The word “success” evokes a lot of emotion and ideas. Too often, when the word success is talked about in education regarding students, the people that are most impacted by the discussion are left out of the conversation. I believe that whether someone is truly successful or not is up to them, not anyone else. If someone deems success as being “rich and famous,” or someone views success as merely being happy, that is their choice.
Since I think it is crucial for students to think about the idea of “success” in their own terms, I wanted to provide three articles that may be good for discussion.
This blog post is one of mine, but I share a powerful quote from a student, shared by an article in the Chicago Tribune:
At Naperville North there is one path to success,” the petition said. “This path is made clear from the day high school anticipation begins, and is reiterated until graduation. From the age of 13 every prospective Naperville North student understands that this path makes no exceptions, and those who wander off or fall behind are left for failure. Everyone here understands that there is no worse fate than failure.”
The petition calls on administrators to, “Start defining success as any path that leads to a happy and healthy life. Start teaching us to make our own paths, and start guiding us along the way.”
This article is powerful because it pushes back on the pressures adults put on students in seeing that being good in academics is what would make someone successful in school. As I have stated before, some of your smartest students in your school are terrible at academics. It is essential to help students learn about the world, and themselves, through the process of education.
Based on the comments on this tweet alone, the title on its own could be viewed as bothersome.
Here is a snippet from the piece:
2. “Schools reward being a generalist” and the real world rewards passion and expertise.
Barker says that even if you’re fascinated by history in high school, you can’t spend all your time studying the European Renaissance. At some point, you have to stop and move on to your math homework.
But once you’re in the working world, you’ll need to excel in a particular domain, and other knowledge or skills won’t matter so much.
And here’s the real shocker: Arnold found that intellectual students who genuinely enjoy learning tend to struggle in high school — they find the education system “stifling” because it doesn’t allow them to pursue their passions deeply.
Barker summed up all the research nicely in the interview with Business Insider: “Valedictorians often go on to be the people who support the system — they become a part of the system — but they don’t change the system or overthrow the system.”
Personally, I would challenge the heading of this point. What does “reward” mean? There are many “generalists” who are rewarded in different ways in their own life but not necessarily in the idea of becoming rich and famous. “Rich and famous” doesn’t mean happy either. Perhaps the goal for many is to contribute to the lives of others in meaningful ways, and the way that they lift others up does not necessarily get widespread attention but makes a significant impact.
On the other hand, one of the reasons I enjoyed the article is that it helps to challenge the ideas that only our top academic students can go on to become successful. Do we look at the strengths of those that do not fit into a regular box of school, or do we as educators see strengths where traditionally, we have seen weakness?
If this article challenges you, that is a good thing for both you and your students. What are their thoughts on what success is to them? What does their own experience lend to their viewpoints?
I loved this part of the article:
1) Success Brings Happiness? No. Happiness Brings Success.
We all chase success hoping it will make us happy:
- I’ll be happy once I get that promotion.
- I’ll be happy once I get that raise.
- I’ll be happy once I lose 15 pounds.
But the research shows that isn’t true. You achieve a goal and you’re briefly happier… but then you’re looking toward the next big thing.
What Shawn’s research showed was when you flip the formula and focus on increasing happiness, you end up increasing success.
If we can get somebody to raise their levels of optimism or deepen their social connection or raise happiness, turns out every single business and educational outcome we know how to test for improves dramatically. You can increase your success rates for the rest of your life and your happiness levels will flatline, but if you raise your level of happiness and deepen optimism it turns out every single one of your success rates rises dramatically compared to what it would have been at negative, neutral, or stressed.
In my opinion, this is a great article to help understand the importance of mental health in helping achieve our own goals. That we too often look outward for success, instead of on how we can make a difference focusing inward.
No matter your opinions on any of these articles or ideas, I still contend that the discussion of “success” for our students, should be with and in more cases, led by our students. Simply asking, “What does success at the end of the year look like to you?“, could help our students find out who they are, not necessarily what we want them to be.