Back to School – The good….and the not so good
Most of the students I see have been back in school for a week or two. Kids are starting to settle into new routines and learn the ropes with new teachers and classes. I love this time of year because students are excited about what’s ahead. Maybe it’s a new subject they might not have taken last year, or a teacher who’s already piqued their interest in a new way. They are starting new routines and establishing habits and have had a chance to rest and reset this summer.
I’m fortunate to live and work in a community with wonderful schools, dedicated teachers and involved parents. Inevitably, every year there are “favorite” teachers or classes that are perceived to be more desirable than others. I have three kids myself and each have experienced years that were better than others. So many things factor into this; the classroom dynamic, the personalities of the students and the teacher and how that all comes together. As with anything, sometimes a teacher is a better fit for one kid than the next. It seems that often times the first reaction as parents when our kids (or we) aren’t thrilled with where they’ve been placed is to complain; either to our friends or our spouse or to pepper our kids with questions about whatever we might be stressed about. Our job as parents isn’t to try and curate the most amazing experience, whether it’s school, sports, dance, art, or any extracurricular. It’s to guide and provide support to our kids. It’s much easier to do this when things are great; your kid is thriving, they’re on a winning basketball team, or they get a part in the school play. But, what about when things start to get bumpy? They don’t like a teacher this year as much as the one they had last year, a coach isn’t as positive as you’d like them to be with your kid, or your child isn’t getting as much play time on the field. Getting through a school year or experience that maybe wasn’t as great as the one before teachers our kids resilience and shows them that life is full of highs and lows. I find Angela Duckworth’s work on grit fascinating and she defines grit as follows: “grit is about having what some researchers call an”ultimate concern”–a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.” If we don’t let our kids experience setbacks how can they overcome challenges? Or get to that goal?
Personally, I know how hard it is to see your kid struggle. It’s painful and often takes a lot of practice in changing mindset and perspective (for both of you!). When one of my students comes into my office complaining about how bad this particular teacher is and continually compares this teacher to the one last year, it’s not easy to reframe the conversation. And, often it requires lots of listening and patience. Ultimately, reframing their outlook is key. It’s what helps our kids be resilient and independent and grateful for the opportunities they do get as they go through school and life. Goal setting and focusing on specific outcomes can help, and it’s a big part of the work I do with all of my students. I am grateful to be part of your journey.