Jan 112013
Cover of "Stand and Deliver"

Cover of Stand and Deliver


Unless you were an advanced math student  at Garfield High School in East LA a couple of decades ago, or a fan of the movie Stand and Deliver, then the news of Jaime Escalante’s passing may have escaped your notice.  If his example touched your life, I’m sure that you were saddened.

According to this NPR article Mr. Esclante described the movie as 90% truth and 10% drama.  I was happy to read that.

Stand and Deliver is the story of Mr. Escalante’s use of higher math as a gateway for his students to harness their ‘ganas’ and excel.  It is one of my favorite inspirational movies.  No matter how many times I see it, there are still moments that bring goosebumps.  And others that bring tears.  Because it’s mostly true.  And it’s a story that illustrates a little bit of what is possible when generosity, discipline, hard work and a refusal to fail are applied.

And that one person with ‘ganas’ and a commitment to excellence can make a difference.  A big, important difference.

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Jan 042013

Image via Wikipedia

 Anna Poruks

I lost a lot before I got to middle school: our family business, my parents’ marriage, my childhood home.  This series of big losses were not enough to prepare me for losing my relationship with my father and most of my mother’s guidance.

Although bad decisions, mental health issues and probably some plain, old-fashioned bad luck took these things from me before I was even 13, they left me with something far better.   Take a look:

1)  Science tells us that feedback from facial expressions affects emotions and behavior; a simple smile can work wonders.  Even if you’re feeling sad, smiling and staying upbeat can significantly improve your mood.

2)  No matter how hard I try, some things are just out of my control.  Instead of grieving over things that I cannot change I try to see the positive. For example, in a life full of abrupt transitions and unpredictability, I have naturally become accustomed to change.  I choose to love and embrace it.

3)  I believe that success in life is not just handed to people; we must make the choice to do ‘whatever it takes’ to achieve goals.  I have made the conscious choice to chase my dreams and become something great.  I take pride in being positive, open-minded, and original.

4)  I was an incredibly shy child, which was a big disadvantage.  I missed out on many opportunities simply because I was afraid to “put myself out there.”  When circumstances required me to change that part of my personality, I made amazing friends and am happier than ever.

5)  Even though some routines are necessary, it’s important to get away, try things and immerse ourselves in something totally new.  I call monotony “life’s kiss of death” and believe that the “daily grind” is what weighs people down.

6) Growing up I endured many unpleasant experiences and those memories will stay with me forever. However, I have become incredibly thankful for them because they have forced me to mature and molded me into the strong, motivated person I am today.

While I would not wish this sort of upbringing on anyone, I am profoundly grateful for its gifts and lessons.  They make up a foundation that nobody can ever take from me.


Anna is a first year student at The College of New Jersey where she is majoring in psychology and plans a career in psychiatry.  In her limited “free” time she plays club volleyball and is active in a variety of campus groups.

Jan 042013

Student teacher in China teaching children Eng...

Picture this. Your child comes home with a special assignment from school. He’s very excited about it and puts in a lot of time to perfect it. He’s thrilled with the result and can’t wait to take it to school.

A few days later, he comes through the door, picks a fight with a younger sibling and bursts into tears. Finally, he manages to tell you that the project he was so proud of was ‘unacceptable,’ that the teacher wants him to do it over.

What’s your first reaction?

a) Protective – “I’ll straighten this out.”
b) Embarrassed – “MY son always gets good grades.”
c) Angry – “That teacher is picking on my son!”
d) Worried – “This could be damaging to his self esteem.”
e) Grateful- “He’s got someone who’s really going to push him to reach his potential this year.”

I think that lots of parents want to believe that ‘e’ is the right answer…. I just remember wishing that it wasn’t so difficult to stifle all of the other reactions on my way to that answer! Sometimes the urge to protect goes a bit too far.

As parents, it’s not our job to see that our children never experience sadness, disappointment or frustration. As much as most of us would like to, we’re probably not going to be able to keep those things out of their lives — now OR when they become adults. But, we can do the next best thing.

We can invest the time that it takes to prepare them to face life’s struggles.

Instead of trying to shield our kids from ‘negativity’ let’s help them embrace tough situations. Why not use the bumps provided by the classroom or the playground to build the strengths they’ll need when applying for a job or surviving an unhappy supervisor?

Isn’t that real learning?