People are born with unique abilities. Take any two children, expose them to the same experience during their growth, there is a high likelihood that they will still turn out differently, regardless of the parameter you use to gauge their success.
Moving through the streets, I occasionally find myself looking at different people, with no particular bias, and cannot help but wonder what might have happened in their earlier lives that shaped how they turned out. Being an educator, I also ask myself what my contribution is towards how my students turn out.
Among many other issues, and subject to criticism, listed below are three opportunities where I think every one of us in an influential space can step up. For each of them, my challenge to anyone in the capacity to influence how a child becomes is to seek ways of empowering them so that we can see more of them grow up to be successful.
When a child is born into a privileged background, they get a head start in life than their peers from a less privileged background do not. This might look like one of those things easy to dismiss as fate. However, it is important to help students understand what privilege is and how to take advantage of it to develop their skills and knowledge. It becomes very unfortunate to see a child take for granted the privileges they have and let them pass for things they are entitled to.
For the less privileged, it is important for any adult around them to help them understand and accept where they are in life and that they need to put in that extra effort to match up.
Most of the time, young people will want to compare themselves on the basis of constants, and then they end up depressed or lose hope in their efforts just because they see the same efforts work for their peers and not for them. This makes them form an opinion that probably they are the problem, while in the real sense the difference would simply be about the privilege that their peers might have that they don’t.
Privilege could make it easy for one student to connect with an influential person with the ability to shape the trajectory of their lives whereas another person would have to have strings pulled twice as hard to connect with the same person. Privilege is also the difference between that student that develops certain soft skills like effective communication and computer literacy naturally, through exposure and that other student that has to enroll into an institution and pay to acquire the same skills. You can guess what causes the difference between that student that goes through a system that allows them access to infrastructure that enables them to learn a concept by doing and the other that only learns the same concept in theory.
- Enabling Education
Ever wondered how come students who have gone through the same curriculum still turn out differently after school? I have come to realize that it is less about what they learn and more about how they are taught.
“A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Most education systems teach students what to think instead of how to think. Structure is very important in any education system, however, those of us in the industry need to learn how to be more flexible to allow and encourage our students to experience the system while maintaining their uniqueness and develop in different ways.
This is, unfortunately, one of the most difficult things to achieve because we have made the system too rigid that any student we encounter who veers off from the norm is immediately labelled “struggling” or diagnosed with a learning disability.
Sometimes we as educators just shut down innovative learners simply because we know it is too much work. Too much work to walk by them through the wild goose chase. Too much work to walk them through a failing project just to allow them to learn from the failure. Too much work to differentiate instruction so as to get to every learner at their level of understanding.
My challenge to all educators is to make it a life mission to make a difference in their students’ lives at whatever level they can. Let us fuel their curiosity and stretch their minds to limits they could not imagine. This teaches them the necessary skills they would need even after school.
Growing up is not the easiest thing to do. Especially for teenagers, when a lot is going on in a child’s world and there is a lot to process and figure out. This is a stage in a child’s development when they need a lot of support to get through.
What we, in influential spaces, need to do is be there when they fail and need encouragement. We can intentionally show interest in what they are passionate about and show them that we care. We need to make them see the great person we see in them. We can trust them more, even when they fall short of expectations, we can find compassionate ways of communicating to them and helping them earn back the trust and guard it. They need to see and feel that someone believes in their abilities and has some expectations of them. It is only then that they find purpose to be the best versions of themselves.
Every child needs a superhero. Be that superhero!
Written by Joseph Omondi, Senior Resident Teacher at Nova Pioneer Boys Secondary School – Tatu