"There has been a great deal of national news recently about parents bribing college and university personnel to get their kids into certain programs. These parents so desperately wanted success for their kid that they were willing to engage in criminal behavior on their behalf. According to the criminal charges against one parent, he and a private admissions consultant agreed to trick admissions officials at USC into believing that the guy's son was a kicker for a football team — even though his high school didn’t have a football team. The consultant offered to edit an image of the child’s head onto a photo of a football kicker. How wild is that?
We don't have any of that here.....not at Niagara.....These inductees have Earned their way into this prestigious organization. They clearly understand that the only time success comes before hard work is in the dictionary. I applaud the parents here for not bribing your kid's way to success and letting them find it and accomplish it on their own. So....inductees...based upon your status as members of this prestigious honor society you will be expected to find additional success, to be successful. You have been identified as having significant potential. I want to explore that concept with you a bit. First, let me tell you that one of the greatest burdens is the burden of great potential. Because you're expected to meet that potential.
On this matter of success, what I have found is that the most important factor is sincerity. Once you have learned to fake it, you're good to go. That was a bit esoteric, just to see how many people are paying attention. So look, there are two important days in your life. The first is when you're born, the second is when you find out WHY? Answering the question of why am I here on this earth begs the question of what is your purpose? Purpose drives everything else.
Think for a moment of some of the greatest human beings this planet has known. Mahatma Gandhi for example. An individual congruent in mind, body, and soul. Willing to give his life in the cause of freedom for others. Or Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid activist who spent 27 years in prison for alleged political offenses. These men had purpose-driven lives. Meaningful work gives life purpose; it connects you to something bigger than yourself.
Reflect for a moment of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The top of the pyramid is "self-actualization." For Maslow self-actualization is fulling the highest need; meaning in life. Self-actualization is not about making money or becoming the most famous person in the world. Instead, self-actualization is about reaching one's potential. As Americans we believe in "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Did you catch that little trick phrase...."pursuit of happiness." It is not a given.
There is a considerable amount of quality research now that informs us about "happiness". It seems that there is a certain paradox concerning to the concept of happiness. People want it, but more often than not they sacrifice it for the sake of other goals that don't result in happiness. We are really good at fooling ourselves about goal accomplishment. The happiness that results from a particular goal accomplishment generally has a short life span. Like winning the lottery, research tells us that three years after winning, winners are not significantly happier than before the euphoric day they won. The research on happiness tells us that one of the secrets of happiness is finding something more important than yourself and dedicating yourself to it.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, an exploration of successful individuals, defines meaningful work.... "Work that provides a person with autonomy, complexity, and rewards that equal the effort they put forth."
Teaching meets this definition. It is challenging and requires a range of skills, problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and a degree of emotional intelligence that far exceeds what is required in almost any other line of work. Let's look for a moment at Gladwell's notion of "rewards equal to the effort they put forth". By almost any measure.....Teaching is hard work. But you are making a difference in the lives of children. There is meaning and purpose to what a teacher does every day. A teacher’s reward comes from seeing students grasp a new concept. From finding the key to helping a recalcitrant student become motivated to learn. From reading a student essay that is well-crafted and well-argued. From having a student rush up to you breathless to tell you about a good book she has been reading. From having a student come back years later to say thanks for some kindness you showed that you can not even remember.
I have found it never gets old! I run into individuals that I had in school thirty- five years ago and they give me a kudo about the impact I had on them....It never gets old. We can not find success and happiness in our lives without being driven by purpose. Successful teachers are passionate about their work. That passion, that purpose, provides riches that there is no metric for, it can't be calculated. But I'm here to tell you..... it's a beautiful thing.
In summary, congratulations on your achievement. Now, go forth and define your purpose. Hopefully, it will be to exemplify excellence in teaching. Give of yourself for the betterment of the children and the students before you. Show your passion through dedication and commitment to student success. I promise you will be a success and happy."
-Dr. James Mills