How to Succeed When You Want to Give Up

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. – Calvin Coolidge, 30th US President   

My personal experience working in higher education for the last five years has led me to the conclusion that education is a powerful tool to enhance lives and improve the world. Unfortunately, our approach often belies our efforts. To reach our objectives — to impact students and share knowledge — we must be determined and persistent in our approach, and respectful and empathetic in our process.

It is critical that we, professionals in education, frequently take a step back from our roles and evaluate why we do what we do, and how we do it. If we truly value education and want to demonstrate to students the value of education, we need to challenge ourselves to continue to learn and grow.  We need to ask ourselves critical questions: How can we serve students and offer resources without creating an “us versus them” mentality? How can we present materials in unbiased ways so that more people can be reached? How can we reach outside our department, our institution, and even the public sector to have a greater impact in the world?

As Coolidge notes, education alone is not enough to rock the world. To be effective, we must be persistent and determined in re-evaluating our methodology.

Here’s how we can improve:

E – Eliminate biases as much as possible.

Avoid making assumptions based on education level, income, ethnic background, gender, age, etc. Everyone has biases based on their personal experiences, but it detracts from the learning environment when education professionals bring these to the workplace. Consider how even offhand remarks made privately between coworkers can impact students, the department, and the institution’s potential to serve as a healthy and productive place to learn and grow.   

D – Don’t talk down.

In communicating with students we want to use language that students can easily comprehend and relate to, but we also need to be cautious not to talk down to students. No one likes to be minimized, and students will be less likely to listen if they sense they are being patronized.

U-Understand where the students are coming from.

Strive to be informed about the current issues students face and to understand. Students are unlikely to respect and be receptive to educators who are not informed about the reality of their lives and dispense outdated advice. For example, the cost to attend college has seen dramatic increases in the last 10 to 20 years. Saying things such as, “I worked my way through college” is irrelevant to today’s students who cannot pay tuition through work study or summer jobs alone.

C- Collaborate with your colleagues.

Identify the strengths of different staff within your department and work as a team. This seems like a no-brainer, however my observation is that many individuals working in education choose to fly solo on assignments rather than considering how much more they could accomplish with a joint effort.

A – Accept your limitations.

With likely lofty goals and limited time and resources, you have to accept what you can and can’t do or you’ll be perpetually disappointed. Examine your job description and your department’s priorities, and set realistic goals so you spend your time and energy wisely. 

T – Take care of yourself first.

As professionals dedicated to education, we need to be reminded to draw boundaries with others. Many of us, myself included, want so much for the people around us to be successful and happy that we never take time for our own desires and needs. When you lose your authentic self by giving to others and not yourself, you actually have less to offer the world.

I –Initiate improvement.

Most likely, your salary is not performance-based like a salesperson, but if you’re basing your efforts on your salary, you’re in the wrong work. Why accept the status quo when you know your office can do better? If you don’t take the first steps to improve your workplace, who will? Look at what’s working well and what needs improvement, then offer solutions. Not just another complaint, but a practical remedy. While you may experience resistance from some, your suggestions may be welcomed by others. Change comes from effort and initiation.

O – Open your mind to learning opportunities.

Continue to learn so that you can be the most effective educator possible. If you are not open to new ideas, students will sense this attitude and will be less receptive to you. Enthusiasm for learning is contagious, as is an open mind.

N – Negotiate to reach the best solution for all.

Be willing to compromise when trouble-shooting areas for improvement in your department. When operations are not functioning efficiently and properly, students are negatively impacted. Take the high road and be willing to meet at common ground with your colleagues and other departments.

There are countless challenges we face daily as higher education professionals, and from my experience, persistence and determination are paramount factors in achieving personal and professional success.

What do you think? What are your ideas about how we can become more effective educators? I would love to hear from you! Email me at hallie.price@oregonstate.edu.

 

Hallie Price has served at Oregon State University since April 2016 as a Financial Aid Advisor. She previously worked at Oregon Coast Community College, where she provided daily, frontline assistance to students. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her friends, family and her beloved Pomeranian, writing, reading, cooking, studying Spanish, dancing, exercising and being in nature.

Note: Photo was taken after Hallie gave a financial aid presentation "Dollars and Sense" for a Bilingual registration session at OSU. 

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