Blog post by MIssy Halcott, PTAC Member
What did you learn in high school?
I learned that I wasn’t good enough to pursue my dreams.
Sadly, I am not alone in feeling my ambitions were not embraced or encouraged by the adults responsible for educating our youth. I have heard others share that their families didn’t go to college, so it was not expected that they would either. Instead, their educators gently nudged them in another direction, or they were told flat out that their plans were too lofty.
As educators, isn’t it our charge to educate our students and inspire lifelong learning?
We must be careful to not douse the passions and dreams of our students. Instead, we must give them the tools to deal with the inevitable roadblocks that everybody faces in life.
We must not be one of those roadblocks.
Teachers have the power to nurture students’ dreams and fan the flames of their passions. We can allow them to explore all their options in the safety confines of the K-12 learning environment.
We are often told that there are jobs that will exist in the future that we aren’t even cognizant of today. How can we predict what job paths are best for certain students?
The simple truth is that we can’t. We shouldn’t engage in any activities that stifle a student’s pursuits. Our mission as educators should be to engage learners and encourage them to reach for the stars.
We need to embrace the fact that the “lifelong learning” mentioned in so many Pennsylvania school mission statements means we are never our best selves and we are always growing.
Our students are always growing too. In order for their fullest potential to be realized, we cannot limit them or restrict their opportunities.
It is vital that we stop placing students on predetermined paths, and instead ask them what their intentions are. Then we can assist them in exploring the possibilities.
Career exploration should be about learning what opportunities exist for students, not curtailing or narrowing the possibilities based on grades, gender, economics, or our perception of their talents.
History has taught us that there are many famous athletes, scientists, artists, performers, politicians, and even educators who were once told that their dreams were unattainable.
Albert Einstein, a dyslexic, was considered a poor student by his educators.
Michael Jordan was once deemed too short to play on his varsity basketball team.
Lady Gaga was a self-proclaimed misfit in school.
Steve Jobs dropped out of college due to financial difficulties.
These successful people ignored the naysayers, powered on, and forged their own paths toward their destinies. The list of others who have triumphed over trials is endless. I often wonder how much farther or sooner success would have come if they had been given a leg up from those who doubted them in the first place.
Consider the power behind this quote from Alfred Doblin,
“I used to think great teachers inspire you. Now I think I had it wrong. Good teachers inspire you; great teachers show you how to inspire yourself everyday of your life. They don’t show you their magic. They show you how to make magic of our own.”
Why shouldn’t educators allow themselves to foster an environment of exploration and the magical possibilities of the future for their students?
I was fortunate enough to rise above the doubt that was cast on me when I was a student in order to become a successful teacher. Others were not so lucky. We must create environments where students to do not have extra obstacles to overcome in order to be successful in life.
Instead of anchoring our students to their futures, why don’t we instead anchor our students to the idea of chasing down their dreams?
Pennsylvania Teachers Advisory Committee