Jack Began His Yellow Brick Road...
Of Academia

When I go down to visit Jack and Owen, there is always excitement about what we will do while I am there. However, this time, when Owen saw me getting out of my car, he wanted to drive the car. So, Jack patiently waited for Owen to get driving my car out of his system. It should be noted that when Jack was Owen's age, he also wanted to drive.

While Jack awaited, he held the graduation cap that I got when I got my doctorate. If you look closely, you can see the black cap and gold tassle resting on his lap, which had to do with my visit that day.

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I visited them on Monday, and Jack began his all-day kindergarten that Wednesday. Therefore, I took time out of having fun with the boys to talk to Jack about his new life. Whenever I say to Jack that I want to tell him about something important, he is all ears. So, I told him to put my cap on. Jack had two interesting responses about wearing my doctoral cap. One was it was too big for him. I responded that was precisely about what I wanted to discuss with him...growing into it.

My response settled Jack about the size of the cap. His next question was the most interesting. Jack asked which side did the tassle go? One of the things that intrigues me about Jack and Owen is that they will always express their feelings. Jack observed that the cap was too large, but, once that issue was addressed, he was ready for the rest of the discussion about finding out which side the tassle goes.

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I printed a picture of a yellow brick road from the Internet. I told him that he was beginning a very long journey and that he was at the beginning of the yellow brick road of his academic journey.

Jack wanted to know what all this meant. I told him to write a K on the first brick. The K stood for kindergarten. Then I asked him what grade he'd be in a year from now. Proudly, he said that he'd be in first grade. Then he wrote the number 1 on the next brick. We repeated that processes of walking down his yellow brick road through high school and college.

I mentioned that his journey down that yellow brick road was a very long and time consuming journey. Jack's retort was that he would count the number of years, which he did. Seventeen years was a long time for him. His next inquiry was how old he would be when he graduated from college. I told him that he would be twenty-three to which he said that he would be almost as old as his parents.

Then I talked about Post-it notes and how they are used to remember things on his journey down the yellow brick road. I talked to him about Arthur Fry, who in the mid-1970s got the idea of Post-it notes.

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I remember....

The next part of our discussion was showing him an example of how he would benefit from Post-it notes. I put several of things that I wanted him to remember during his journey during the next twenty-three years. They are still there in his textbook.

While Jack seemed surprised and overwhelmed by several of my Post-it notes, my notes registered in his mind. We talked about the reminders that I wrote about him and his beginning down the yellow brick road.

The first issue that we discussed was the Post-it said that he is smart. Jack is smart. He taught me that he wanted to know about famous paintings when he was three years of age. He knows dozens of famous paintings and their artists. About a year later, he wanted to know about fossils. He and Owen have a fossil collection. He needs to remember that because during his educational experiences over the next seventeen years, he won't ace every test or term paper. That is a given for everyone. Einstein didn't ace everything in school either. What is critically important is that he remembers that in spite of some wrong answers on tests, he is still smart.

The next reminder is to dream big. Randy Pausch said, "It's important to have specific dreams. Dream Big. Dream without fear." Jack is smart, but being smart isn't a ticket to success. He must dream big dreams regardless of fears of failure. He must get used to not settling into mediocrity. If he has been blessed by intelligence, he must use it.

The next Post-it reminder read, "Papa loves me." Actually, everyone who knows Jack, loves him. The psychological issue of self-esteem has its basis in a person feeling good about him or herself. The person knows that others see value in him or her person.

Finally, being loved unconditionally forces one to reciprocate. He is loved and needs to love others. When I told Jack about this issue, I gave him an example of his showing love to others. One day when I was in Indy several months ago, Jack and I were doing something together while Owen was building a Lego airplane. Owen was focused. He was determined to complete that task. Jack watched his brother, tapped me on the shoulder, and pointed delightedly at Owen working at creating an airplane. Jack then looked at me smiling with pride in his brother.

I wished Jack all the best as he began his long journey down his yellow brick road of academia. However, I also told him that I knew that he would do well...even before he started.

The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture

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