When I hear a kid complaining about school or wishing for the weekend, I'll ask them, “Hey, why do you think you're going to school?”
Usually, they'll respond with either “I don't know” or “because I have to.”
So I'll push things with them a little bit, and eventually we'll get to something like, “Well, I want to get into a good college” or “I want to get a good job.”
Almost never do they say...
“Because I want to learn.”
“Because I want to figure out who I am.”
“Because I want to figure out what I like and what I’m good at so I can combine all of it and figure out how I can be a part of making things better.”
I get it. Any of those would be fairly mature responses.
But what if, as educators and parents (people), we maximized our daily opportunities of contact with young people and introduced them to the importance of contribution and being a part of the community? That the preparation, education, and all that learning they're doing is so they can figure out...
1. Who they are
2. What they enjoy
3. What they’re good at
...so they can combine all that, put it into the world, and ultimately enjoy more of what will likely be a very big piece of their life … their work.
What if we helped them see (daily … in different ways) that school is an opportunity to practice and perfect their ability to think, to communicate, and to work well with other people?
How much better would things be in the long run, if we did more of that instead of focusing so much on getting into the next program, or into the next school, or getting that better grade?
Here's something else: When I hear a high school student (a junior or senior, in particular) complaining about school or living for the weekend, I'll ask them, “Do you know where you're going to be five, six, seven years from now?”
Most of them respond with a blank stare or “No, I don't.”
And I'll say, “You're going to be out here with us ... working. You're going to be out here with us ... hopefully trying to improve things. We need you to focus and find out what you like and what you’re good at … and how to think and how to work, so you can help us make things better.”
Try that. Ask kids, “Hey, do you know why you're going to school?” See what kind of responses you get. And then, try to introduce them to the idea that contribution is what it's all about ... earlier rather than later.
Plant and nurture that seed. Give a young person more meaning to their day, and it can’t help but make for a more enjoyable future for all of us.
Help a young person commit to something better with our Cross The Line pocket cards or the short 20-minute book.
P.S. My kids were 17, 14, and 11 years old when I wrote and recorded the bulk of the thoughts above. With the additional six years of experience, I revised the thoughts a bit. If you’re interested, you can watch my original 2-minute video delivery below.