As a Christian, one of the most difficult things I am called to do is have faith like a child. Whether you believe, like me, that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, or believe he was a prophet, or a guy, or even a fictional character in a story...the challenge is an interesting one: Faith like a child.
This past week I was awarded the opportunity to participate in a visioning institute meeting. During the meeting a video of Ken Robinson was played: Video - I had previously watched this video at least a dozen times, but what stood out most to me in the video was the information he shared about the importance of divergent thinking and it’s connection to creativity. During his talk he discusses a study that was done where 1,500 kindergarteners were tested on the genius level of divergent thinking...and what percentage of students scored on the genius level? 98 percent! Let me say that again….98. As the students grew older their scores dropped….why? Life, education, experiences, etc. all slowly take away the ability of a student/person to believe in anything without question. Enter the challenge: Faith like a child…
There is nothing quite like having a conversation with a group of kindergartners. If you have ever worked in the elementary school setting you know exactly what I am talking about. When simply asking a group of kindergartners what they would like to be when they grown up I was given the following answers: Doctor, artist, my mom, principal, and my personal favorite...a lion. Yup, a lion. Of course I had to ask why? The answer, “Well duh, because they are king of the jungle and I want to be king.”
Children enter education ready to become anything. They don’t see the challenges life will bring, they don’t see the hurdles they will need to overcome, they don’t see the curveballs life might send their way. The world is theirs for the taking, and there is nothing wrong with that.
How do we keep this alive? Better yet, how do we as principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, and parents maintain the belief our students have in themselves? Here is the truth: Life moves forward, and it won’t be long before our students begin to learn about barriers such as stress, finances, time, and other challenges along the way. In essence, it won’t be long before our kids stop dreaming about being a lion, and start settling for the future they feel is reachable, which in reality may just be the tip of the iceberg each child is capable of achieving.
So...what am I going to do? What am I going to encourage my amazing teachers to do? Love the journey, fail forward, risk big, believe in every child, and focus on self-efficacy.
If our students have any hope of reaching their kindergarten dreams they need to learn one key thing: It’s alright to fail, especially when we fail forward. I can’t count the number of mistakes I have made in my life. I am actually quite good at it...but you know what? I am alright with that. I embrace the fact that I am human and absolutely not perfect.
I truly believe there are countless students sitting in classrooms across this country believing there is no point in even trying because they know they are going to fail. Depression, frustration, self-doubt, and devastating life choices happen when a student believes he or she is a failure. So what do our students need? Simply put...their inner kindergartner, or more importantly - self-efficacy.
I remember my first round of parent-teacher conferences as if it was yesterday. I was 21 years old and wanted nothing more than to show how smart I was to each parent. I carefully wrote an introduction to articulate my educational background to each parent, and I am still haunted by my breakdown of self-efficacy. It went something like this: “Please know, one of the biggest goals I have as your child’s teacher is to ensure the growth of his/her self-efficacy. I want my students to have a good sense of who they are, and in turn, have a positive view of their own self worth.”
It wasn’t until my second to last parent-teacher conference that I had a parent say, “Do you mean self-esteem? Self-efficacy is a student’s belief in his ability to be successful, not a belief in his self worth.”
Apparently it wasn’t enough to just say, “I think you mean self-esteem, not self-efficacy.” Rather, I was given the definition, backed up with a face full of pity pointed in my direction.
Although the hit to my pride was pretty hard, I learned a valuable lesson, and it wasn’t to check my facts (although that is important). Even though, on that day, I did mean self-esteem, from that day forward I began to focus on self-efficacy. The definition I was given from that parent spoke to exactly what I wanted to do, to build up each of my student’s belief in their ability to succeed.
The challenge: Faith like a child. A kindergartner can be anything - and a person with a strong self-efficacy can as well. Knowing that...Could there be a better gift for a child then self-efficacy? It may not seem like much, but a student’s belief in his ability to be successful can mean the very difference between settling for the surface of life’s journey, or growing up to be a lion. And who wouldn’t want to be a lion?