A few moments ago I was reviewing my list of students who I had sent “life vests” and “life rafts” to in an effort to save them from themselves.

Let me explain.

Some of my students take on a weighted course load and find it more difficult than they expected to juggle school, work, family, and a social life. This is especially the case if they take a hybrid or online course, and then when you add that the course is with me, the stakes really get high.

Now don’t cringe.

I’m not a mean or difficult instructor. There’s balance with me. I’m firm and assertive yet I’m always open for negotiation. I pour myself into my classes because it is my mission to give my students enough information that becomes applied knowledge, that helps them in school, work, and in life. For me, it’s more than the textbooks that they read. I don’t want them memorizing and regurgitating information. I want to see and hear how they applied what was taught to them. I want to see their growth and help support their academic and professional needs. I want to provide them with as many tools and resources as I can; so yes, I’m extremely engaged in my classes. So no, the course work is not easy. There are no easy-A’s in my class. You will earn whatever grade that you receive.

As I tell my students:

Your grade is your paycheck and your GPA is your credit score“.

As an instructor, I’m also serious about meeting deadlines but I’m flexible in providing extensions to those who get clobbered or blindsided by life. The reality is, we all get clobbered and blindsided from time-to-time.

Someone who hasn’t needs to be studied closely.

How can I make mistakes and forget deadlines, yet punish my team for doing the same? Is that not hypocritical? The “do as I say not as I do” rule that our parents embedded in our minds is why we have as many problems in this world. We all simply wait until we gain the power to enforce that same rule on others. It’s ridiculous.

As a college instructor I run my classrooms much like a business. I inform my students that for the length of the term or semester, they are to conduct themselves as though this is a corporation, they are managers, and I am their senior manager. But as a servant leader, I am not here to bark orders and reign supreme over them; I’m also not here to hold their hands and coddle them. They are not babies or small children.

I am here to serve them, empower them, and help to elevate them to the next level.

I encourage them to respectfully challenge the textbooks and readings, and yes, even me. Their minds will only sharpen with critical thinking and by testing and applying tools and skills that they have acquired. I also make sure to frequently ask for feedback and evaluations on how much they are learning and applying from my classes, as well as how well they believe that I am managing and leading them. I frequently ask them to tell me how I can best support their learning and growth needs.

I try to intervene with students who risk falling below a “C”. I don’t want my students to fail my class. Not because of managerial pressures from the higher-ups. Not because of any of the reasons and excuses that most would assume. I don’t want my students to fail because it means that somehow I failed them. It is my responsibility as their manager-leader to help guide them. Just as I would for an employee that I don’t want to see fired or to watch go through the stages of “burn-out”. If I see “red flags” early enough I can step in and provide guidance as to how my students can improve or how they can withdraw from the class (by deadlines) and take it at a later date when life isn’t clobbering them so hard. Usually one of these two interventions work.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

There are some students who choose the chartered path that they know will lead to failure, and no matter how much I attempt to help them help themselves, they are content to splash around in that ocean while watching the life vest and raft float away.

So today as I reviewed my list of students who continue to drown in this academic ocean, refusing to use either or both the vest and the raft that I threw to them weeks ago, I ran across an old email from a student who is failing one of my classes. Weeks ago this person said that they wanted to do well in my class and that they would improve—they  just needed a strategy to do so. I provided the student with the strategy and the deadline extensions that they needed to meet in order to bring their grade up to a “C” or better.

I’m always aiming for better but I won’t force greatness on anyone who would rather be average or below. Everyone should be free to choose.

Weeks later this student still has not completed the past due work and sadly they haven’t completed any current work, yet they continue to log into the course room–most likely so that their attendance is tracked so they don’t lose financial aid and other benefits. Yes, I have students who are motivated enough to log into class to not lose their financial aid, but they aren’t motivated enough to do the work, to pass the class, to keep their financial aid. It’s a baffling logic that they operate by in their parallel universe.

Okay I should stop with my sarcasm.

There is a portion of my email message that I typed to this student that I truly believe needs to be shared with others, with you. Someone out there needs to read these few lines below, because maybe it will be the added layer that helps to snatch them out of their “funk”, their “brain fog”, their whatever is holding them back and keeping them down.

Or maybe it won’t. But I’m sharing anyway.

…your dreams and goals in life are only achieved through the efforts you make. No one will give you anything of worth simply because you show up. You must put in the work and earn the things that you desire. Those that think that greatness will just magically come to them will always find themselves cast to the side, because greatness requires boldness—it requires commitment and dedication despite and because of the odds. 

You must choose if whether you want to be good, great, average, mediocre, exceptional, or just “blah”. Your actions and efforts will align and reflect accordingly. I believe that you have the potential to be at any level that you set your eyes, mind, and heart to achieve. 

If you aim low then you will always fall below that line. If you aim high and run your well-paced race, you may fall short of the desired point but you landed much higher than if you had aimed low to begin with.

Where are you aiming?

What efforts are you making to get there?

No one can do this for you, only you can!

I hope that my student gets what I was trying to convey in my email. I hope that it helps to snatch them out of their pit and motivates them to run, walk, crawl or even roll to the victory line. They may not cross in first place, but they will cross. Every race we start we’re expected to finish.

Love,

Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

My collegiate track and field days were short-lived. After skipping the season my junior year in high school and having an awful senior year season I steered away from the track while attending Santa Ana College (Rancho Santiago Community College). But the sprinter’s bug bit me while attending California State University, Long Beach (affectionately known as “Long Beach State”).

I’ve shared this story before. It’s one that helps me, inspires me, encourages me, and puts some fire under my butt to be proactive.

I keep this shirt as a reminder that nothing great comes without hard work, excuses don’t amount to much, being early means you’re always on time, don’t give up on your dreams, and even through adversity you must pray and push yourself as though there are no obstacles. It also is a reminder to listen to God’s voice above and despite all others.

It was Spring Break 1996. I was injured during track practice.

Coach wanted to punish me and make an example out of me for the rest of the team. I was late to practice. I got stuck in traffic coming from Pomona (the only sprinter who lived off campus and the only member of the track team who lived that far from campus).

Coach devised a workout for me that was so intense that my teammates painful faces let me know that they felt awful for me.

I was in the fifth lane and I was doing my sixth 120 meter sprint. I would have four more and then sets of 240s, 440s, and one 600 meter run, followed by a light session in the weight room.

I pushed off of the blocks. I could never jump that high in the air until that day, until that moment.

Pushing off of the blocks that “rubber band” in the back of my thigh snapped and coiled up towards my glutes, and I shot up high off of the ground and then what felt like slow motion I fell back to the ground and flat on my face—hard.

It was raining outside, so the beating drops of water didn’t help. But they did blend in well with the tears that streamed down my face. My dad trained me to never cry on the track, so as I tried to cover my face I was finally grateful for this pouring rain. My teammates ran over to me and while one rushed to get the training staff, the others consoled me.

Coach stood by with a mixed look of concern and shock. He knew I was giving him 100% of myself in that workout, and he also knew that he denied me a proper warmup as the first part of my punishment. I begged to have equal time warming up as my teammates were given, even three-quarters of the warmup would help. He cut my warmup by more than half. He said “you will learn the importance of being on time after today“.

Had my body been properly warmed up, like the rest of my team, like what I was accustomed to, the likelihood of me injuring myself was slim. I looked into his eyes asking what my mouth couldn’t, “why?”

The training staff rushed out on a cart and when they saw I couldn’t walk they, along with my team members had to lift me and place me on the cart. One of my teammates grabbed my workout bag and brought it to the training center.

After preliminary tests it was initially thought that I had a hamstring pull. It would take several grueling weeks to heal and recover.

I was sent home with crutches and since I didn’t have anyone to drive me home (that’s a long story about a boyfriend who didn’t believe I was as injured as the training staff said I was so he refused to come get me) so I drove with my left leg for the hour-plus it took to get home, narrowly avoiding an accident when I hydroplaned (I will skip the other dramatic parts of this story).

I cried all the way home. I cried in bed wondering how I would heal from this unbearable pain. I spent the rest of Spring Break at home. The training staff gave me anti-inflammatories. They warned me of the potential liver and kidney damage. Since I didn’t take medicine I only took a few pills and left the rest alone.

Rehabbing my leg was at times unbearable. I had to go immediately to physical therapy that Monday. I couldn’t make those crutches work for me and if you know California State University, Long Beach then you know how huge that campus is. I couldn’t carry my backpack and figure out the crutches. So I got rid of the crutches. I would have to make due and force my left side of my body to overcompensate for my right.

Coach suggested that I take a natural supplement to help with my recovery. The guys on the team took it. I went to the health food store and got some. Coach had regularly scheduled sessions for us to meet individually and as a group with the team psychologist. She gave us visual training techniques and other aides. But honestly I was mentally and physically in pain. The girls on the team explained that Coach gives preferential treatment to the boys and I would just have to suck it up and face the reality they knew all too well. I continued my grueling rehab sessions and focused on my school work.

I spent a couple of weeks rehabbing when Coach demanded that I return to the track. He needed points. I ran the 100 meter, 200 meter, and the first leg of the 4×100 meter relay team. He needed points.

Despite the arguments of the training staff who said I was weeks away from being good enough to run, my concern that I still had a crater in the back of my thigh, Coach’s voice was louder, and the trainers complied by signing off on my release. I could see the concern on their faces.

When I returned to the track it wasn’t the same. I was still injured, still trying to heal, and after weeks of taking that supplement I was also now about 10 pounds heavier (when I was already trying to get my weight down and body fat percentage lower). My teammates faces said what I knew, I wasn’t ready and I could make my injury worse. But I went out there anyway. I was a walk-on trying to get a scholarship and I knew the times I needed to get in order to be awarded that scholarship by the Athletic Director. He said if I nail those times I had the scholarship. I had already read and signed the huge NCAA packet. I just needed to do my part. Get those times.

Well how can I say this accurately…

I sucked. In every race I ran.

It would’ve been better to get someone from the cross-country team to run for me. No offense. But what returned to the track wasn’t a healthy, fully conditioned sprinter. Someone in middle school could’ve beat me in a race. I was injured and trying to carry around more weight, but the stop watch doesn’t consider those factors–and fans don’t know what’s going on—my times said I was just slow, my place crossing the finish line said I was slow. Not the slowest in my heats, but not fast enough to get my team the points Coach expected. Not fast enough to compete at other big meets, like Oregon.

I also was no longer eligible to compete indoors when the time came. I hadn’t healed. My strength and speed weren’t up to par.

Imagine if I had only left my house an hour earlier, even if I would’ve been on campus much earlier than our practice time, even with the traffic, I would’ve been to practice on time and Coach wouldn’t have punished me. I most likely also wouldn’t have injured myself. Hindsight is always 20/20 and the shoulda woulda coulda doesn’t matter.

Interesting enough during post-season a doctor checked my leg and said, “had you continued training as your coach expected this hamstring tear would’ve led to permanent damage“. My mouth felt like it hit the floor.

I loved sprinting. I loved the intensity of the races. I loved training harder after a loss. I loved the smell of the grass infield and surrounding the track. I loved feeling the different types of tracks, some springier than others, some feeling like wood. I loved the competition and the camaraderie. I loved feeling myself run. I loved the freedom that running provides and how sharp your mind must be to blot out distractions, while being relaxed enough that your jaw and lips jiggle as you run.

My track and field career ended in 1996. It took me 5 years to get my mind and body stronger than it had ever been, faster than high school and college. I contemplated returning to the track with a track club to run in the Master’s meets and races. But when my dad passed away in 2001, that dream and the dream of competing in Power Lifting also passed away.

Dad was my coach, trainer, motivator, and butt-kicker. Who else could train me like him? Who else could get in my head and help me to see things like he did? Who else could cuss me out and get away with it like dad? My answer was simply, “no one“.

So I stepped away from it all.

Honestly, those were some of the biggest mistakes that I’ve made in my life because I know that my dad would’ve wanted me to pursue every dream I had no matter what. I used him to make excuses for my fears. I dishonored him, his memory and his legacy to protect myself.

I find myself still doing that, still making excuses, still leaving dreams by the wayside, still not getting consistent help for the hurt, pain, and anger.

When will I grow sick and tired of being sick and tired? When will I make the decision to make my dreams a reality? When will I stop making excuses and start putting in the work? When will I stop living a life of conditional mediocrity and return to a life of excellence?

When I made the decision in 2001 to stop training as an athlete, my mind and body stopped receiving the level of intensity and feedback they needed to thrive, and my spirit has also been challenged.

It’s been 17 years since I last consistently trained as an athlete. That’s 17 years of being off balance and existing with a void. My mind is sharper when I’m training. My body is healthier. My attitude is better. My outlook is focused and broad. I accomplish more in other areas of my life.

Time waits for no one. Whatever I want I must go get it. Laziness gains nothing positive. One step at a time. One day at a time. I may not have an interest in competing in track and field anymore, but I most definitely have a desire to getting my mind, body, and spirit realigned.

Age is an excuse for not reaching for better, for more, for what is attainable—for what God has before you, just for you.

Now is the time.

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha L. Foreman/Natasha Foreman Bryant. All Rights Reserved.

A coward is a hilarious yet pitiful sight to see and experience. A coward hides behind aliases, anonymity, avatars, masks, lies, and other people. A coward yells loudly behind mommy’s dress and daddy’s coat, but never stands out and speaks up for the world to see. A coward spits venom like a serpent but is too scared to face those they attack. A coward has little to no self-esteem, self-worth, dignity, or grace, so lacking a spine they sneak around trying to drag others to their level. A coward will hide behind a title but never live up to it. A coward is never dependable, reliable, or consistent…except in their cowardice. They simply exist, but never live, and even in their existence they don’t leave much of an impression.

I’m not too sure if I should feel sorry for the cowards of the world, sympathy, or nothing at all. They are a sad group of people. They can never stand on their own, they can never fight their own battles, they can never truly lead, they always make excuses for their inadequacies, and blame others for their shortcomings. Cowards are always the victim, always the damsel in distress, always the ones needing saving, always the ones complaining about what’s wrong and why they can’t do something. The words, ‘can’t’ and ‘impossible’ begin and end their sentences, and sometimes their days.

Cowards live for revenge, wanting to pay back those who hurt them, but they don’t have the courage to actually face this person head on. Cowards like to pick fights, but never stick around for combat, or they find a way for others to join the fight so their weaknesses are never revealed. They are the ones who spread rumors and cause drama, but in a sneaky, cleaver kind of way–that always make them look innocent. They pretend to be someone they aren’t because they don’t have the courage to be who they were created to be. They are weak-minded, weak physically, weak morally, and weak spiritually. They live in constant darkness; for only in light can one find true strength. It’s no wonder why cowards always prefer playing devil’s advocate, because for them it is too great a mountain to climb reaching up towards hope, possibility, and excellence, when they can use less effort kneeling down towards mediocrity.

I have encountered many cowards in my time, some as recently as today, and I am amazed at how much time they have on their hands to focus their energy on doing absolutely nothing of relevance in our world–except in their minds. It is pitiful that these insecure people spend so many hours of their day thinking about me, plotting and planning against me, and envious of what I have that they wish they had. We all have had our run-ins with cowards like this. See, cowards have plenty of time and energy to spread lies and hate, try to destroy other people’s reputations, families and businesses,  yet they don’t invest the time and energy to bring goodness and love into our world. They don’t have the time and energy to make a positive contribution to society, yet they can waste all of their resources trying to drain someone else and destroy their dreams. They don’t have the time and energy to build, create, innovate, inspire, embrace, uplift, and shine. Yet they have the time and energy to tear things apart, destroy, manipulate, deceive, and play childish games. They have time to send stupid messages and make phone calls to others hoping to make them feel as miserable as they do; post idiotic things on the Internet for even the tiniest bit of attention; make claims without supporting evidence; and just take up much-needed space in the world. They eventually leave this world as they entered it and lived it…clueless!

I have more respect for the person who tries and fails, than the one who never tries. I have more respect for the person with bumps, bruises, cuts and burns from falling down in life, because in their walk I see that they found a way to get back up. I have more respect for the person who comes to me directly, without masks, anonymity and code names, and just speaks their mind. I have more respect for the person who comes right out and confronts me with the goal to fight, than sucker-punch me in the dark. I have no respect for a person who isn’t brave enough to stand up and speak their mind. I say what I want to say, and clearly say my name when I’m speaking. I don’t post to my blogs or anywhere else as “anonymous” or with some made up alias, or using a picture not mine, because I have the courage to speak up, speak out, and back up what I say. My parents didn’t raise a punk, so I don’t cower over like one. I’m no bully and I won’t be bullied–never have and never will!

So I have one last thing to say to the cowards of the world…you can say what you want and do what you want, because just like your anonymity, you really don’t exist!

 

Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved. First Published on The Paradigm Life