Our views are formed based on experiences. Professionally, mine emanate from a life that includes an enormous amount of reading, formal education and then this: raising a gaggle of kids. With a blended family of six children, we have had the United Nations of learning styles under our roof. Our engaged kids spend part of their time as:
- A Carpenter
- A Master Electrician
- A Law clerk heading to grad school
- A Painter in art school
- A Musician/physics major and
- Our baby is a senior in high school. Science is her thing.
Watching these kids go through school as an educator was often tricky. “Put him on the bus and go to work, Mary!” is what I often had to say, especially with my drummer/pencil tapper who drove teachers mad with the noise. Who they were in elementary is not who they were in middle school and high school. Engagement varied greatly from year to year during school for each of them. Watching their person emerge in young adulthood has been fascinating. They do take pieces of us and make them their own over time.
As a mother, you see potential. That is your focus. You want them standing solid as adults and you support their strengths with a vengeance. You follow them closely over time. The system often sees the student in their context at that particular time. This limited view, at times, is constraining during temporary struggles. It can subtly set limits on who they are and often infers who they will be. This can be discouraging, especially during the highly social context of learning in adolescence when they are consumed with figuring out how they fit into an often brutal environment. Keeping it in perspective is important: the message they need to hear is that tomorrow can be better.
Who you see in class is a work in progress. We do not know where they are going. We simply try to set them up for success and support them with the next step. Managing conflict, disappointments, hurdles- this is where the learning is real. Keeping hopeful is vital.
One thing I know from our children is this: once they had a goal, the switch flipped and their blinders went on. Nothing could stop them. This had a positive impact on every learning experience they had going forward.
Helping kids discover their goals is one way educators and parents can support a more engaged child. Modeling goal-driven behavior is a step in the right direction. The goal is not the aim, instead we hope for goal-driven behaviors that make for a motivated and engaged human being who learns with passion -for life. The timeline for this will vary by person, but it must always be a focus. This is not about specific class related goals or any moment in time alone. It should not be adult-directed. Instead we should be helping them discover what will set them afire , falling forward every single day.