Re-defining Success Preschool to Post Secondary with Amy Yeung

podcast school Apr 03, 2023


This is a conversation every parent worried about their child's success needs to listen to.


Amy Yeung, a high school guidance counsellor, and I have been working with students and parents for over 20 years each. We have seen a lot in that time and want to share some thoughts about success with you.

We are also parents of elementary and middle school children so understand the pressure of raising children in a world that is rapidly changing.

Topics we cover:

1) How academic focus and pressure in the early years translates to high school

2) What do report cards really mean & when do they matter

3) How does profession-based and post-secondary goal setting affect student success and outcomes

4) The world is changing, how can you find out what types of jobs might suit your child


Note: The transcript below may not be exactly the same as the podcast, it has been edited for readability and context. 




Host: Tara Gratto

Guest Expert: Amy Yeung


Tara Gratto  00:00

This week's guest expert is a high school guidance counselor, former head of Special Education and an experienced educator Amy Yeung. We are both passionate about empowering parents with information that can guide you with supporting your children as you navigate the education system preschool to post secondary and beyond. This episode is about what traditionally defined success and how we might need to do some rethinking to support our children and becoming who they were meant to be. Hello, and welcome.


Tara Gratto  00:30

I'm Tara, the founder of Raising Resilient Children. As a longtime educator, former preschool owner and parent, I have been working with caring adults and children for over 20 years. In that time, I've been asked a lot of questions and provided a lot of support and feedback. Through this, I built a system for navigating the hard and messy parts of parenting with clear paths that will support you and your unique family's needs. My expertise is in social emotional well being and I'm a big fan of using picture books. I even wrote one to support teaching children about emotional regulation called The Adventures of Team Brain. I know there is no cookie cutter approach to parenting and the information can be overwhelming. Let's tackle some of this by having some important conversations and digging into some different topics.


Tara Gratto  01:13

Hello, today, I'm excited to be having a guest back that I had in the summer. She is a high school guidance counselor. She worked for 13 years as the department head of Special Ed. And she has been an educator for over 20 years, we are going to talk about education, we actually plan to have this conversation much earlier. But educators have very busy schedules, and it's hard to connect sometimes. So Amy, I'm so glad to have you back to have a conversation with me. Welcome. Thanks, Tara.


Amy Yeung  01:45

I'm glad to be back because you know, you're one of my favorite people to talk education with. So I'm ready.


Tara Gratto  01:52

I know I'm excited, we're gonna change the world. We're going to change the world. So what are the things that Amy and I are going to do, we're going to put together a series of conversations over a period of time, maybe I'm going to aim for one conversation a month or so I haven't figured that out exactly. But I will keep you in the loop. The reason we're gonna do this is there's a few hot topics that we think are really helpful to share with parents, as people who work in the industry, I now work with parents exclusively, Amy's still working in education.


Tara Gratto  02:25

One of the things that happens when we're talking is we both find that parents maybe don't know some of the things that would be really helpful for them to understand, so that they can support their children. So the topic that we're gonna talk about today is sort of our expectations as parents from preschool all the way through high school and beyond. So it sounds like a huge, huge sort of topic and a bit interesting, but how this topic actually came about in our conversations, is, as you know, I used to own a preschool. And one of the things that I noticed in my preschool is the kinds of questions that people would ask me, really made me feel like they were asking more about questions for shaping their children's future, like high school, or post secondary even, versus asking questions about what was happening in the here and the now. So I think one of the things that's happening in sort of parents mind is sometimes we think so big picture, that we don't realize that that's actually shaping our children's trajectories, and not allowing them to sort of learn and grow as people. So one of the things I want to talk about today, Amy is the trajectory of education, from preschool through high school, and what how that relates to academic outcomes. So like, the idea that we put pressure on our children, whether they're in preschool, early elementary, elementary, middle school, or high school, on what that looks like, what they're gonna be, right, I'm even asked elementary kids, what do you want to be when you grow up? And maybe that's not a helpful Well,


Amy Yeung  04:00

you know what, I don't know what I want to be when I'm a grow up and I'm a grown up so, and some days I ask.  I'm joking, I actually really enjoy my work. I've been working in high school for 20 years. And you know, you see the the younger crowd like the preschoolers and the elementary, your your, that's your realm in my realm is high school. So between the two of us we see the the, you know, from the beginning and kindergarten and I you know, I'm at the end part of the, the high school and beyond. So I think that I mean, I've seen a lot of things in terms of how children develop over time, and how our expectations of parents can influence what they choose.


Tara Gratto  04:44



Amy Yeung  04:44

but also our sometimes how our expectations of our children affects like the relationship between parent and child and it's just a very complicated area of have like a thinking like to try and guess what your child is going to be when they grow up? Or we as parents have these ideas of what success means to us. And then we believe that our children should follow that vision as well. And, you know, I mean, I'm not saying it's not good to have goals and expectations in life. But I think that when it comes to our children, we do have to keep in mind, not just like, what the job market may look like, or, you know, what, what would make them the most money in the end, but it's more about like, how happy can they be in life? And, you know, who are we to say that they're going to be happy? Do we have to actually include the voice of the child


Tara Gratto  05:41

in the process


Amy Yeung  05:44

Yeah, and it's this, this is years, like years and years of, of learning and growing. And so I definitely think that we should talk about, you know, what we what we dream about our little kids to be and how, you know, how that affects them. In the end? I think it's an important conversation.


Tara Gratto  06:04

And I think I mean, one of the reasons I wanted to have this conversation is I actually started as a high school guidance counselor sort of early on in my career, right. So I have that same sort of like, I saw where that was going. And one of the things that was really interesting, and we were talking about this before we came on camera actually was this idea that like, who we were, when we first started teaching, and who we are now, after 20 years of experience is very, very different, right? What we now understand about children and development, and all those things are is very, very different. That experience really shapes us.


Tara Gratto  06:37

And I remember when I was helping some kids get ready for college, I was in the American system. So at that time, it was college, like in Canada, we have university and college. There it was, it was college, what we would consider a university level. And I remember a couple of kids in my office, and they were like, I don't want to do what my parents want me to do. And I remember thinking as an early teacher, oh, this is an interesting, I had never been exposed to it as a person, as a kid actually saying, this isn't actually the path that I want to do. But in this case, one of the kids was was being told they needed to become an engineer. They're like, I don't want to be an engineer. That's not what my interest is. And I remember thinking in that moment, Oh, where did these ideas come from? And then when I became a parent, I realized, oh, like, I have a lot of impact on children and their decisions, and shaping what or who they could become, by my own expectations, and being willing to say to myself, I remember those high school kids saying to me, I don't want to be what my parents want me to be. And I don't ever want my kids to feel that way. Right? And so how do we how do we, how do we start those conversations? And I think that's one of the reasons I really wanted to have that conversation with you today. Because I know you experience the same thing where there's sort of parent ideas, and Kid ideas aren't always the same ideas.


Tara Gratto  08:05

And it starts with how do we define success? So when we're thinking about kids, and success and expectations around success. How do you help kids figure this out? Like so at the high school level, what's one of the things that you sort of look to for guidance on I need to help a child find their path to success?


Amy Yeung  08:29

Well, we did talk a bit about this earlier prior to coming on camera and like in Ontario in particular, which is where I teach,


Tara Gratto  08:36



Amy Yeung  08:38

There is like a four question framework that we're we're encouraged to follow as guidance educators. And so you know, the questions are, the four questions are who am I? So, you know, a child's got to figure out who they are, what their interests are, know, what their skills are and how could they use their skills? That leads into the question, what are my opportunities, right with this, these skills and interests? What are my opportunities? Not just like in terms of occupation, but you know, how can I find fulfillment in in the skills that I have, but how can I use these skills to find fulfillment? Like what are my opportunities? Third question is, Who do I want to become? And by who not like, what do I want to become in terms of occupation? But who what kind of person don't want to be what goals do I have? What values do I have? What do I want my life to be like? And then the fourth question is, what is my plan for achieving my goals?


Tara Gratto  09:41

Oh, that that I'm just gonna jump in quick here. What do I want my life to be like? So I was talking to a social worker last summer and they actually said something really interesting to me. They said the thing that my child wants to be, isn't the thing that I imagined. I wanted their life to look like. So the type of role that they are interested in, doesn't match my financial goals for them. And I had to take a step back, and realize that it wasn't about my version of success that I needed to project onto my child, I needed them to define their own success and what their financial sort of goals would be. So we live this certain lifestyle, and I projected that on this on my child, and I realized I needed to take a step back and say, That's my version of success. That's a huge thing. But that's that was that number three is right, that's, that's helping your child to find their version of success outside of. And I know, that's, that's a scary statement. I know, anyone who's listening right now is like, no, I need my child to be financially successful.


Amy Yeung  10:45

Well, I mean, there's always that element to reality, right. And this is actually a conversation that I have with the students that come into my office, and we're talking about post secondary goals. Actually, we've had this conversation a lot in the past couple of weeks, because now students are choosing courses for the next school year.


Amy Yeung  11:01

And, and, you know, I talked about how there's your passion and your interests, definitely, it's important to, to be in an area where you are motivated every day to wake up and go and do your best. That's important. But then also, there's the reality of having to earn a living and, you know, feed yourself, and if you have a family feed them, you know, they're, I think that we have to, as you say, combine experience, with theory, like just just having an understanding of like, yes, we have ideas, and then we have to meld that with reality.


Tara Gratto  11:01



Tara Gratto  11:39



Amy Yeung  11:40

And so I feel like, yeah, when I'm talking to students, we talk about all these things. Right,


Tara Gratto  11:45



Amy Yeung  11:45

And I found that at the end of the day, like, when a student knows themselves really well, and they're able to articulate to me, you know, these are my interests, this is what I really want to do, I can see the passion in them, you know, the eyes light up. And then we start talking about, and this is where I help them find the programs that could ignite their, you know, career


Tara Gratto  12:07



Amy Yeung  12:07

it really is important for them to know who they are, I find the students who don't know themselves so well, who tend to, I guess, worry more about what their parents are expecting, and they want not to disappoint their parents, which


Tara Gratto  12:21



Amy Yeung  12:22

we've talked about this before, like, children do not want to disappoint their parents.


Tara Gratto  12:25



Amy Yeung  12:26

But the ones who don't know who they are, find it really hard to articulate to me what it is they want to do. And it's hard for them to find the motivation sometimes to follow the path. That's not their path.


Tara Gratto  12:40



Amy Yeung  12:40

So I spend a lot of time trying to help students find their path based on their interests, their skills, and also the reality of you know, where this could lead to, because of course, I'm cognizant that eventually, all parents want their children to be able to be independent, right, financially and in other ways. But, you know, and I think that that, as a parent, for me is probably one of our biggest worries, we worry about, like, you know, will our children be okay, without us.


Tara Gratto  13:13

I was gonna say there's that stress, though, that, I think that a really important point that we add in here is, if our children don't know what their passions are, and they're stressed about success, just like we are, right, we're we're both, we're both on the same page in the fact that nobody wants to be a failure in life. That's not, there's nobody who says My goal is to not succeed. My goal is not to be financially stable, my goal, nobody has that goal. The trick is, though, and I know everybody knows this. But I think hearing it is really important, too. If you're not passionate about what you're doing, you're going to be less successful at it. Right, you're not going to be able to have the stamina to do it, you're going to be much more stressed. And as a world, we are so stressed right now, right? Stress is literally out of control, like it is it is so out of control. And I think part of the part that's playing in it is that we think about financial stability, so much that maybe we're compromising interest. And I think one of the things we're going to be talking about in in one of the later topics, we're planning to cover four topics today. One of the later topics is there's a lot of jobs out there that are highly successful, financially successful that kids don't even know about because parents don't know about them. So there are ways that we can sort of put that passion together to make sure that there's a more successful trajectory. Because if you're not in love with what you're doing, there are elements of every job and every study opportunity that you have to do things that you dislike, I use myself as example all the time. There are tons of things that I do in my current role that are less than my favorite, and I can't wait to hire people to do them.


Tara Gratto  13:13

Stress? Oh, sorry.


Amy Yeung  14:20

No, go ahead.


Amy Yeung  14:47

And I think that's right, real life is full of things that we don't want to do that we know are necessary, and even in the most. You know, I love my work. I love my work as an educator, but it's not, you know, sunshine and roses every day like, there are tough times,


Tara Gratto  15:02



Amy Yeung  15:02

but because I love what I do, I am motivated to, to get through those times. And I realize that, you know, if if I didn't have that motivation, then this career would just be really hard, like, it would not be for me. And I think that is true. Like, as you said, like if somebody is truly passionate about it, and they're willing to go through the tough times, because of that passion. I think that is really what drives success in the end. And again, success is defined by whoever it's not my vision of success that matters, it really depends on the person. And I find the people who are most content, well, in terms of working with my students, they're the ones who really know what they want. And having a purpose. And a goal I found is very important for their motivation to to move forward. And when I say having a goal, it doesn't mean having a life goal necessarily, because the reality is our lives are constantly changing, and our goals can change. And like you say, there may be new industries that pop up that we don't know about that just don't exist yet. But because the world is constantly changing, like we, but if we know ourselves well enough, and we know our skill set, and we can, you know, take the risk and try new things. But like, I find that the people who really know who they are, and have a purpose, like those are the students that the do well, like, by the standards of our system, where they they know how to, you get the high marks and that sort of stuff, because they're motivated to figure it out.


Amy Yeung  16:37

Whereas other people who just are not sure, are feeling loss, they're just floating around. And


Amy Yeung  16:44

well they have not point


Amy Yeung  16:45

right, and quite honestly, I don't like doing it. I'm in high school. And, you know, not all the classes are always fun. I mean, you know, that's just the reality, we don't love every subject, and is a lot of it is very content heavy. So you're really sitting there listening and learning a whole lot of content. And, you know, if you're not into it, it's really hard to succeed.


Amy Yeung  17:08

for sure.


Amy Yeung  17:08

And, you know, getting what you need to do to do your credits finished. So I found that once a student figures out their purpose, they actually then are motivated to get through these hard times. So having to like sit through these classes,


Tara Gratto  17:28

right, because there's, there's a means to an end, right. And I think one of the things that's really hard for parents, and I'm on the same page, it's really hard to sit back and be like, I need to let my child be who they are. And I need to help guide them with figuring out the path that's the right path for them without any of my own preconceptions on what that should look like. It's very, very hard.


Tara Gratto  17:54

It's like when someone's venting to you and you're not supposed to give advice. It's the same, like, you're supposed to listen, and sometimes you just can't help yourself, right? It's the same when you when your kids are on a trajectory and you want, you have an idea of success. It's very hard to step back and say, Okay, I need to let this play out in the most effective way that's going to work for them.


Tara Gratto  18:14

Which I think is a great segue to our second topic, which is right now in Ontario, report cards just came out. So although this episode won't air at report card time, everybody gets them. So it will apply to everyone at some point. So a lot of families focus on report cards and marks and sort of the significance of marks. So the first thing I just want to talk to you about it, this is to Ontario, but it does apply. I used to work International, when do marks really count, when does the mark actually have a significant impact on a child's next steps in their life? One of the things that's like a connected piece here is what what do marks actually represent. So when you get a report card, whether you're in Grade Two, or six or seven, what do you see the report card as like what's what does it mean?


Amy Yeung  19:17

I mean, that's a good question. I guess it depends on what perspective you're coming from. I know that a lot of us because we're performance oriented and result oriented. We may look at a child's report card and think oh, you know what, like this is this report card is going to tell me how successful you know my child is going to be in life. Like if my child is getting A's and indicates they're going to be successful in life.


Amy Yeung  19:41

But as an educator and someone who's who's been working with with, you know high school students for a long time, and and getting to know them, I realized that report cards are more of a snapshot of where a student is in that moment in time. And I tend to look at report as is just an indicator of where their skill development is that doesn't necessarily it doesn't mean that like if, for example, you know, a child is getting a C, that might indicate to me that they need to work on some more skills to bring them up to what we call, like the provincial standard. And I imagine that every province or you know, every community and state, they have their own general standards.


Tara Gratto  20:34

Yeah, core standards


Amy Yeung  20:35

yes, core standards. So I tend to look at report cards as indicators of what skill development at that point in time, and what that could mean in terms of how it plays out in high school. And like, we we've talked about this before, in terms of like, well, okay, when do percentages really count than if I'm looking at report cards as indicators? Like? When do percentages really count? Yeah. So in Ontario, where I teach when when marks are the counters are percentages is when students are in their last year of high school. And they're looking to enter a post secondary program. That's when those programs will look at the marks in the 12th grade, or in the last year of high school for admission.


Tara Gratto  21:27



Amy Yeung  21:28

That's when, you know, that is when having a certain percentage could impact next year


Tara Gratto  21:34

future. Yeah, I think you made a couple really important points there. One of the ones I really want to tag on is why we're having this conversation. So I, before I had children, if I hadn't been an educator, I would not have seen their report cards the way I do now, I would not communicate to them the way I do now. So being an educator, and not just being an educator, but having been an educator for a while, because when I first started teaching, I also was like, okay, my class, I felt the success of my class was also based on how well my students performed as like I am lacking as an educator when they are not performing. And experience and time has taught me that that's not the right approach to report cards to marks at all. And that my experience as an educator really influences how I parent, because that snapshot in time, what you just said is so so important, I have totally been in the place of like, when the report card comes thinking to myself, Oh, my goodness, this means my child's never gonna be able to do math. And it's not, it means this is an area of growth. So one of the things that I share with my kids, and I've shared with some of my clients is when marks come in, this is the way I frame them, I frame them is and I know different schools are different, right? So some use marks, some use letter grade, some use the rubric, right, so you may be ABCD listeners, or you might be 60 70 80 90 percentage, or you might be levels 1 2 3 4. It doesn't matter which system, you're using this, this strategy applies to all of them, whatever the Learning Zone is. So in Ontario, that'd be a level three, or like between a 65 and a seven D, right? a b minus c plus ish range. That means your child understands the material, it means that they understand and can use the skills and tools that they've been given. If it's less than that, it means they have some skill building to do. If it's more than that they have skill acquisition at a level where they could probably teach somebody else right, they can be a helpful peer. So when things come home, in my house, that is the way I use and instead of being like 60 means you suck at this, and you're never going to be good at math. That means oh, we need to do more practice on this type of math, to get your skills more confidently in a place where I can say you have this skill. And that's a very different way of thinking about marks. Versus this is a forever trajectory. This is like the brutal, like sort of headspace and I think that's


Amy Yeung  24:12

really stressful to think that this you know, grade three report card is going to tell me how successful my child will be in life. Like it's very stressful to think that, in that, in that way. And I think because I've worked with children in special education for most of my career, I've worked with, you know, students who have been diagnosed with learning disabilities who are on the autism spectrum who have been blind or hard of hearing like I've worked with the population where school has not been easy for them


Tara Gratto  24:49



Amy Yeung  24:49

because the system is not built for people who learn in a different way than what you know then what we think of as as education.


Tara Gratto  24:59

Education needs an overhaul. I wish we could do something about that.


Amy Yeung  25:06

And this is where I think is really impacted how I see report cards because I, I have met, you know, students who are very, very smart in the way they they know a lot of facts, you know, they, they're very cognizant of the world, but they can't do school. Right. So their marks that they get in their classes actually don't indicate or reflect how capable they are in terms of skill level and understanding of content. Because like, it's just the system doesn't work for them. So like, if there's a lot of it's very complicated, like marks are very complicated subject, it's not as simple as seeing Oh, like, you know, my child got an A, or got it like a 90%. And it's, you know, fantastic, and they're gonna be successful in life. You know, when you you're one of those people that don't fit into the system, like, what does that mean?


Tara Gratto  26:04



Amy Yeung  26:04

So this is we're looking at a report card as just an indication of where they are. And, you know, of course, we're in education, we have a curriculum, we have a standard that we have to follow. So we look at where they are, in comparison to that standard. And as an educator, I start thinking about, okay, how can I support their growth, so they can move towards the standard, and that way, when they move on to the next level, they are a little more successful in terms of outcome,


Tara Gratto  26:32



Amy Yeung  26:32

and little more successful in terms of understanding how to do school? Y


Tara Gratto  26:36

Yeah, And I think it's an important point. So one of the reasons I wanted to have this conversation with you is twofold. Ontario is not the same as the rest of the world. In some cases, like grade 12, I having worked International, I know, there's schools where marks do matter from like, grade 10 up. But I did want to, like, share that piece, because it means there's a very big trajectory. It's kind of like anyone who's been following my podcast knows I talk about emotional regulation and executive functioning being like a 20 year trajectory, we need to think about school the same way. One, mark one class one report card, one is only a snapshot in time, it doesn't mean that's the end. That doesn't mean that whatever we're envisioning, and again, that goes back to our first topic, maybe it's what we're envisioning as success that's holding us sort of a back from supporting our children with the skills they need to develop. The other thing I know, and I see this, especially with parents who are like, I have a I'm a perfectionist, I have a child who focuses heavily on these kinds of things. When we focus on marks, we aren't making space for growth in different areas, right? Because it becomes right or wrong. And the more I'm learning about the world we live in, it is not a right and wrong world anymore.


Amy Yeung  27:54

No, and the other thing about thinking in that right or wrong way is that then your child becomes afraid to take risks. And learning is actually all about taking risk, especially if you're learning something new.


Tara Gratto  28:07



Amy Yeung  28:08

And when you're learning something new, you're not going to do it that well, because you're new at it, and you're probably going to fail the first few times you try something,


Tara Gratto  28:16



Amy Yeung  28:16

And, you know, I've learned that making mistakes is a really big part of learning. And when children are afraid to even try because they're afraid to not get it right. I think that definitely impacts their growth.


Tara Gratto  28:32

And I'm seeing this in the early years, which is why I wanted to have this conversation as like a preschool through. Because it's totally unintentional. I'm putting this out there. Like I am not shaming, judging, blaming any parent listening to this. I've been a part of this system, too. We don't do it on purpose, we really don't. But a part of this trajectory is kids are afraid to fail, because they don't want to disappoint. First, they don't want to disappoint you, then they don't want to disappoint the system. They don't want to disappoint their teacher, there's so many different things. And I think even most recently, Serena Williams, right, huge tennis player, she said the thing that we're most afraid of is failure. And yet that is the thing that will teach us the most, right, learning how to fail is actually an essential life skill, which is, I'm not saying you want your child to fail entire class. That's not where I'm going with this. But if we can see marks and report cards on more of a scale of a life trajectory of a few years, that will help us with the understanding of like, we are building skills over time. And whatever we're not successful at, we have the ability to build skills on and maybe this is a moment where you're like, oh, I need to put some learning supports in for my child. There's an indicator here that the way my child's taking in information in this classroom isn't working. Right, they're not meeting so I need to figure out some alternative ways to help meet their needs. There's all kinds of things that could be there but we have to actually step back and not see the letter as anything more than my child needs to work on some skills, or my child has pretty good mastery of these skills, right? It's not.


Amy Yeung  30:07

And I think as parents that we're, we mean, well, like you say, it's not intentional that we put these kinds of pressures or children, I think most parents want the best for their children. And, but we know we are raised in a certain society that espouses certain values. And it does help to sit back and really think about how our actions are affecting, you know, our children's thinking. And, and I think that like, when we only focus on outcome, we become very stressed about as parents, like, we're very stressed for our children, and then our children are stressed because you said they don't want to disappoint and I, and in my teaching career, I would say in the last 10 or so years, like I've seen a rise in the amount of anxiety among students, when I first started my career, like you would meet students who were anxious about taking a test like it, and it wasn't in you know, you could accommodate them by just giving them a little bit of space and time, and they were fine. But now, I meet, a lot more students who are coping with a level of anxiety that like I've never really seen before.


Tara Gratto  31:16



Amy Yeung  31:17

Where they're just so worried about failure about disappointing their parents about just not being good enough. And it really honestly breaks my heart. Because, you know, these are, these are people with so much potential and so much to give to the world that they can't see past that, that fear of failure, fear of disappointment, and I think that we have to be cognizant when we talk to our children about


Tara Gratto  31:42

these kinds oftopics.


Amy Yeung  31:43



Tara Gratto  31:44

And I think I think that's a great like, it loops back to like, our main theme of like, what we want for our children is success. By what we define as success isn't something that we can actually predict, which is super uncomfortable. It is super uncomfortable to be a parent and say, I want you to be successful. And I have no idea what that's gonna look like we do not like unknown, like, the unknown is extremely distressing, extremely uncomfortable. But as you just said, and I'm seeing the same thing, I'm seeing very young children with levels of anxiety that are sort of off the charts. And I think there's a lot of layers to it. But I think a lot of it also does have to do with I mean, questions I got in my preschool? When are you going to start learning how to write when are you going to learn how to right we we have started to academic eyes not started, this has been a trajectory for about 10 years, where we brought grade one into JK, and you know, grade two, so the expectations for learning had been pushed down, push down. And the reason I want to have this conversation is I think it's because of where we think children need to be I call it the invisible Ivy League checklist, this idea that there are a bunch of things our children need to do to be successful in getting to the school we want them to get to, to the profession that we're hoping for, or categories of professions. And right there's the stereotypical ones, right, doctor, you know, engineer, there's, like, there's a few stereotypical ones.


Tara Gratto  33:14

And I think that's a great segue to our the third topic that we're going to talk about, and that is, why does thinking about certain professions, post secondary destinations, why is that a problematic approach to parenting? And how does it affect mindset? How do you think it affects children's mindset? How do you think it affects parent mindset? And how do you see it playing out? Because I know you get a lot of kids in your office who are like, I'm supposed to be XYZ.


Amy Yeung  33:42

Right? And, you know, and quite frankly, I grew up in that kind of thinking, where my parents had a specific idea of what it should be, as we're all parents do. And, in fact, I think my my, my dad was a little bit disappointed that I end up going into education, but in the end, it worked out. So it's all good. But, but definitely, I think that I talked about this topic a lot with students and parents, because part of my job as a secondary guidance counselor is to, to look at the big picture and ask the questions like where do you want to go when you graduate? And it's really interesting to see like when the students have a say in it, versus when only the parents have a say in it. I've seen a lot of students struggle with like, for example, it says, you know, there's that list of professions that seem to be popular, like I've had students who tell me they want they have to go into engineering because it's what their parents want, but they're not actually interested in it. They may be more into the arts, or they may be more into social studies. But their parents want them to be engineers because they believe that engineering is the path to success?


Tara Gratto  35:02

I think the the undertone is financial success, right? What defines success? Because I think, and this is why I'm just gonna say it bluntly, I think when we stop and think about as parents, what do we define as success? How do we define unhappy people who have financial stability as success? It's a tough question.


Amy Yeung  35:23

no, like, I would love my children. If I'm picturing them as adults, I would love them to actually be content.


Tara Gratto  35:30



Amy Yeung  35:32

And, you know, quite frankly, I've I know, I have known people who have a lot of money are so unhappy.


Tara Gratto  35:38



Amy Yeung  35:39

And then I there are people who don't have a lot of money, but they're very content with their life. Story, so you're right. Like what defines success? So I think that, I mean, it depends also to, like, on on the parents experience, you know, my parents are immigrants. You know, they grew up without a whole lot of money, a whole, not a whole lot of money. But to them, like success is financial success.


Tara Gratto  36:03



Amy Yeung  36:04

Right. So you know, what, the expectations we grew up with, we sometimes then put it on our children. And then so yeah, like these students who come to me and say, Look, my parents want me to do this, but I really want to do this. They, they feel very conflicted, like they just don't know where to go. And I see, I've seen this play out in a couple of ways. One way is that the child follows a path that their parents have dictated for them. And they go off to university, and for example, they will go into that first year engineering program, and they will come back and say, I am doing really badly like, yeah, and


Tara Gratto  36:41

I failed out


Amy Yeung  36:42

I am not it like just, I'm just not interested in it. And it's really, really hard.


Tara Gratto  36:47

And I hate it. Like it's


Amy Yeung  36:50

just not and is now worth thousands of dollars spent Right? Like,


Tara Gratto  36:54

yeah, and there's nothing worse than having to own that failing. And having spent 1000s of dollars like that. I've seen that. I've seen that too. Right? Kids, nobody talks about that part. Nobody talks about, like not everybody gets to school to post secondary and passes. If you're not really passionate about what you're doing to put in the hard work to get through, you will fail.


Amy Yeung  37:17

Yes. It's not easy. So, that's one, one way is played out. The other way is played out is that this student will follow their path, regardless of what their parents may want. And sometimes the parents come around and say, okay, like, I realized that now like, you know, that my child is studying this, they're they're a lot happier, they're much more engaged in school, and it's, it's good, or, you know, the parents become disengaged with their children, because their children are now not interested in what right, parents thought their children should be interested in,


Tara Gratto  37:52



Amy Yeung  37:53

And then now there's that that rift in the relationship between the child and their parents, right, where you're, the parents are now like this, the child is no longer was wishes to interact with their parent, because it becomes a point of contention, what they're wanting to study


Tara Gratto  38:06

Doing. Right? Those are the conversations that used to break my heart, break my heart. I had several of those. When I was working as a guidance counselor, where I watched I just watched the split in relationship happen.


Amy Yeung  38:21

And then you know, this is where you question is like, okay, as a parent, at what point do I then say, okay, like, I need to let go of that ideal. Like if I, if I were expecting my child to be an engineer, and I realized that we're making them miserable, right? You know what, you know, do I need to let this go? Or, you know, do I just carry on with my expectation? Because I know best.


Tara Gratto  38:44



Amy Yeung  38:45

It's tough.


Tara Gratto  38:46

There's no straight, there's, there's definitely layers of nuance, for sure.


Amy Yeung  38:50

And I'm not judging, you know, how people think and their expectations of their children. Like, this is not a judgment thing. It's just more about this is what I've seen


Tara Gratto  39:01



Amy Yeung  39:02

these are the possible outcomes, and it's good to be informed of what could happen, or to think critically of what could happen. When we don't foster you know, our, what our children are, I guess, naturally interested in and inclined to do. Yeah, I think there is an I think that's an important element and because, you know, like, I think we all do have natural talents, like we are all inclined to do something. Like, I'm not a sporty person at all. Okay, like in fact, I'm always in awe of like, people who are very athletic, like, it's just not my thing. And, but like, but I have other talents, right? And this is what I say to my children like you have you have your talents. I have my talents and other people have like, we all have talents. And I think it's important to recognize that like I you know, I'm a I'm never gonna be an Olympic athlete. This is okay.


Tara Gratto  40:05

Yeah, and I think the hard part about that, I mean, the hard part about that is, some people's talents are rewarded more financially than others. I'm just saying that out loud. The truth is some talents are currently seen. And the only way that's going to change is if we start to open spaces for conversations like this, for one. And for two, understanding that helping our children define their success is by by helping them find their talents and I,


Tara Gratto  40:37

I've seen the kids who go to university, and then go to college, which is our next conversation. They go to university, because they had to, because it was the right place for them to go, because that's where you go when you're quote unquote, supposed to finish school. And then they went to college, where they were happy, and performed extremely well, they barely got through university, barely, if they did, they failed quite a few courses, or whatever the case may be. And then they came out of college, flying colors, and now work in professions that are really good fit for them as people. So this is the like our fourth topic, and it's a big one, it is a big one, because this one I actually see and people tell me even in the age three, so I have quite a few age three parents that I've worked with in the last 10 years, my kids gonna go to Harvard, my kids gonna go to U of T, my kid's gonna XYZ because we as parents sometimes think that where our children go is a reflection of our parenting, which is really interesting. I am a hugely academic person, if you've been following me, you know that university is where I belonged. It is the space where I belonged. My brain belonged there. Maybe one day I'll do my PhD, it is one of my sort of dreams. But something I learned as an educator that I didn't understand before I was an educator, is that university isn't for everyone. It's not the place that everyone should go. And you don't have to go to university to be successful. So let's have that conversation. What's out there in post secondary? And?


Amy Yeung  42:17

Well, I mean, I think what you're saying can be construed as controversial, you know,


Tara Gratto  42:21

Oh, for sure.


Amy Yeung  42:24

University is not for everybody. I mean, if we think about the history of university like it, it was something that existed for, you know, elite members of society who could afford and go study whatever, like,


Tara Gratto  42:37



Amy Yeung  42:38

because they didn't have to worry about going to work and earn Yeah. And why need to have the time to be able to go to university, and it's,


Tara Gratto  42:48

That's a very good point.


Amy Yeung  42:49

There was a point in time I think, where having a university degree would have been a guarantee, almost of good job after you graduate. And as a result of having a good job with a livable wage, you could have a pretty comfortable life financially, I think, you know that that was true at some point in time. But I think that in the last in the last while when I say while I was would say probably in the time of my career, like in my 20 years. Yeah. It is now no longer the case, that having a university degree is going to guarantee you a job. Because, you know, I like you said there are people who go and get degrees. And sometimes they're not necessarily struggling through university, they really love what they they've studied, they come out and they just can't find any work and don't have any skills. Either. They don't have the skills to work, or they haven't had that experience, because they've been students for a very long time, or they have studied something that is not in demand in the job market. So there's no employers,


Tara Gratto  43:58



Amy Yeung  43:59

And so like, it's, I think it's much more complicated than than it used to be like I


Tara Gratto  44:05



Amy Yeung  44:06

and yeah, there's a lot out there. There's a lot that we don't, that people don't know, they're not aware of like all the different ways that somebody can move into a profession or occupation or area of study. And of course, like I mean, I speak for my experience in Ontario. And you know, you may have other experiences. But I definitely think that we as parents need to be more open minded as to what will lead to success because our system currently in education is we're geared towards. I don't know, funnel is the right word, but we're geared towards encouraging students


Tara Gratto  44:45

I'm afraid of that word  now.


Amy Yeung  44:50

And the, the way that school is structured is, is very much a university type of structure like there's a lot of especially in high school expects students should be able to listen and take notes. And, you know, it's a lot of sitting and listening and reading and that and that's a very University type of education hands.


Tara Gratto  45:10

Yeah. Which is not how everybody learns, I think, I think you made two really important points that I want to talk about. One is it previously was a very privileged experience, it still is, I would be, I need to put a claim there, like it still is an extremely privileged experience. And I think that that lens is a really important one to have mentioned, because my point in sharing what I was sharing was to say, we look down upon technical school, we look down upon what in Canada is defined as college again, there's some confusion there, because the states, universities and colleges are both called College, we define them slightly differently here in Canada. But this idea that if you don't get to university, you are not worthy. And as you just said, even the education system is teaching kids that there are lesser human beings, if they aren't able to do the academic stream. And that that was part of what I was sharing is like university, I because I love to debate and I love to have conversations, and I love to research. Like if I get research all the time, I would be totally happy, right. And if you've been following me, you know that I do research for fun. Not everybody thinks that's fun, right? I may not be successful in a different stream, it doesn't make me a better person. It doesn't make me more successful. It doesn't make me above somebody. And I think that's the point that I really wanted to put out into the world is we need to stop hierarchy being hierarchy. That's not a word I just invented. We need to stop funneling to one place, we need to stop putting one above the other. Right University is not a higher standard. And you made a great point that I hadn't thought of. It's because of privilege, elitism. There's all kinds of reasons that that has come out of why University is the destination that people have sort of become to see as if you don't go, you're a failure. And the thing that I want to put out is, we need to stop thinking that way.


Tara Gratto  45:13

First of all, there's a ton of people who come on to university, who then do even more, I have to post secondary degrees. I'm one of these people, I was like, I did my first one, and then I was like, this isn't the only one I'm gonna do, I'm gonna do another one. That's my privilege that I had somebody who supported me to do multiple degrees. Because when I came out of my undergrad, I wasn't ready to be done in school. And when it came out in my first master's, I didn't want to do what I originally thought, which was be a lawyer. Right? So then I did my master's in education, that's privilege, but that's also like, I didn't come out of school with skills, right? And there are people who come out of technical school, college, or work experience, who do just fine financially. I keep coming back to this point, because I know that's the actual sort of success marker,


Amy Yeung  47:22



Tara Gratto  47:22

And that's why I really want because you and I had a fascinating conversation probably six weeks ago, about this, what is out there. So if I'm putting the blunt, controversial, like, we need to stop thinking of university as the be all end all, because it's not anymore. It's no longer as you were saying the thing that you could do to guarantee yourself a job, it's no longer that. So if we're being more intentional about redefining success, and we're being more intentional about supporting our children with their passions, what are the things are out there? How can we help open up some space for conversation.


Amy Yeung  48:37

When I this conversation with students, I always start off with, like, what are you interested in? You know, occupation wise, what would you really love to do? Because depending on, you know, what the students goals are, what they envision themselves doing, like, there's ways to get there. So what I mean by that is, for example, a student comes into my office says, you know, I really want I'm interested in becoming an electrician. And I mean, that's fantastic, as you know, like, the trades are very in demand in this particular job market right now. And you know, to even have an electrician come to your house, they're going to charge you 100 bucks, just to show up, like it's like, how do I become an electrician? You know, what for to become an electrician. In Ontario, in particular, you have to become an apprentice,


Tara Gratto  49:24



Amy Yeung  49:24

And so, people are often fascinated by this constantly, what is an apprenticeship so an apprenticeship is where you are working with a licensed trades person. And you know, there's a mixture of work and then there's a little bit of schooling that you would do like in the evenings or or whatever it may be. And know the process of becoming an apprentice usually takes several years. But at the end of the while, then you become a certified tradesperson. And, you know, that is actually the only way to become an electrician in Ontario is to go through an apprenticeship process. It doesn't even matter if you have a degree in electrical engineering. If you want to be certified, a certified electrician, you need to go through an apprenticeship so apprenticeships are are great in that. They're for the people who want to get into the trades who just really they just want to practice their craft by going to work.


Tara Gratto  50:19



Amy Yeung  50:19

And apprentice, you get paid while you're being while your apprentice. I mean, you don't get paid as much as you would at once you're fully certified.


Tara Gratto  50:26



Amy Yeung  50:27

But you know, that's a great option for people who are really not interested in, in sitting in the classroom and learning, right? Like, they just want to get to work.


Tara Gratto  50:35



Amy Yeung  50:35

They want to get to work in and this is where you it's, we call it a skilled trade because you do have to learn the skill. And you do that with a licensed trades person.


Tara Gratto  50:44



Amy Yeung  50:45

So that's, you know, one opportunity for people who are really into like just wanting to go to work and just want to get right into it. And I would say you could have a very successful career as a tradesperson,


Tara Gratto  50:57

for sure. And the trades are really working hard right now to get that messaging out there. When I'm on LinkedIn, I keep seeing people, they're like, can we like this is a dying art, this is a dying right, that but we still need, we still need,


Amy Yeung  51:10

Oh we for sure need, like the people like we need these kinds of skills in our world, like we need people who can do these things. Because if we had nobody to do these, like who who would we hire?


Tara Gratto  51:23

This is all seen it still need electricity? Yeah, we haven't automated that far yet. And that's, I mean, I will say you do need a high school diploma? Correct? You cannot? Can you be an electrician without a high school diploma? Or do you have to have a high school diploma?


Amy Yeung  51:39

I suppose you could, like eventually you went through years and years and years of trading to get where you need to go as soon as possible. But the preference is that, that students have a high school diploma and for certain trades, they want certain subjects. So I think to be an electrician, you need English, you need some math, and you even need some physics. So, you know, to I think there is a stigma on trade against the trades, you know, people look at trades as something lesser than, what's the term I often hear that I actually don't really like. Now, is the idea of the blue collar worker, like I don't enjoy that term.


Tara Gratto  52:14

Yeah, no, I don't either.


Amy Yeung  52:16

Because you know, then you're putting hierarchy on, on on various occupations. And I don't believe in that.


Tara Gratto  52:23

And that's part of the university conversation, right? Yeah. University leads to so called quote, I'm putting air quotes white collar jobs and college or technical school leads to quote unquote, blue collar jobs, like, and I think that's part of the conversation, we're just having, we have to, we have to, like, that's so outdated. Now, we need to move past that way of thinking. Because if we really do want to support people becoming who they are, and being great at what they do, we can't categorize. We can't categorize success, we can't delineate that's one of the biggest things we just need to get rid of. Right?


Amy Yeung  53:00

Oh, I totallyagree. And I think that, you know, every person has a purpose, and every profession has a purpose, like, when you cannot find an electrician, that electrician is going to be very valuable. Yes, you know, once upon a time, but we don't when we think about the concept of quote unquote, blue collar jobs, they were jobs where you didn't necessarily need to go to post secondary, and it was easier for people to get a job and in the sort of unskilled areas and be able to, to make a living. And then I think, when universities became important, and when we universities, were popular, you know, at that point in time, where it did, in fact, actually guarantee you a job career. I think that's where the concept of white collar blue collar really became a thing. But I think now we're moving away from that, because we realize now that we need a balance. Like it's not just about everyone needs to get a university degree or everyone needs to go into the trades. It's about finding what works for you.


Tara Gratto  54:06

Yeah, I don't know if everyone's come to this balance. You and I have for sure. That's why I think that's why we're having this conversation is to be like there, we need to strike balance, we need to do humans like to pick sides, right? We like to pick, I talked about this emotional science all the time, right? We either want to suppress feelings we want to free for all. It's the middle, right? And that's something that experience has definitely taught me and you and I talked about this regularly, right? How we think now and how we thought 20 years ago is way, way, way different. And one of the things that I definitely know, I am a way more balanced thinker than I was when I was younger, way, way more. So I think that's one of my goals with my podcast is to help parents also maybe see more balanced approaches to things by stepping back and being like, Oh, I never thought of it this way. I mean, I'm kind of getting known for that idea of like, oh, I never thought of it this way. So if this podcast is giving you some thoughts about, oh, I've never thought about this this way this was that was the goal, right? How do we strike balance? How can we help parents strike greater balance by by exposing them to these ideas, right of like, what's out there.


Tara Gratto  54:06

And then I think the last topic in this sort of post secondary piece that I want to talk to you about is like the world is changing, like, on a trajectory that we can't even mindblowingly keep up with. How can parents find out more about what's out there? How can parents start to maybe move past some of the more stereotypical ideas of job success? Because there's tons and tons and tons of jobs that I don't even know exist? I wouldn't even know where to start looking for them. Where what would be a good place for some parents who are just like, I'm just thinking about some of my kids passions, and helping shape some ideas with them? Is there a do you have an idea or some suggestions for where people could look?


Amy Yeung  56:08

Well, I actually I learned a lot from talking to post secondary institutions. And in particular, like I've, I've, you know, being a teacher, I've had to get two university degrees, so I have a good idea of what universities like. But in my role at my school in particular, I actually spent a lot of time looking at college programs. And so I've learned that you, you can actually ask the schools, you can ask the schools like, and this is actually quite a popular question, when I go to what we call these college dialogues, where we, as guidance counselors go and we talk to college reps. The question is, what programs you have that are under subscribed, but have a high rate of employment after the after the program is complete. Cool. And that's actually how I've learned about a lot of really cool programs out there. Because when you're not in the institutions, you don't know what's available. So this is why we as a society tend to fixate on on certain professions, you know, I have met a lot of people are interested in nursing,


Tara Gratto  57:21



Amy Yeung  57:22

But nursing, it tends to be something that is oversubscribed, like very competitive to get into just because so many people apply to it, because that's what we know.


Amy Yeung  57:30



Amy Yeung  57:31

So if you know, if your your child is interested in a particular area, you could go to an institution like you talk to the university reps and the college reps, and you say, okay, like, you know, what areas are related to this area of study that may not be necessarily popular,


Tara Gratto  57:47



Tara Gratto  57:48



Amy Yeung  57:48

they actually know, they can tell you, you know, what programs. And I would say, and I don't know if this is a controversial thing to say or not. But this is just my observation, I would say the colleges, particularly in Ontario, have a pretty good understanding of what industry is looking for. I think that's because colleges in Ontario tend to be more for job training, they have a better understanding of what employers are looking for. And they will train students according to those those needs. Whereas universities are more, I think, research based and more interested in theory and that sort of work. So and actually had this interesting conversation with a parent of a student, but this parent also works at the university. And they said, You know what, I actually see that as well that, you know, universities don't necessarily know what the job market needs.


Amy Yeung  57:48

So this is where it goes back to where you meet people who have university degrees, but then go to college for a year, so they can actually get the skills they need to be employed. Right. So there's a lot of out there. And I think the best thing is to just ask, and, and in terms of trade, you could ask, like, there's like, a lot of online resources these days where you could connect with people in industry and ask questions about that. And that particular industry, like there's just I think you need to just explore and ask,


Tara Gratto  59:25

and when do you think parents should start doing this? Because I know that's sort of, in the back of some people's minds, they're gonna come away from this conversation with Okay, when when would you say, like, if we were to put this like grade 10 ish, what do you think?


Amy Yeung  59:38

I would say grade 10. This is a good time to start. Because I actually we just went through core selection. So I've had a lot of these kinds of conversations. Yeah, I would say like grade in grade nine and grade 10 In high school for the first two years of high school and more exploratory like this is where students are just sitting there trying to figure out what they enjoy and so they may take a variety of course CES just to see like where their passions lie, it's when you hit the last couple of years of high school within it helps to actually have an eye, you have an idea of where you want to go, because the courses you take will influence your next generation. Yeah. So usually in grade 10, i, this is when I started having conversations with with students about like, where do you envision yourself after high school? And sometimes you don't know. And that's fair. I mean, you're like 15 years old.


Tara Gratto  1:00:30

I just wanted to put like a marker on there, because I know, we have a range of audience that listens to my podcast, and sort of the bulk is definitely in the younger, but I still wanted them to hear this conversation. Because I know that's in the back of every parent's mind whether their child is two or four or 10. Right, in the back of the mind is where are they going to go after? Because that's the whole reason we go to school, right? We go to school, to prepare ourselves for the after.


Amy Yeung  1:01:00



Tara Gratto  1:01:01

So you know, where do we start to worry about marks? Right? We talked about that? Where do we start to? So sort of where do we start to think about the next step. So it's grade 10. But that means being open and the journey previous to really be able to, to the looping back to those first four. So we could just do a little loop back on those first four things for the onset, like when you were sharing in


Amy Yeung  1:01:23

The framework? Yeah.


Tara Gratto  1:01:25

So what was that framework?


Amy Yeung  1:01:27

So the first like, question was, who am I? Right? Right, understanding my interests, my strengths, my skill sets? What are my opportunities? Who do I want to become? And what is my plan for achieving my goals?


Tara Gratto  1:01:44

Right. So if we think about that framework, the idea would be around grade 10, to be able to start to answer some of those questions. Right. So before that, we want to expose our children with less judgment around marks, maybe accepting failure differently, seeing things in a different sphere, right, being open to learning as a trajectory, and versus, you know, every mark being, so that by grade 10, we can start to answer some of those questions so that between grade 10, and grade 12, we can actually potentially set ourselves up with a destination now that


Amy Yeung  1:02:23

I'm thinking about these questions is almost like there's a bit of, I guess, a timeline and how these questions are laid out. So that the very last question, what is my plan for achieving my goals? Like, that's really something you could talk about in the senior years of high school?


Tara Gratto  1:02:38



Amy Yeung  1:02:38

right. Even the question of like, Who am I?  That could start in kindergarten, where, you know, children are exploring who they are, what they're interested in, you know, where their skill sets lie, I think that it's really a journey, right? Like this, this, this framework. So I mean, I, it's important to think of in high school, but I think it actually starts earlier,


Tara Gratto  1:03:01

for sure,


Amy Yeung  1:03:02

but you can't really make a plan for achieving your goal until you know who you are, you know, you know, who you want to become, um, you know, where you can explore some of the interests that you have to go through that process. Before getting to that point of like, now, now, I can actually make plans to achieve my goal,


Tara Gratto  1:03:20

right. And it doesn't mean that a bad math mark in Grade Two is going to mean anything more than we need to focus more on skills or different supports for maths in grade two. Right. That's the, the bigger picture.


Tara Gratto  1:03:33

All right, thank you so much for joining me, Amy's gonna join me in another conversation about the role of educators and what they can and can't do to support children what they are trained to do, who's trained to do what? That's going to be one of our future conversations, if you have a conversation you'd like us to have. So if you'd like some insight from longtime educators about understanding the school system or how it impacts your child, just head to my podcast page, Tara Forward slash podcast and hit the Submit question, and it'll allow you to submit a question so you have something you'd like us to talk about in a future episode. Just let me know. Thanks so much for joining me, Amy.


Amy Yeung  1:04:14

Thanks for having me, Tara. Until next time.


Tara Gratto  1:04:19

Thanks so much for listening. Don't forget to hit that subscribe button so you don't miss future episodes. You can also submit questions or comments to me at Tara forward slash podcast. I'd love to hear from you. Until next time, have a great one.

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