Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and independent consultant, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com.

Education Opinion

Wish That I Could Be Like the Cool Kids

By Peter DeWitt — July 12, 2015 4 min read

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are not for the weak hearted. Not because of the “Friends” who drop obscenities like it’s going out of style, or those who complain on a daily basis...although those can definitely be a turn off. I’m referring to the friends who seem to be going to amazing places, living the high life, and meeting all sorts of famous or infamous people.

We feel like we are on the outside looking in, which I guess in reality we are...especially when we’re cruising through our news feed on any of the social networking giants. The more connected we find ourselves trying to be...the less connected to people we feel. It can feel very solitary. Not all the time, but it certainly happens.

We often wonder if we should be doing more...or maybe doing less?

Sometimes cruising through social networks make us feel a little less relevant. We feel like we’re not with the cool kids or hanging out in the right places. Many, many years ago when I was doing my undergraduate work, I learned about marginalization. As I understood it then it was the idea that we don’t feel as if we fit into any specific category. As much as we may try to be a part of one group, we don’t totally feel comfortable, so we find that we are marginalized...sometimes even by our own doing.

And when I think of marginalization, I think of what Russ Quaglia always says about belonging. Belonging means being a part of a group without losing our identity. Many students and adults want to be a part of a clique but they lose their identity in the process just so they can be a part of the desired group.

Student Voice

Russ Quaglia, someone I work with, and the rest of the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspiration (QISA) members look at students through 4 different quadrants. Some of those students wish they could be like the cool kids, and others know they are the cool kids. The image below, which is used with permission, illustrates the 4 Student Voice Quadrants.

Students in the Aspiration stage set goals and know how to achieve those goals. They are like John Hattie’s Assessment Capable Learners, who know where they are, how they are getting there and where to next. They are the students who know what to do when an adult isn’t around.

Students in the imagination stage set goals but they don’t know how to reach them. All talk and no action. All show and no go....you get the idea. Students in the Perspiration Stage work really, really hard but the issue is that they don’t have a set goal, so they spin their wheels.

And then we have the students in the Hibernation Stage. If you have ever felt like I described earlier, that is how students in the Hibernation Stage feel on a daily basis. They float in and float out without making too many connections. Sometimes they watch around them as their peers are achieving greatness, and other times they don’t care.

Implications for Adults

The Quadrants are not just for students, because we see teachers and principals who float through the Quadrants. It’s pretty common for students, teachers and principals to float through these quadrants at some point in their career, and maybe it even happens within one year. The beauty of the Quadrants is that they don’t represent a constant...meaning that just because someone finds themselves in the Hibernation Stage doesn’t mean they are doomed to stay there for the rest of their lives.

Which is also where adults come in. There are plenty of things we can do like creating a Buddy Bench, establish Advisory Groups in our schools or have more engaging lessons that bring in the interests of students, but we know about doing that already.

There are some things we shouldn’t do. We shouldn’t treat students like they have a fixed place in life. We shouldn’t say that kids are not good at school or even specific subjects because that will just create a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we don’t know what students will go through in life that will help them find resilience and become more successful at the very thing they failed at.

In the End

Even accomplished adults have moments of insecurity where they don’t feel like they are a part of the in-crowd or that they aren’t doing the great things that their peers are doing. Fortunately for us, we have the luxury of experience behind us to know that these moments will not always last. Most of us have learned resilience and how to wipe ourselves off and pick ourselves up.

But what about our students in the hibernation, perspiration or imagination stage? This is their moment to learn resilience with the help of a great teachers or leader. This is their moment where they learn the benefits of failure and can move toward an aspiration that will sometime lead them to a place where they can say that the struggle was worth and gave them the experience to learn how to move forward.

And great teachers and leaders are behind that.

Connect with Peter on Twitter.

Creative Commons picture courtesy of Loren Kerns.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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