What We Wish Our Students Knew

Every year we welcome hundreds of students into our building. We make sure they have a warm and friendly environment, that they have teachers who are competent and knowledgeable, and that they have the materials and resources (as best we can provide) to be successful. We also know that we cannot control everything. We have them for about eight hours a day, and then we send them back to where they live. I was originally going to say we send them “home”, but that is sometimes a loose term. In all honesty, we have no idea what we send them home to. In some cases, it is a large , almost mansion type of dwelling that on the outside looks like a fine place. Sometimes there is no home at all, simply a car or transient hotel of some kind. But sometimes it is what we do not see that has the most impact, positive or negative, on our students. These are the hours and influence that we, as educators, have no control over.
But what if we did? What if we could wave a magic wand and ALL of our kids would have the life lessons that they need to be successful? To persevere? To show determination? Regardless of their home life, regardless of race, regardless of socioeconomic settings. What life lessons would we want them to know? In a perfect world, here is my short list:
·      Life is Not Fair. Everyone has ups and downs in life. No life is perfect. What we persevere through determines to a great extent who we are. During times when everything is going well, it is easy to enjoy life. What happens when you don’t get what you want? What happens when disappointment comes? Failure? How do you react when things AREN’T going well? That determines your outlook on life, and our students need to experience the highs and lows of life, and learn how to deal with both.
·      Life is Not Equal. Forget about fair, we all know that life is not fair to everyone. But it is not equal either. Not everyone gets the same as everyone else. I often hear parents and students tell me that whatever decision I have just made is not “fair”. I explain that it is fair, but it is not equal. These are two very different terms that are often used interchangeably. Big mistake.
·      Hard Work is Mandatory for Success. In a world of excess, what I think is often ignored here in the real world is that we have to work for what we want. Want to be a great singer? It takes dedication and practice. Want to be a doctor? It takes years of difficult studying and dedication. Want to be a…well, you get the idea. Students need to understand that very little in this world comes easily. To be a success, however you want to measure that word, hard work is a necessary ingredient.
·      Failure is Not a Bad Thing. We have established a climate where even the slightest discomfort to some of our students is not acceptable to parents. This bears absolutely no resemblance to real life. In the real world, not everyone gets a trophy. Not everyone makes the team or gets to play the same amount. We are not successful every time we attempt something. This is life. The most important thing is not that we fail, but how we deal with this inevitable failure. Do we whine and complain? To we sulk and pout? Or do we roll up our sleeves and get back to the drawing board? Do we look at our failure and determine how to make it better? How we deal with failure is more important than whether or not we fail.
·      Living Life is the First Priority. No amount of high grades, credits, or academic rewards can replace the experiences of life. Enjoy the roses, visit a foreign country, make friends with someone who has a different culture than yours. These are learning experiences that cannot be duplicated in the classroom and they are invaluable to young people. Take it one step further. Provide a service, volunteer, do something for no other reason than it makes someone else feel good and there is no reward for you doing it. Priceless.

While this is purely my opinion, it think there is some validity to each of these. What would be on your list of things you wish you kids knew?
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About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. President of the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals.
This entry was posted in Learning, Life lessons, Students and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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