In his book A Mind at a Time, Mel Levine explains his belief that a big part of teaching and parenting entails helping kids through times when they may feel inadequate. It strikes me that this is something we have all experienced and perhaps why, as Levine suggests, we need to consider how all children are fitting in at a particular time in their lives. As we meet today to discuss student progress, goals, and development, it is an opportunity to consider what this means in the life of each elementary school student.
As an educator for thirty years, I came to the realization many years ago that students may come into their own at any time and that a student profile that is set-up for success in school may not be nearly so well suited to career attainment or living a happy and fulfilling life. As teachers, we see many student profiles that win praise throughout elementary school, but which may not in the world of careers or higher education. All of our kids have unique profiles and some work better at certain ages than others. Don’t forget – some of the traits that don’t work well in Grade 3 could be the very assets that will be highly prized in adulthood. It is never wise to prophesy too soon about children because they will inevitably surprise us!
When a child brings home a disappointing grade, parents can take solace in the well-documented finding that report cards are notoriously poor at predicting how a person will fare in a future career. This is because children are capable of changing their strengths and weaknesses over time. Consider the case of the university student with an abysmal first year, but who graduates at the top of the class in year four! Neurodevelopment profiles are not like computer hardware of fossils. They are resilient and ever-growing. We, as parents and teachers, need to find things to praise and encourage in struggling children so they do not give up on themselves while waiting for their day to come.
As we accompany our kids and students each year, we must be on a constant and diligent quest for the “diamond in the rough” or the “buried treasure” within our children. There are so many forces and factors that interact to produce their learning profile and future chances of success: genetics, temperament, peers, health, values, family, and environment. All of these come together in unique combinations for each child in a contemporary life filled with many distractions that can stunt self-confidence, self-esteem, and a willingness to try – too little sleep, a frenetic routine at home or at school, obsession with physical appearance, electronic games, toxic pop culture, comparison with others – the list goes on.
As we continue our work with children (and ourselves!), it is important to accept that it’s never too late to understand and strengthen a mind and set goals and achieve them.
Working together we can strive toward forming young people of purpose from kids of potential. Some students may seem quite ordinary at first glance, but their true beauty as jewels is only realized through the cutting and polishing process.
As parents and teachers, we must work together to be the jewellers.
Ric Anderson, Head of School