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  • Writer's pictureKevin Graham

Teach your children well…

Perhaps at the age of eight, our youngest called up a friend from her Montessori program, introduced herself, and asked, “How are you?” That was followed quickly by, “Okay, are you also well?”

In reaction, I couldn’t resist a mini Tiger Woods fist pump. That’s my girl! With Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young humming in my ear, I was proud. Well and good are not the same thing and they’re not interchangeable, and my little girl knew it. What she has learned since is that, while well and good are not interchangeable, they are inseparable. Bear with me a moment on this.

A couple of years later, Alana graduated from the Montessori program and began Grade 5 in the local public school. Early in the year, she knocked her teacher’s socks off by multiplying a 5-digit number by a 5-digit number, just writing the answer down in a single line. To her teacher’s credit, this 10 year old was sent immediately to the board to share with the class how she had done it (Hint: a combination of Trachtenberg and our kitchen table). When I heard of the incident, I just smiled.

A few weeks later, she submitted a book report on Summer reading. The title page was filled by: “How reading the second half of To Kill a Mockingbird was different from the first half, after watching the movie when only halfway through the book.” To me, this was fist-pump material of the highest calibre. And yes, To Kill a Mockingbird is a bit of a reach read for most 10 year olds, just not this one.

Not long after this, we were summoned to a meeting with Alana’s teacher, the Principal, and a psychologist from the school board. They wanted us to consider placing her in a gifted program. While that wasn’t surprising to us, our response was certainly surprising to them. “No thank you… our kitchen table is Alana’s enrichment program. We can do everything the school can … and much more… to challenge her to meet her academic potential.”

My wife is a former educator. Our business is education. We live, eat, breathe, and sleep education. “Thank you very much. We want Alana to stay in the regular classroom, but we’d ask that you provide her with as many opportunities as you can to allow her to share her gifts with other students. She does well and will continue to do ‘well’. It’s every bit as important to us (if not more) that she learn to do ‘good’.”

The reason for our children to do well is to enable them to do good. It’s really as simple as that. Just as for the individual and the collective, just as for left and right, just as for up and down… in the same way, well and good are inextricably tied to each other. One cannot exist without the other. When I do well, I am better equipped to do good. When I do good, I am more likely to be well, and then to do well and then to do good, and so on. It’s a virtuous cycle, a kind of selfish altruism.

I’m at my best in the service of others. I’m at my worst in the service of myself to the exclusion of others. That’s a recipe for disaster, one I see too regularly, I must confess. I should add here that someone very close to me often runs out of steam because she’s overly focused on the service of others to the exclusion of herself. This is also a recipe for disaster.

Somewhere in the middle, there’s a balance of the other with the self. A balance that recognizes and operationalizes the notions: that we exist for the benefit of others; but at the same time that we must prepare, promote, and protect ourselves to maximize the potential of what we can do for others.

Fast forward to current day. At 22, Alana has graduated with an honours degree in Psychology, with distinction, of course. Her fourth year was completed entirely from home, not by choice, without a single day on campus, ending with a 93% average [insert proud Papa fist-pump here].

Alana is spending this school year volunteering at the university on a number of research projects and also as a volunteer fielding calls from people in crisis. She’s done well so now she can do good. It’s a continuing journey, of course. Her current hope is to secure a place for this coming Fall in pursuit of graduate studies in Clinical Psychology. In the meantime, she’s busy with her volunteering… and I’m proud to say, as the newest member of our team at Lookout Management Inc. (linked here, scroll down for the photo). She has worked closely with me in recent years in the creation of questionnaires, and now sees every piece of data that comes out the other side before I do. I daresay she’s as much an analytic as I am… scary as that thought may be for some of you. She also does a good job in keeping me up-to-speed on how young people see the world (Teach your parents well…).

She’s doing very well, and I expect, will continue to do good.

With respect,

Kevin Graham

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