The Right to be Proud and Confident

In my first year at EAB the motto for the Upper School was “We Do What We Say We Do.” The meaning is that, as a school driven by our Mission, Vision and Values, the work we do on a daily basis must be aligned with the ideals and mandates of our core documents. This year’s motto is “Earn the right to be proud and confident.” These words come from legendary basketball coach John Wooden, who is an inspiration to millions more because of the values he represented than due to the fact he is widely considered the greatest American coach of all time. Coach Wooden believed the goal of coaches and teachers (He began his career as an English teacher and always asked that he be considered a teacher of basketball and not simply a coach) was to help students do the best they are capable of doing with the talents they are given.  His most famous quote defines success clearly in this way:

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

Coach Wooden’s thinking is very much in line with the purpose of EAB.  Our Mission states that we “support and develop the whole child in achieving his or her own potential.” This statement presents a daunting challenge for our community in that reaching one’s full potential – doing the best we can possibly do – is extremely difficult and requires dedication, hard work, sacrifice, the willingness to take risks and the ability to persist in the face of failure. It is arduous work, but in my eyes it is the highest calling of educators and it is what we do at EAB.

The two mottos, then, come together in that by striving to live our Mission each day – to do what we say we do – we will continuously renew our commitment to the hard work that brings us closer to reaching our potential as individuals and as a school.  In this way we will “earn the right to be proud and confident.”

Over the recent holiday I was reminded of this year’s theme when reading a book on parenting called Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay.  Though I picked up the book to become a better parent to my two daughters, the authors’ thinking applies directly to education and the work we are doing at EAB. The central message is that self-esteem and personal responsibility develop when parents (teachers?) consistently provide children opportunities to make age-appropriate choices and have the courage to allow kids to live with the outcomes of those choices.   A particular comment struck me as fundamental to good parenting and to effective teaching:

The final steps of forming a positive self-concept as our kids grow is an inside job — it is something kids have to do for themselves. It comes from working hard and accomplishing good things. No amount of stuff or praise can build a resilient self-image for children. Oddly enough, kids don’t feel good about themselves when we do everything we can to keep them happy or give them everything they want. They have to sweat a little and earn things for themselves. Cline, Foster; Fay, Jim (2014-02-01). Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility (Kindle Locations 577-580). NavPress Publishing. Kindle Edition.

At EAB our teachers and leadership set high expectations for students and for each other and create a supportive atmosphere in which the young men and women of EAB “have to sweat a little and earn things for themselves.” In this way we fulfill our motto by “earning the right to be proud and confident in all we do” and satisfy our Mission to put kids in the best position possible to achieve their individual potential.

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