Changing the Focus for School Success
“School success” and whether children view themselves as “smart” and “not smart” seems to depend solely on grades received, but what about all the other areas where students shine that aren’t reflected on the report card? What about the student who struggles academically but is the most creative thinker in the class? What about the student who struggles academically, but is the kindest student, incredibly artistic, or an amazing athlete or musician? What about the one who is a natural leader or the one who is most reliable and helpful? Most importantly, what about the one who always puts forth their best effort and works harder than everyone else but still doesn’t get the best marks? Why don’t those students generally feel successful and how can we change that?
Focusing less on marks and more on the journey of learning is a good place to start. I’ve always told my own children and the students in my class that if they get an ‘A’ and didn’t study it is not very impressive. That likely means the student is naturally good at that subject and likely already knew the material if they can get that kind of mark without any effort – lucky them. For me, it is much more impressive to get a ‘C’ (or any mark for that matter) if they studied, practiced, and put in their best effort. The journey is what we celebrate, not the result. Obviously it’s extremely disappointing to get a ‘C’ if a student worked so hard and tried their absolute best, but if that’s the case then at least we know where there are still gaps in the learning and we can keep working on those areas to improve. Children should still feel successful if they’ve put in the hard work regardless of the result.
Some suggestions on changing the focus by encouraging a child to pursue their talents at school and outside of school in order to feel successful:
- If a child is an artist, label them as such and get them into art class. Encourage them to join the art club at school, enter contests and volunteer to help with creating drama sets or school art projects. Talk to the school about getting them to promote and encourage this talent. Same holds true for musicians, actors, singers, photographers or any of the arts discipline.
- Highlight and celebrate other attributes besides marks. If you notice your child is always kind to others, point that out and celebrate that trait. Encourage them to start a friendship club at school or a random act of kindness club. Comment on their talent to make other people feel included and cared for and foster that natural and important ability.
- When you see leadership skills developing in your child, ignite that spark. Encourage them to lead their class/school in a project, activity or fundraiser. Perhaps they can join student council and encourage them to find leadership opportunities both within and outside of school.
- If your child is a master debater and can win every argument, why not encourage them to start a debate club at school or outside of school? Tweaking that potentially exhausting skill into something very productive and successful could be a win-win for all.
- Why not encourage your athletic super start to join the school teams and celebrate those accomplishments the same way we would celebrate high marks. Maybe they’d be interested in starting a healthy, active living club at school or start a sports club that doesn’t yet exist.
Hopefully you get the point. Find the abilities and let them shine. Perhaps then, they will feel as successful as the students who are lucky enough to get all A’s. When we light up ABILITIES, there are endless POSSIBILITIES.