Why students should focus on what’s now, not what’s next

Our last child is entering his senior year and we want him to relish the experience. It seems like ever since he entered high school we’ve been focused on preparation. Prepare for the next grade. Prepare for standardized tests. Prepare for college. This may seem a little radical for an educator, but I don’t think worrying so much about grades or college admission is going to inspire curiosity and ignite passion.

Curiosity and passion serve learners right now and continue to serve them long after formal education has been completed. These are the traits of people who create, innovate and cause change.

I want my son to be surprised or inspired every day by something he learns. I want him to ask questions because he wants to know more. Too often the only question students are asking in the classroom is, “Is this going to be on the test?”

In many schools tests scores have become goals rather than measures of learning. Teachers feel pressure to cover the curriculum. Students feel pressure to perform well. Dollars and jobs are often tied to student performance.

In the flurry of SAT exams, college visits, writing essays, constructing a resume and considering other options for next year, I hope the class of 2012 can process the experiences that this year offers. Sadly, many students feel pressure to participate in activities that will make them look well-rounded and take classes that look good on the transcript rather than being encouraged to pursue interests that actually inspire them. I wonder if making college admission the motive for academic success kills the joy of learning and wonder of discovery for some students.

Some students need to fall in love with learning rather than success. Some need time and opportunities for depth in learning as well as breadth. Some need practice dealing with people and money and other life skills. Some need to discover volunteerism as a value rather than an item on a college checklist. Some need the option to delay choices they aren’t ready to make. And all students need to focus on being the people God created them to be right now if they are ever to become the people he means them to be later.

High school juniors and seniors are constantly being asked “Where do you want to go to college?” and “Have you decided on a major?” Neither question defines these young people. Too often the opportunity to have an impactful conversation about what’s going on in their lives now is lost in focusing on what’s next. This is the year when conversations should help young people understand that who they are is infinitely more important than career or financial success.

There are questions that I do like to ask students. They are not on the SAT.

Did you learn anything that amazed you today?

What do you love to do?

Have you seen the hand of God in something you’ve learned?

If you could have one question answered right now, what would you ask?

(Image courtesy of iStockphoto.)

Maureen Herring is the author of “Sinema7: A Movie Watcher’s Guide to the 7 Deadly Sins.” She blogs at Sinema7 and writes a five-sentence devotional every day at Quick Spiritual Reset. She is also a librarian at Hyde Park Baptist High School in Austin, Texas.

Comments (7)

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I am going to be, a college student this coming October..and thanks for this post..hope you want to read my post in my blog concerning, PLANNING INSIDE THE WILL OF GOD at http://edwardbaloja.wordpress....
Maureen--Thank you for inspiring me and reminding me to focus on what's important. So blessed to call you friend!
Yes, yes, and yes. Being passionately curious about even one or two things is often far superior to being merely present in a dozen.

Sadly, many students feel pressure to participate in activities that will make them look well-rounded and take classes that look good on the transcript rather than being encouraged to pursue interests that actually inspire them.

Yeah, this isn't my HS senior. As smart as he may be, all he wants to do is coast, get the "easy A" classes, and hang out with his friends. He thinks colleges are going to beat down his door come early registration. He's unmotivated and lazy, and sometimes kids like that need the constant voice of reason: "there is more to life than playing Xbox and texting all day, and if you don't get on the ball and worry about your education, you're going to miss out on all of the best stuff."

And now, my interpretation of the previously mentioned questions:

Did you learn anything that amazed you today?

"Uhh no. My teachers all suck." (To be fair, my own experience with his teachers leads me to believe he might have a point.)

What do you love to do?

"Uhh I don't know. Why, are you gonna make me do chores?"

Have you seen the hand of God in something you've learned?

"Huh? That's a weird thing to ask. You're freaking me out."

If you could have one question answered right now, what would you ask?

"Why do I only get one hour of Xbox every day?"

Fin.
I could not agree more, Maureen, but rest assured that it will get worse for your child, not better. As a teacher at a large, public, university, I can tell you that the capitalistic nature of your son's education will only increase next year. Unfortunately, the university experience is now almost entirely about picking a major that will lead to the highest paying job.
Great post, Eduardo. Your desire to seek first the kingdom is inspiring. I suspect that God has some amazing things for you this year and that wherever you choose to go after high school God will have gotten there ahead of you and have work and blessings waiting for you. Enjoy your year!
It's painful to watch our kids shrink their possibilities and miss out on good things. Praying for you and your son.

 

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