Different landscape, same mindset
Carpets are cleaned, desks are meticulously polished, pencils are sharpened, and lockers (cubbies) are vacant, waiting to be filled with a backpack full of contents.
The above imagery is symbolic of a new school year, but for countless students throughout the country, this symbolism is no longer relevant. Classrooms containing desks, pencil sharpeners, and backpacks have been replaced by bedrooms, living rooms, and offices containing laptops, kitchen snacks, and a comfortable space for a midday nap.
Inherent in these changes are a multitude of challenges, which obviously vary by student. For some, the biggest challenge is a lack of social interaction with peers. For others, it’s a heightened level of anxiety that comes with an enormous amount of uncertainty.
As the physical landscape of school continues to evolve, we must not lose sight of the ever changing mental and emotional landscape of students.
The importance of the physical tools mentioned above (e.g. laptop) must not take a backseat to the critical importance of a mental toolkit. Thankfully, a student’s mindset doesn’t have to change as a result of circumstances. Rather, one’s mindset can serve as the sail in the midst of adverse weather. Students can’t control the weather that is education, but they can certainly control the manner in which they set their sails.
Below is a list of three important tools that I encourage you share with your child as they navigate these unchartered waters.
Tool 1 – Your mindset will determine the quality of your school year, NOT your classes, your teachers, or what your current learning environment is.
You will, without a doubt, experience a series of difficult circumstances this school year. Not the least of which is the fact that some of you will likely be staring at a computer screen for the foreseeable future. Whether it’s a boring teacher whose monotone delivery lulls you into a nap-like state, or a demanding class that keeps you up into the wee hours of the morning, no student is immune to challenges.
If you’re looking for the easy route, you are more than welcome to complain about the challenge. Complaining is easy. You can even blame the teacher for his/her boring delivery or make numerous excuses for your poor grade, but the fact remains that complaining, blaming, and excuse making will never change anything. Simply put, your circumstances don’t determine your levels of happiness. The way you see your circumstances does.
I invite you to be curious about how these challenges can shape you. No one ever reached success without seasons of adversity. If you learn to embrace the struggle, the journey will be much more meaningful.
Tool 2 – Always be aware of your internal dialogue. You can train your mind to be positive.
Here’s a little known fact that most students don’t even consider – you talk to yourself all the time. Your mind is like a thinking machine, designed to help you make sense of the world. As is the case with every human being, a significant portion of these thoughts are going to be negative. I invite you to practice being aware of your thinking. When you notice a negative thought, simply replace it with a positive one. Imagine each of your thoughts as either feeding the negative dog or the positive dog. The more you starve the negative dog, the more positive you’ll be.
By the way, don’t expect your thoughts to change overnight. Change happens over time.
Tool 3 – Your success in life will not be based solely on your grade point average (school smarts), so spend some time developing your self-smarts as well.
Unfortunately, there are often expectations for students to be perfect. You might feel direct pressure from a teacher to perform well on a test, or indirect pressure from seeing announcements that acknowledge the academic success of a select group of students. While I certainly encourage you to perform to the best of your abilities, take solace in the fact that when you apply for a job, the employer will unlikely ask you for your eighth grade Algebra score.
While academic content is important, your ability to manage the way you think and the way you feel (self-smarts) is equally important. Start by waking up each morning and saying to yourself, “Just as I have the power to choose my outfit for school today, I also possess the power to choose my attitude. I’m going to make it a great day.”
If you commit to practicing these three tools throughout the year, I promise it will be your best year ever, regardless of where you are learning.