Toni, VP @ TJX & Mother of 2, MA
Toni is a Vice President for the TJX Corporation in Boston, Massachusetts. She has two children, Mary Beth and Paul, who are in their late 20s. She was interviewed by her niece and goddaughter, Nicole.
Tell me about a child you care about. What makes them unique?
They have a capacity to form their opinions independently. In other words, they can take in a lot of information and then opposed to being strictly influenced by one thing they read or learn, they tend to take in multiple viewpoints and then form their opinion. I don't think that's a common as we might think.
Now, imagine that child is now in their 30s– out of school and starting into adult life. What do you hope for them about their life? What would make it a ‘good’ or ‘successful’ life?
My biggest hope would be that they would find happiness through a balanced life. By a balanced life I think about three things: their family, their community, and their work. If those things are balanced in someone's life, that can lead to a happy life. Sometimes things can go out of balance. For example, you might have a work deadline that's crazy and takes up most of your time. Or your child is sick and needs your time during work hours. You might volunteer in your community, maybe in your soup kitchen, and it's a very busy week. But if you're contributing in all three of those things in your life, you have this inner peace and happiness for yourself and are also a better member of a larger group and community.
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that ideal good life?
I think it's got to be somewhat similarly balanced, right? I think that exposing a child to as much information as possible is necessary; and then also there has to be something about character development. It's not just about an individual sitting at their desk learning; it's about how they work as a collective group, support each other and learn from each other. They should be able to learn about their roles in supporting their community, which can often just be their classroom and then eventually the wider community. They should be asking: how are we affecting our planet? How are we affecting all members in our community? With character development I also think about developing entrepreneurial skills--that has a community impact. So schools should provide character building along with skill building. I still think skills are an important thing that kids come out of school with.
It's interesting-the German school system, kids are tracked at an early age. Those kids end up very successful because they might not care about calculus, but they have other skills. There is an interesting definition of the word skill. For one child it might be writing an essay, for another it's painting a picture or writing music, another could be innovating the next computer platform. It's not always the same.
So it sound like you’re saying schools should recognize the unique skills of all children, is that correct?
Yes. Schools should help create that fire, that passion in them. Also, how do we help parents in a partnership with schools, because so much happens before they even get to school and when they leave school that impacts their ability to hone in on their confidence and passion.
Do you think schools will/are play(ing) the role you think they should play for “your” child? Why or why not?
I think it's harder when they're younger in my experience. Once kids got to high school, there was more of an opportunity to focus on something that you're interested in, some flexibility. It's tough because at the younger levels you want to give them exposure to the whole menu because you're not sure at what age something will trigger. But also some kids could be behind but they're in the classroom with kids who are ahead, and then they're getting frustrated.
I would say yes, schools played that role for my own children. I think there was some stress as they got towards high school. However, they were moving to a point to a place where they could move towards the things that they loved while fulfilling the requirements to graduate.