When I was growing up, I always knew what I wanted to be. It was always definite. It changed often, but was definite.
In kindergarten to third grade, I was going to be an actor. I was going to have one of those gold stars on my door and everything. By the time I was heading toward middle school, I was going to be a doctor and an actor — definitely not a lawyer. Then, when I arrived in high school, I knew that I was going to by a psychiatrist. I was going to go to medical school and end up working with troubled kids; most likely doing high ropes courses with them while we figured out how to get them back on track. I honestly don’t know where that idea came from — the psychiatrist part, I know where the high ropes course idea came from – there was one at Falmouth High School, where I went, and I thought it was the coolest. High school ended, and I went on to college, and became a psychology major and pre-med minor. By the middle of the first year, I realized I wouldn’t be successful at Chemistry, and just became a psychology major – the Chemistry class I was taking was for pre-med students, and it was used to weed out the kids who weren’t going to make it – I was a weed. A week later, psychological statistics was kicking my butt, and I realized, if I couldn’t work with people, at least I could read about them, and I became an English major. My mom, the wise person she is, suggested that I go to the education department and find out how I could get a minor in Education, because, as she said, “At least that way, after college, you may be able to get a job.” This led to that, and I ended up with a Master’s in Special Education and a concentration in Emotional Disabilities, which resulted with me working with troubled kids, who I helped figure out how to get them back on track – no ropes course involved.
It’s strange to think that I ended where I wanted to, but, when you really think about it, I was always working toward that goal. Except for K-3, I was always aiming at going to college. In order to do that, I had to work hard, get good grades, stay out of trouble, and learn as much as I could so that I’d be ready for the next class. My entire educational life was spent getting ready so that I would be prepared for the next class, the next year, the next school. In a very cliché manner, I was an arrow heading for a very specific target.
There are people who may say this is sad. I missed my years in school – just being a kid. But, I always had drive. I always knew why I was doing what I was doing. I always had purpose in my classes. Homework was horrible – I, just like the next kid, hated it – but it wasn’t without purpose. I was honing my skills so that I would be prepared for going to college. Projects were lousy. I detested them – but they weren’t pointless. I was getting ready for when I’d be in college. Every step of the way, I had purpose and direction.
And, as teachers, that is why we must continually prepare students. Carol Dweck, who has done ground breaking work with helping people to understand the importance of a person’s mindset, proves that those students who are continually focused on learning, will learn. We must support that mindset in students. We must help them see that one of the main purposes of homework in elementary school is because, when they arrive in high school, homework won’t be an option, and it is important to develop that habit. We must help them to see that if they study for tests, they will retain the information for longer, which will allow them to understand the next thing they will have to learn, which will help them save time, which will allow them to have more free time to do what they want. We must teach them that by simply doing some self monitoring, they will be able to see how they are able to capture back time and be more successful in school, which will only raise their self confidence.
We must show them how everything now, is to prepare them for the next step. Otherwise, why are they doing anything. Where is the motivation?