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Respect the Gift


The tale of the hard working immigrant teenager who balances the demands of school with the responsibilities of home has been told so many times that it has become a predictable narrative that many readers look at and say: "I've seen that story before."

Yet I hope readers' familiarity with such storylines does not prevent them from digging a little deeper into what lessons can be learned from hard working immigrant kids that can be used to heighten motivation among typical U.S. students.

Recently, I was reading our local weekly community newspaper, The Old Bridge Observer, a small, understaffed but loveable little paper that frequently runs photos of ribbon cutting ceremonies on its front page and soft features about the good deeds of local schools inside the paper. (The paper is also not on the Web.)

For a story in the Jan. 13 edition of the paper, staff writer Kate Godfrey held a roundtable discussion with 20 eighth graders from Woodbridge Middle School in Prince William County, Va. The 20 students were all immigrants. The message in the article, directed at the typicial U.S. student, was anything but soft.

In very frank comments, the 20 boys and girls told Godfrey that students born in the U.S. need to be more appreciative of all the opportunities that exist here. And they said their U.S.-born peers need to be more motivated to take advantage of those opportunities.

One female student told Godfrey: "I think American parents are too easy on their children. They need to expect more of them."

I agree, because sometimes I need to do just that with my own children.

At the beginning of every youth lacrosse season that I coach, I tell my players they have been given a gift: The opportunity to play and get better at lacrosse. I tell them that many boys, for different reasons, are not given that gift of opportunity. As a result, they must respect that gift.

But the cynical side of me wonders how many of them, because they are so used to having so much, truly realize when opportunities are virtually dropped in their laps.

How do we get this generation to respect the gift of opportunity and then transform it into heightened motivation? How do we prevent a sense of entitlement, so pervasive in today's society, from becoming a motivation killer in school and on athletic fields?


I agree up to a point, and for some children. But we must also remember that each child is unique, and some are born into a gift that they would not choose for themselves. And because they are not empowered to just say no I do not want to do this, the resulting conflict can reveal itself as a "lack of motivation".

At your question about how to prevent the sense of entitlement from becoming a motivation killer...I wish I had the answer. So many people were up in arms with Oprah Winfrey for opening that school in Africa, but she stated that she had many of the same thoughts that you've expressed. She also expressed that after having visited many schools in urban areas in this country, this feeling of entitlement was so great, she thought the school would be more greatly appreciated in Africa. Sad, but true...

I think that kid is absolutely right, it starts at home. Even single parent households can teach their kids to have respect and value other things besides money and material things.( yes they are important too)
It takes effort but, it is been done every day all over the world.

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Recent Comments

  • Leslie Farr: I think that kid is absolutely right, it starts at read more
  • Shana: At your question about how to prevent the sense of read more
  • Ken: I agree up to a point, and for some children. read more




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