What do you want to be when you grow up?
This was the question asked of my granddaughter on her first day of kindergarten (firefighter and teacher were her responses). Likely most of us have considered this question at various points throughout our lives. I certainly have.
Although I have been an educator for four decades (1977-2017), I am grateful that the years have not jaded me. Each first day of a new school year offers a sense of wonder, anticipation, and optimism, perhaps because I recognize that it is not really about what my granddaughter – or any student or colleague — will be when they grow up; rather, it is about the lifelong process of becoming. With a new kindergartner in the family, I thought that it would be appropriate to share with you my wishes for her as she engages in the process of becoming. I wish that she would:
- Find challenge in learning both in and out of school. Learners, and those who teach them, know that challenge represents the optimal learning environment. There is just enough prior knowledge to build upon in acquiring new knowledge. The appropriately challenged learner is neither bored nor frustrated, but rather empowered to seek new knowledge and develop further the sense of curiosity with which we are all born.
- Build resilience to become an empowered learner. Without ever having set foot in a formal school setting, my granddaughter confidently states that her favorite subjects are math, science, and reading. If she wants to be a firefighter and a teacher, those are good subjects to master; however, she will need to recognize that there will be favorite subjects and those that are not favorites. As well, there will be good days and days that are not as good. The latter are important so that she can bounce back to enjoy the good days and revel in great days!
- Develop leadership skills so that she can experience a meaningful life and make a positive impact on society. Sure, that is a tall order for a kindergartner, but it is an important aspect of learning and becoming. When she enters her fifth decade of a profession, whether it be teaching and/or firefighting or a profession yet unknown, I hope that she will be able to look back and see how her leadership contributed positively to society.
- Hone a sense of humility so that she will always approach the multitude of opportunities and gifts already bestowed upon her with gratitude, as well as develop an awareness that others do not always have these same opportunities or abilities.
My granddaughter started her formal education this week just as I was commencing my 5th decade as an educator. I have never lost that sense of excitement on the first day of a new school year, and I hope she – and all of us – never lose it. Keeping in mind the ideas of challenge, resilience, leadership, and humility may help her – and each of us –in the process of becoming. Have a great year!