Monday, April 1, 2013

A Student's Vision of Success

The following post was originally published by me on my new blog, The Trivapy Blog.
When we talk about vision in connection to success, we often hear about it in terms of organizational vision or a leader's vision. Seldom, if ever, are students engaged in conversation about their vision for success.  That is unfortunate. Many students hold a short term, "get me through this week" view of their school work, but just as having a clear vision of success is a vital component to organizational or leadership success, a clear vision of success in school is an important element to student achievement.
So, if helping students create and articulate a vision of success is important, why do parents and teachers seldom engage in that conversation or exercise with their students? There are probably many answers to that question, but the two that I think are probably the most common are:
  1. Limited time
  2. Lack the tools to engage effectively in that conversation
Limited time
For parents, especially in dual income families, time for parenting is limited. A recent report by the Pew Research Center reveals some interesting findings about this topic. In particular, about 25% of mothers and almost 50% of fathers reported that they spend too little time with their children. In addition, mothers in dual income families report an average of 12 hours/week with children and fathers reported an average of only 7 hours/week. This means that in an average dual income family, fathers spend about an hour a day parenting and mothers spend just shy of 2 hours a day parenting.

For teachers, the challenge is similar. If the typical teacher works about 8 hours a day at school (this does not count the hours spent at home or weekends preparing lessons, grading papers, etc.), chances are they are in class teaching for roughly 6 of those hours. Most teachers have a planning period during which students are in class, which is about another 40-60 minutes. That leaves about an hour each day to have lunch, answer phone calls, and attend to other duties (lunch supervision, etc.). In other words, unless the school has a dedicated time for student advising, most teachers have very little time to devote to helping students craft a vision of success.
Lack the tools to engage effectively
Crafting a vision of success requires more than simply telling someone what you hope to achieve. For many students, if you ask them to describe their ideal situation they will talk about grades. I have found this to be the case in almost every conversation I start with students about their vision of success. Students will report that success is getting all A's or A's and B's or no grades below C. However, this fixed mindset description of success is not going to help them focus during tough times. It will not help them deal with adversity or build the resiliency to stay engaged when the inevitable distractions appear.
Developing a vision of success is a process that may require multiple drafts and edits along the way.  Knowing the types of questions to ask or to have as a guide will help keep the exercise on track and serve to support the students' own thinking. After all, a key element to a student's vision of success is that it is THE STUDENT"S vision, not yours. 
What to look for in a good vision of success
So, what can a parent or teacher do in their limited time to help a student create a vision for success? One option is to get help. Certainly, connecting with Thrivapy will help support that work. However, if you are looking for a way to jump start the conversation with a student, here are a few tips.
  1. Try to guide the student to use future oriented language.
  2. Make sure the vision is optimistic.  A lack of "bad" things is no tan optimistic vision.
  3. Include all important parties in the vision.  This includes teachers, parents, friends, siblings, etc.  They all have a role to play in the student's life and success.
Having a clear vision of success is important for businesses, leaders, . . . and students! Engage with them in this important conversation and see if you begin to notice a difference in their approach to school.
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