What is your child’s plan for the future?

We have noticed over the years that asking high school students to think seriously about their futures is in many ways scary to them, and they tend to resist it if they can do so.  Of course, we have also noticed this same sort of reluctance as we work with students in our Academic Career Planning process.  It is really hard to get students to think seriously about their futures and to explore their options with curiosity.  It takes a lot of pushing, and some persistent questioning by parents and teachers, to get students to think about their future careers and investigate their choices in great detail.  The risk is that if we don’t push students to think about their futures, too many young people leave high school not knowing what to do with their lives, and many of those students just go to college because they think that is the right thing to do.  But going to college without a career plan is a very expensive way to discover yourself.  Worse yet, statistics show that nearly half of all students who start college quit after a year or two with no degree.  Going to college because you think you should, but without a clear plan for the future often does not work out as intended and can be a very expensive mistake.

Dr. Vincent Bertram describes this common reluctance for students to think about and plan for their futures in his book, Dream Differently.  “We have to push young people to not just hold their dreams close to their heart, where those dreams are idyllic and easy, yet often completely disconnected to reality as well.  We have to push our students to investigate their dreams to really understand them.  Be able to answer the question, “Why do you want to do this?”  

When a dream is still only a dream, it is without substance.  It exists solely in the imaginer’s mind; sort of a living daydream that can be recalled in moments of trouble or self doubt.  In this perfect and unchallenged form, the dream encounters no obstacles or resistance.  Dreams in this perfect form don’t require us to consider how difficult they will be to achieve or the preparation required to move toward them.”

We all prefer our dreams remain in this unchallenged state.  But an unexamined dream is a dream that will never become a reality.  As long as you choose to protect your dream from criticism, you will never move closer to it.  And for some young people, this is all their dreams amount to.  Most people never find the courage to take their dreams out of the sky and subject them to rational analysis.  Why?  Because once your dream becomes a plan, then you are in danger of failing.  And once your dream becomes a plan, you may also be accountable to preparing seriously for it as well.  Fear of failure keeps our dreams in our heads, locked away, where they remain pristine and unspoiled.  They also remain unrealized.  If you want to realize your dreams, you must have a plan for making them a reality.”   

We have an Academic Career Planning process that includes students presenting their plan to their parents at our Student Led Conferences in February.  Each freshman and sophomore has a mentor teacher who has 5-6 students to guide through this planning process.  This year we plan to add a stronger mentoring focus with one-on-one meetings as well.  But we cannot do this alone as teachers.   We need the support and participation of parents to also push your children to explore and examine their dreams.  Having occasional discussions where you ask your children questions about their strengths, interests, dreams, careers they find fascinating, and what they know about those careers is a great place to start.  We have found that when parents are so involved in these discussions that they already know everything they hear at the Student Led Conferences, it is those students who get the most out of the career planning process and do the best job by far.  And it is those students who have the clearest plans to their futures, and they start working those plans while they are in high school which creates some significant advantages for them in preparation for their careers.  

Enjoy your week, Scott