I am a planner. I like color-coding. I adore Post-its! I have several sets of Staedtler triplus fineliners, which I use for everything. If one goes out, I buy an entire new set. This weekend my friend Jenny and I began planning our Disney trip. We have finished the first rough draft on a large poster complete with sticky notes and color coded events. This drives my family crazy, however, they reap the benefits once the trip begins. I have compromised by scheduling time for spontaneous choices.
I have always been a planner. I can remember writing a little list of the books I wanted to read when I was in sixth grade. The list was in the back of my English notebook and I checked off the books as I finished them. I was very frustrated if the next book on the list was checked-out as I did not want to read anything out of order. I write down goals. I like making checkmarks. My family uses the Cozi app. Well, I try to make them use it. You get the picture.
In my old age I still believe planning is essential, however, life does not always go as planned. I work with older students these days and I love to ask the age old question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This elicits everything from eye rolls to giggles. A few share with me their goals and admit to having lists. I love their lists. Most share with me some ideas for the future, but many have no clue. As adults, we often try to help them find their pigeon hole. We like plans. We like to give them plans. We want to be positive there is a plan. We like to label...smart...works hard...lazy... and make a plan based on the label.
Maybe we should consider a different route. Maybe as we assist students in making future plans there should be time to offer questions for their personal reflection. The questions could be "What is the last thing on the planet you could see yourself doing?" "What do you do that makes your heart sing?" "What makes you smile?" "What kinds of things just come naturally to you?" "What are the three most important elements you need to be satisfied?" "What do you believe you can do to make the world a better place?" "Do you like working with others?" "What types of things do your independently research?" "What would your friends say are your three best qualities?" "What would your family say are your three best qualities?" "What is your area(s) of weakness?"
Part of my dissertation work focused on Flow. Csikszentmihalyi (1990) states the experience of excellence is called flow or a mental state of operation where a person is fully immersed in an activity and experiences a feeling of extreme energized focus, complete involvement, and success in the activity or simply explained, completely focused motivation. Flow elicits satisfaction. In other word, when the job/activity matches our gifts and talents, we are in our element.
In our molding of children, maybe we should help them find their paths to the person they were created to be rather than simply finding one of the various traditional slots. If our students found their flow, they could live in a place of motivation and satisfaction. We could focus teaching students how to read critically, think logically, make connections, create new ideas, and find answers rather than fill in the blank, circle this or that responses in order to prepare them for uncertain futures. Students would be prepared for the ever-changing world in which we live.
Supposedly, today's youth will change careers six to seven times in their lifetime. Many companies teach specific skills after a person is hired. What companies seek are people who can think, work with others, communicate, and solve problems. Our plans will never match the future, because we really do not know the future. We just guess.
This year my purpose is to help juniors and seniors find their passions, their strengths, their weaknesses, and a variety of opportunities. I pray I will not discourage them or label their abilities. Rather, I pray to be open-minded enough to help them find their callings to make our world a better place. This is my plan, uncolor-coded, but very real. It is also what causes me to be in my element and therefore be very satisfied.
When Jacy was six weeks old I returned to school to start a new school year. I was a very sleep deprived mama, which continued to be the case until she began first grade. The kid just doesn't need much sleep. I am not sure how I taught my classes, graded the papers, planned lessons, and smiled. I was exhausted! People would say to me, "It's only a season." This statement did not make me happy.
Then came the season of the girls being in elementary school. My views of homework changed greatly and I ceased all at-home projects for my own students. We all survived again. Kate graduated a few years ago. Last year, Jacy loved her freshman year in high school. All seemed to be running smoothly, when I realized, a new season has begun.
I finished the dissertation. For the first time since I was 3 years old, I do not have an educational goal in front of me. Jacy is in the midst of learning to drive, taking courses to prepare her for college, and finding all sorts of independent things to do with the church youth group. Joey is running a new program and really enjoying it. Kate has flown the nest and is off on her own adventures.
Seasons come and go. Regardless of where you are right now, a new season is coming. Sometimes we can force the season to change through the choices we make, but often things simply have to run the course.
Students are coming to our schools this week in the midst of a season. Some are coming from homes where a new baby has joined the family or maybe a family member has died. Some are experiencing a season of divorce or maybe a new marriage with step-parents and/or step-siblings joining the mix. Some have had siblings move away to college. Some are beginning new activities, joining new teams, or learning new skills. Some are new to our schools. Regardless, all are in the midst of a very individual season.
The number one thing I discovered in all of my dissertation research, which focused on expert teachers from around the nation, is the relationship between students and teachers is the number one factor to the expert's success. These teachers understand each and every child's current season and work to help them be ready for the next one. They also have a solid understanding of their own season.
As we begin school in the next few days or weeks, I challenge you to get to know your students. Talk to them! Learn about their current seasons, their needs, their hurts, their passions, and their activities. You will find new ways to connect with students and open up your own new season as an educator.
Me? I am trying something new this year working with juniors and seniors. I know! I am such a middle school girl!!! However, this is a new season and I am so excited to learn something new. Enjoy each day, as this season will change before we know it. Know this one simply prepares us for the next.
I am a teacher, which in a single word, sums up my passions and my belief in the future.