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Experiencing success (05/31/2006)
By Paul Durand
As we come to the end of yet another school year, our thoughts turn to the many successes of the past and our dreams for the future. Have you ever wondered why our American culture seems to clamor so much for success? Whether it is on American Idol, in a political race or at an athletic contest we sure seem to like winners! One not so common definition of success is, "exposure to the skills necessary to become a productive member of society." It's been said that success is often a very fleeting feeling, that success is a concept that often exists only in the future. Some might say it is a feeling that is found only in the vision of the dreamer. George Bernard Shaw wrote, "You see things and you say, why, but I dream things that never were and I say, why not?"

The measure of success is often very hard to gauge. One person may be very successful as a youth and struggle as an adult. Others may appear awkward in adolescence and blossom as a worker or business leader. Much research has been done over the years attempting to identify common qualities of successful people. Many university studies have sought "the answer" to the question, how can I, too, be a success? To some degree, I believe the reasons why some people are successful and the causes that some are not, are found in common sense answers. A former teacher of mine once told me something I never forgot. She said, "If you don't like your world, change it! The secret of success is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking overwhelming tasks into smaller ones, and then starting on the first one." These were and still are very inspiring words and a concept from which all of us can learn.

As parents and educators alike, we often seek ways to teach our children and students lessons so they may grow to be successful. Many of these lessons are learned every day and role modeled by so many caring adults. The success of a classroom, program/building or even a whole school district depends on the individual accomplishments and unique successes of the students, teachers and other staff. In a University of California research study across hundreds of self-change programs some common characteristics were identified in those who seem to be consistently successful. These traits are the foundation for students who experience success as a learner, a student and, ultimately, in life. These unique qualities most often produce lasting change in each individual. They found students (and adults) must learn to:

" Focus on what is important (Don't sweat the small things)

" Reward your own successes (Celebrate accomplishments)

" Develop sustainable motivation (Set reachable goals)

" Learn from others (Stay open-minded)

" Overcome the fear of change (Learning requires it)

" Continually look for a better way (Mankind must seek innovation)

" Challenge the "status quo" (Ask Why? and Why Not?)

My experiences have shown that successful people (students and staff) want success, expect it, and work for it. That successful people and organizations are positive, progressive and hopeful. Bill Cosby once said, "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." Sometimes working to please yourself is challenge enough.

Successful schools (and districts) are full of successful learners (students and staff) who identify, make a commitment to, and work collaboratively to attain quality education goals. They acquire and demonstrate the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and self-direction needed to perform ethically and productively in society, to adapt to change, to appreciate diversity, and to make reasoned commitments on issues of importance.

In the Winona Area Public Schools we strive daily to know our students as individuals. We work to help students up the steps so they can achieve their own personal successes. Whether in academics, athletics, activities or as a leader through service, EVERY STUDENT CAN BE A SUCCESS! As a school district and community we must continually strive for the "best." Nothing breeds success like success. It's not just luck that Winona Area Public School students and staff are successful. They work hard and the results are obvious, a very successful educational experience for Winona students. I wish the over 300 graduates in the WSHS Class of 2006 much success in their futures. 


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