Contributed by Dave Nagel
Do some of your student talk a big game about their futures but seem to either fail to follow through or avoid seeing that dreams do not come to a reality without actions? Do they avoid the work and effort that is needed for them to reach the goals they seem to want to aspire to? In their Student Aspirations Framework™, Dr. Russ Quaglia and Dr. Michael Corso describe these students as ones who “have positive attitudes about their prospects, but take no steps in the present to reach their goals.” (2014, P. 17).
The following are three examples of imagining students—See if you recognize any of them:
Student 1: Kristen is a great kid. The kind every teacher longs to have in his or her classroom; friendly, helpful, diligent about doing most of her work, etc. She is in the last few months of her junior year and has her final year in high school all planned out. She plans to go to college and major in some form of science—she wants to work in the medical field, perhaps become a nurse, a physical therapist, etc. She will graduate with a solid GPA. This is far from a stretch statement—she has a 3.45 and isn’t planning to challenge herself much with any very difficult courses in her schedule next year. Kristen didn’t signup for any advanced placement or honors courses and even dropped science from her schedule. Some of her teachers wonder if she even realizes the rigor the college programs she is talking about entering will entail.
Student 2: Phil talks all the time of being an engineer. He loves to tell stories about his Uncle Frank and the project he has developed and built. His Uncle Frank is one of the top structural engineers in the mid-west. Recently, Phil got to spend the day with him while they visited a few bridges he designed that link several waterways across the Ohio River. Last summer he spent several weeks staying with Frank and his children while they toured some of the sites he was asked to be an on-site consultant for in the gulf states. Phil is reasonably good at math but refuses to apply himself at any level to improve his skills and learn the deep concepts he needs to have any shot at an engineering degree. His counselor has gotten frustrated with his refusal to take advanced math classes his senior year. Phil also didn’t attend a one-week Future Engineers of America camp last summer at Purdue University—where he tells everyone he plans to go after high school.
Student 3: Nicholas has plans to play basketball in the NBA. He has dreamed about this since he was a kid. The problem is that is where any actions stopped. He did make the junior varsity as a junior and played a reasonable amount, scoring about 12 points per game. This was mostly because he is 6’4” and playing against kids who are much shorter—and almost all other schools in the area have JV teams that are made up of freshman and sophomores. The coaches had huge hopes for Nicholas when he arrived on campus as freshman at 6’3”. He moved up from the freshman team to the JV right away—and has stayed there ever since. He dominates in games (in his mind), but refuses to push himself in the summer or off-season to get better. He is happy to play JV, where he isn’t challenged and can score at will at times. He will likely make the roster as a senior, because of his size but will likely ride the bench. He will likely continue to fantasize about playing in the pros someday—but never seems to be willing to put forth the actions necessary to even play on his school’s varsity team.
Do you have a Kristen, Phil, or Nicholas in your school or classroom? Or a better question maybe: Just how many do you have?
In the next post, we’ll discuss how to move kids from imagination to determination to make those dreams more of a reality.