I’m average and proud of it! In fact, I’ve always been average and I’m ok with it; as a matter of fact, I want to celebrate it! I wish I could shout it from rooftops so all the children in America along with their parents and teachers can hear my message:
Average is OK!
It’s more then ok…it’s the norm. Average covers a wide range of abilities and talents. When did we turn it into something negative and mediocre? We need to stop inflating egos, trying to avoid failures, and keeping up with the Joneses, all of which serve only to create unhealthy social and emotional development–which, by the way, is one sure-fire method to prevent one from ever becoming “above average.”
Where is this rant about being “average” coming from? I was inspired during a livestream broadcast recently from Stanford University, hosted by Challenge Success and moderated by Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators; Madeline Levine, author of Price of Privilege; and Denise Pope, Stanford University senior lecturer and author of Doing School. The topic was “Sparking Creativity” but, then again, it wasn’t. The conversation turned at some point to what defines healthy children, which they coin “PDF”: Playtime, Downtime, Familytime, three essentials necessary for healthy balanced children. There was much talk among the panel about whether/how schools foster creativity, the choices children make, and whether parents and educators allow, agree, or support these choices. There were also two college students on the panel who provided deep, meaningful insight with their comments, which only confirmed that we need to do more of this: ask the children/students we serve when we are trying to determine how best to serve them. During the conversation, Dr. Levine said something that struck me: “Average is OK!” This triggered a reflection of my own and a simple plea for all: support your child, accept your child, be honest and open, help them embrace who they are, celebrate that with them, adopt a growth mindset of infinite success, teach them to work hard, and LOVE them!
I’d like to share my story and why I’m proud to be “average,” and why we need to embrace “average” as an opportunity for greatness. See if you recognize pieces of yourself in my humble history.
I am a first generation born American. My parents came to this country with the hope, like many others, that their future would be different and better than the country from which they left. My father had a 4th grade education and my mother finished her associate’s degree after many life interruptions. Our home was supported by an “average” blue collar family income. My first language was from my parents’ homeland so the start of school was my first formal exposure to the English language. My start in kindergarten was very average. I had fun, I played, and then came home and napped. I learned my letters and sounds at school and then went home to continue speaking in my home language because my father was proud of his heritage and wanted us to keep the language. When I started first grade, the course of my academic and social/emotional life changed. That year, the school was piloting a “new” phonetic alphabet for kids to learn. It was called Initial Teaching Alphabet (ITA).
I learned my letters and sounds the previous kindergarten year and now was learning a “new” alphabet on top of my bilingual background and the letters and sounds I already knew. The rest is history as they say and part of who I am today. The school only ran the pilot that one year and never again, so my class was the only one taught with this new phonetic alphabet. Second grade brought much frustration as I had to relearn the original alphabet again and make progress learning to read. I was in remedial reading all through elementary school trying to unlearn what I had learned. I received low grades in reading and was provided tutors for many years. Writing was difficult and my father made sure I practiced it unforgivingly. I knew I was behind my sister and my peers so I adopted the role of the “funny” one, always quick with a joke.
High school was another “average” experience, not only academically, but also socially, since my family’s values didn’t allow me to date or participate in school dances. Post secondary education brought on even more “average”; because of my mediocre grades in high school my parents had me commute my first year to give me the opportunity to organize myself and start upon a more serious path. The deal was, if I made good grades I could live on campus my sophomore year. Guess who made straight ‘A’s’ my whole first year of college? That’s right; average, struggling ME! Fast forward 25 years and here I am…proud, successful, happy, and….still “average,” writing to let others know that “average” can actually be pretty great! I am married with three wonderfully intelligent and social children, I finished college with a double major in education and psychology and earned two master’s degrees, one in reading and another in administrative leadership. I worked in many capacities in schools and am now loving my role as an elementary school assistant principal. And I’m not done yet. I do not know what is ahead for this average woman in her career, but I do know what I need to do to get there: be ok with me, work hard, uphold my values, and support others’ journeys–especially those of the children who attend our school.
What I do know that matters in my whole story, is that I had a family that embraced my struggles and challenges and taught me they were not to be used as excuses. I learned to accept my weaknesses, that they were a part of who I was, but did not limit who I could be. I was also supported by enjoying plenty of PDF; Playtime, Downtime, and Familytime. So, even today, I read slower than my colleagues, my spelling is still awful (thank God for spell check!), and writing of any kind, including this blog post, remains challenging for this “average” educator. But….I DO IT! I’m average in many ways and I suspect you are, too, as are the majority of the children we serve. I’m OK with that and we need to ensure our kids are OK with it, too. WE are successful and life has a plan for all of us! It’s OK for a child to be “average” and don’t worry that it defines their future. What will define their future more will be the way we accept them and celebrate them for who they are today and what they can become in the future.
Average is not a bad word for children to hear; it is merely a starting point on a journey to greatness.