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Tea Leaf: A parent's letter to my children in school

Published: Wednesday, July 20 2011 10:38 p.m. MDT

Editor's note: Seventeen years ago, Jeff Thredgold published this letter as "A Father's Letter to My Children in School," and the response was amazing, with requests to reprint more than 150,000 copies. Since then, just as students around the country are getting ready to go back to school, he runs it again.

To my children and grandchildren,

With your focus on education, I often find myself thinking about how much the world has changed since I was in your shoes. The world is now a much "smaller" place — people of all cultures can communicate and travel with ease. You face great challenges today — just as I did, just as my parents before me. These words of advice might be helpful:

Recognize that the only limits you face are those you set for yourself.

Be the BEST that you can be.

Recognize that YOU are responsible for your successes and failures.

You must earn your way.

Strive for excellence — not perfection.

See the glass as half-full, rather than seeing it as half-empty.

Focus on positives, rather than on negatives.

Look to praise, rather than to criticize.

Look for ways to succeed, rather than excuses to fail.

Commit yourself to constant improvement.

Understand how important education is to success.

School is the key. Technology rules. You need better skills to succeed.

Learn what is being taught, but most importantly, learn "how" to learn.

Develop other information sources to verify, or challenge, what you are being taught. "History" is routinely twisted or rewritten to support a particular point of view. Get other ideas.

Treat teachers, administrators and fellow students as you would like to be treated.

Be the first to say, "Hello."

Develop your mind in school, but also develop other skills and interests, including music, art and physical fitness. This is where teamwork develops its roots.

Be a well-rounded person.

Resist taking "easy" classes.

Dig into math, the sciences and computers. These form the technical foundation for future success.

Study language.

Speak and write English correctly.

Appreciate other cultures by learning another language.

Be honest in your approach to learning.

Resist the temptation to cheat — you only hurt yourself.

Develop a keen interest in the outside world.

Pay attention to the "news." The "real" world can be very different from the student world you live in today.

Avoid the temptations of alcohol, smoking, drugs, gangs and irresponsible personal behavior.

Understand the steps you take today have lifelong implications.

Choose your friends wisely.

Do what you can to make a teacher's job easier, not harder. Teaching is one of the most important, most difficult and most underpaid professions in the world.

Participate — but don't be a pain!

Be a friend to all. Extend a hand of friendship to all other students, regardless of race, creed or color.

Make a special effort to be a friend to those less fortunate than you.

As you mature and face new challenges, don't hesitate to discuss with me what is on your mind. You might learn from the mistakes of others.

Recognize how LUCKY you are to live and be educated in this great country. People from around the world are dying every day trying to get INTO this country — not out.

Don't forget to have fun!!

School can be a great time in your life.

Experience it.

Live it.

Enjoy it.

Many of these suggestions will be useful throughout your life — learn them well. I wish you the greatest success in your efforts and hope you find school both rewarding and enjoyable.

Love,

Dad/Grandpa

Jeff Thredgold is the chief economist for Zions Bank and founder of Thredgold Economic Associates, a professional speaking and economic consulting firm. Visit www.thredgold.com.

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