“What’s worked for me is not quitting and being passionate about what I do and not giving up – and when I don’t believe in myself, turning to others who believe in me.” -Marc Jacobs
Have you ever had to do something simply because you had to? Sure you have. Grown-ups do it everyday. I don’t want to pay the taxes on my car, but I “have to”. I often don’t want to write long (and sometimes boring) graduate school papers, but I “have to”. I definitely do not enjoy sweating in the yard while pulling weeds, but those three words ring in my ears, “You have to…” Life, as most of us know it, would ultimately halt if we did not do certain tasks we did not enjoy.
So, should we give kids assignments simply because, “they have to…” or should all of education empower them to be creative and follow their dreams. To have balance and be ready for the real world, students will have to complete tasks they (and often times their teachers) don’t enjoy. Spelling tests, long division, learning metric conversions… all of these things I don’t teach because I am passionate about them, I teach them because I have to.
Teachers need to be cognizant that students don’t always enjoy school assignments, but we also need to act as explorers, searching for projects, papers, and writings that show our student’s passions and exemplify a “personal best”. The level of a child’s personal best will vary from child to child.
For some students, you are simply excited they attended school that day and are attempting to complete their math assignment. For others, you have to constantly identify how to challenge them. It does not matter how developed a child is in your classroom. What matters is that they are developing.
Are you discouraged that a child did not progress at a rate that you expected them to last school year? That’s ok. Teachers, and often times parents, are perfectionists and we believe that every student should have exemplary academic success.
I challenge you to shift your focus from what a student has not completed to what they have accomplished. What was each of your student’s personal best this past year. Personal bests may come in different shapes and sizes. It may be a long division problem finally accomplished independently, or a paper that a student put additional effort into within the school year.
It does not matter what each child’s personal best consists of, what does matter is that you make them aware that they have done something extraordinary. How can you define extraordinary to student? Easy, something ordinary with that little bit (or a lot of) extra. Students need help gauging what they are “good” at because some do not know.
Help your students understand that they not only matter in your classroom, but also that they are adding to your classroom and growing as individuals. So, how do we make this post applicable since most of our kids are gone for the summer?
When you greet your students from last year upon the completion of summer, instead of asking, “Hey Donovan! How was your summer?” Think about saying, “It is great to see you Donovan. I was thinking the other day of how wonderful your _________(insert project or paper here) was last year. I hope you work as hard this year!”
It is never to late to inspire your students even when they aren’t “yours” any longer. Today, make it a point to reflect on your students and YOUR personal best.