see where they shine or where they would LIKE to shine.  If your kids are struggling at school, then talk to the teacher and, if possible, get them extra tuition so they can master their classes.  Don't let them think they are 'dumb' because they don't 'get it'.  Encourage them with any form of achievement and help them when they struggle.

The little boys in the picture above are in a Tae Kwon Do class.  They are only 3 and 5 years old yet they are jumping out of their skins with excitement over gaining different colored belts after passing higher and higher grades.


Success can be achieved at any stage in our lives.  If we feel we have wasted our learning years, it is never too late.  We met a 93 year-old woman recently who had just gained her Bachelors' Degree.  She was asked why she did it because it was not going to make any difference to her vocational opportunity.  She said, "I just wanted to do it to keep my brain active."

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families

Friday, July 10, 2015


As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.

It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners... he is a joy to be around.."  His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."  His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."  Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class."

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself.  She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's.  His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag Mrs.  Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents.  Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.  But, she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to."  After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic.  Instead, she began to teach children.  Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy.  As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive.  The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded.  By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets.."  A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.  Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors.  He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further.  The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had.  But now his name was a little longer.... The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there.  You see, there was yet another letter that spring.  Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married.  He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

Of course, Mrs. Thompson did.  And guess what?  She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing.  Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.  They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."  Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong.  You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference.  I didn't know how to teach until I met you."

For you that don't know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.

Source:  This was a Face Book post that has no named source.

Friday, July 3, 2015


Parents may think it is harmless to scare their children into compliance by saying, "I will get that policeman over there to take you to jail if you don't behave."  That is using law enforcement officers as an excuse not to deal with a child's negative behavior directly.

We need to promote the protection assured by our police and not make negative comments about them.  We should explain to our our kids that if they feel unsafe they can always seek the assistance of a police officer.

In most cases children feel they cannot tell anyone about physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse occurring within their own families or amongst friends.  For this reason
   a) Children need to be taught at home and at school what any kind of abuse looks like.
   b) Parents need to watch their kids carefully for any signs of fear or anxiety around others.
   c) Parents should believe what a child tells them and if they won't talk to their parent, make sure
       they tell someone they can trust, such as a policeman.

I always make a point of thanking police for their service when I see them standing in the mall or in the street.  It is good for our children to learn to thank them also.  This will help them realize that police are here to protect rather than to scare us.  It is amazing the look on the officers' faces when they are praised at a time when they are often under attack from sections of the community because of some misguided, rogue colleagues or some who exercised poor judgment.

By encouraging your children to thank officers, they will likely build a positive image of law enforcement rather than be afraid of it.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families