What does your kid need?

Homeless to Harvard - Liz Murray
Homeless to Harvard - Liz Murray

Today I am going to share a little inspiring story about Liz Murray. Hers is an inspiring story of how self motivation and society blend together to help her carve out a better life. The DVD “Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story” tells “how the daughter of an extremely dysfunctional Bronx family and taken care of by her loving, but drug-addicted parents. Liz becomes homeless at 15 and after her mother dies of HIV, and she begins her work to finish high school. Then she becomes a star student and earns a scholarship to Harvard University through an essay contest sponsored by the New York Times. “(Source: Wikipedia).

When I was reading her story in the latest issue of Readers’ Digest, The humour issue”, though the title of the article was on “Freedom from Want”, she shared that “oddly enough even after all I have been through – maybe because of it – I believe that a certain amount of want is healthy. In fact, “freedom from want” was never my goal. Indeed want served as a catalyst for my dreams, not a hindrance, and my dreams have always been what motivates me.” (Source: Rdasia.com, Sept 2011 issue)

So which school is good for your child? It is a school where he or she feels that she is stretched and needs to want a little more. A school where your child is feeling complacent is not one where he will feel he needs to improve.

By the “want” portion, what I meant is to help your child grow up well, do not over provide. Many many parents in Singapore are well meaning, but with many of the children now living with maids, there has been a subtle message sent to the students even they reach school – that is, there is an adult willing to serve them because they are the master’s children. There is always someone to pick up the pieces after they have dirtied the place, wash the cups etc.

However many well meaning parents may have missed an important part – these children tend to grow up to be dependent people. In school, when they forgot to bring something, the maid helps to bring it along. Doting grandparents also do that when the parents are busy working. I once was in charge of a Sec 1 camp. After a game exercise, the Sec 1 student was using her shoes as a pair of slip ons. She told me she did not know how to tie her shoe laces as it was always done by the maid.

Your kid needs, besides the immediate family:

a) Peers – Peers are generally less indulgent than adults and tend to be more critical. The critical portion is good as it helps to provide reality checks for the child. A little good old teasing amongst friends help your child to grow up more resilient. 

b) Good mentors – Are you able to find one or two teachers in the school that can help mentor your child? Besides the parents, it is always healthy to have mentors for your children. A typical mentor to your child is the school’s form teacher or CCA (co-curricular teacher) who is able to tell you things about your child which you may not know. My sister-in-law regularly goes to the school to ask for help to understand what the school syllabus is. The form teacher was very happy to partner my sis-in-law in helping my niece do better. So much so that the neighbours have asked her to help coach their children!

You may want to read about how mentors help these famous people. The extracts are taken from “The Harvard School of Public Health

a) Bill Clinton – “My high school band director, Virgil Spurlin, had a huge impact on my life. Not because he was a particularly great band director. He was quite good, but he was a world-class human being.”

b) Ophrah Winfrey – “What Mrs. Duncan did for me was to help me to not be afraid of being smart.

c) Deepak Chopra – “My most important mentors were my parents. My father was a very prominent physician and cardiologist. Once a week he would see patients free of charge for charity. “

d) Larry King – “When I was a child, all I wanted to do was be on the radio, and there were two great radio broadcasters who influenced me and whom I admired.”

Students need student role models and adult role models. Once physical needs are provided for, the inspiration to excel comes from inspiring role models.


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