Waiting to Have “Those Conversations” Is Hurting Students

Rae HughartBlog, Lesson Plan Better, Personalize Student Learning Better

In This Post

  • The importance of conversations about our students’ futures.
  • Helping our classrooms become avenues for discovering passion & practical uses for it!
  • Using your content to help students find their futures.

Growing up, learning was a struggle. I moved throughout my day feeling as if I was walking through a fog of confusion. While most of my classes had assigned seats, my mission each day was to sink as small into my chair as possible, hoping to become invisible to the teacher.

Because that was the goal of being in school right? It was not about learning anything. It was only about getting through the day not embarrassing myself by spouting out the wrong answer in front of 34 of my peers.

My family continually had friends, work colleagues, and family at the house. Our front door was a revolving door of fabulous dinner tablescapes and rich conversations about business. From as young as I can remember, everyone would also ask me the same four questions:

  1. How old are you now?
  2. How is school going?
  3. Aren’t your parents great?
  4. What do you want to be when you grow up?

I, of course, responded with the appropriate phrases, as if I had never been asked the question before. “I am ___ years old and I attend ___ school this year!” or “Yes, I am so lucky to have a mom and dad like them!” However, the last question always stumped me. What did I want to be when I grew up?

Obviously my response to this question changed over time. Initially, I wanted to be a ballerina. Then I entered into a phase when I told everyone I wanted to be an otter – Yes, this confused them too. I later learned you can’t just “become” an otter… you need to be born into it. Bummer!

It was in high school when I finally found my calling and gave my permanent answer, “An Educator.

But what about the students who don’t have people around them asking them what they want to be when they grow up?

Finding The Forever Answer

You are never too young to consider your passions. You are never too young to identify areas you enjoy and areas you could live without. And yet, we often wait until students are almost moved out of the house and needing to make choices on their own to ask this life-altering question.

You are never too young to consider your passions. Click To Tweet

The worst part? We expect a fully thought-out answer.

When I entered high school and found my forever answer, it came after numerous “guess and check” situations. I had countless trials and errors to discover what I considered to be a good fit for my learning style, passions, and goals. Let’s be honest, one guidance counselor meeting wasn’t going to do it!

We cannot wait until high school to ask students if they are ready to plan their futures. We must provide them the tools, from the very beginning, to formulate these answers – collecting notes and tactical takeaways from each conversation, experience, and situation to store in their toolbox.

Love food? You could be a chef! You could also be a food manager, work for a food television network, become a food scientist, or work in a different field and just fill your time outside of work with incredibly delicious foods! Your love for food may be the secret ingredient to finding your perfect job. Or it may act as a piece of the puzzle toward your pursuit of a happy and fulfilled lifestyle.

What’s the point of all of this?

We need to start the conversation and teachers have the responsibility to initiate it!

So, how do you begin?

Try to blend student learning opportunities with the content’s real-world purposes. Ask yourself, “Where are your students going to see this content in action when they leave my room?”

For example, do not just do a lab experiment to model Newton’s 3rd Law, but discuss how this law is used by police officers to evaluate crash sites.

Following this activity, ask students what they enjoyed.

Did you enjoy the hands-on component of the lab? Here are 3 fields where hands-on learning is essential!
Did you enjoy learning about the police department? Here are other things police officers are responsible for.
Did you enjoy talking about the mechanics of a car? Here are other fields where car mechanics are used.

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Don’t be afraid to begin the conversation.

No one said supporting a student would be easy. With 34 pairs of eyes on you each hour of the day, you know better than anyone they all have differing needs. However, we all have one goal – to reach all of our learners.

Don’t work your butt off all year getting them the personalized support they need, only to find out you left a gap in showing them the WHY behind their content. They deserve better. Their futures deserve more.

About Rae Hughart

Rae Hughart is a Middle-Level Math and Writing Educator in Illinois and the Director of Training and Development for the Teach Better Team. In 2017, Rae was honored with the Illinois State University Outstanding Young Alumni Award – inducting her into the University Hall of Fame. In 2018, Rae was honored again by the Henry Ford Innovator Award for her work within educators communities to build unity between local businesses and schools.