“I tried, but he just doesn’t care!” Statements surrounding student achievement that revolve around the student(s) having no concern or care for their success always sting the space between my chest and pit of my stomach, where anger comes from. It is usually the kind of sting that results in frantic collections of things I could say in defense. I could say “Yes, they do care!” which needs to be followed by justification, and which in my first years of teaching I have had nothing to say. Recently, as I have been more vocal and defensive in conversations around the motivation kids do/do not have, then also because of more experiences with students, I have come up with a solid defense. This defense either sparks a fueled and solution-based discussion, or it is what stops the discussion entirely. Depending on the nature of the meeting and who is present, I have said it in different ways, but it is more or less the simple statement:
We need to show them they do care, and then what their individual reasons are for caring.
Any business trying to sell something will do their absolute best to show you why you need their product. Television commercials are manipulated to seep into your psyche and tell you you are not complete, without this one material, that you have the opportunity to buy. Insurance companies will instill fear in your mind in order for you to feel that you need their policy. Boutiques will hand you a basket and welcome you into their store, sometimes even complimenting you, in order to make you feel like you belong there. Travel agencies will choose the best images and people to model the luxury you could experience in a place other than your own, flashing a price at the very end of the advertisement, after your desire for that experience is strongly in place. These tactics are used in attempts to stir your emotions up, and they often become driving forces in people’s lives, altering and forming decisions people make with their money, and ultimately, their time.
Alongside the stream of blaring ads, and subtle yet sneaky commercials, there is also a blatant interweaving of corporations using social media, music and television shows targeted at youth which enhance the aspirations to escape. Escape your natural image, and escape your surroundings. There is hardly a promotion of education, and oftentimes more disenchantment than enthusiasm for learning.
These are things we are up against as educators, particularly public educators. It is our responsibility to mold the intrinsic passion, which is apparent in everyone, and on an individual basis show them they do care, what their reasons are for caring, and what they can do with that care. The reasons are not the same for everyone, which is why we don’t reach every single student. Equally so, the things they do with the care are not the same for everyone. As we are entering into this new era of technology, ease of communication, and accessible information, the fusion of career pathways and skills will be employed more and more. Individuals have unique skills that they can use for distinctive positions.
The first step of any endeavor is activating that place that causes us to take action with intention of performing at 100%. A leader wanting to move people into action will prepare a speech, have people look it over, then practice. The speech is intended to stir people, and transfer the amount of care the leader has, to the audience. The root of consistently doing something well, is always care. If you are a company looking to hire a new employee, and have two candidates, you would hire the one most passionate about the field–one with the drive to carry out the lengthiest of tasks, over the candidate with more experience, yet no passion. You want your business to move, grow, and expand, with precision and attention to detail. This kind of consistent work ethic requires a high level of care.
What if educators had this business standpoint about selling education to our students? What if we had to market our classes to students in order for them to buy in? Would we then go to great lengths, and stir up the enthusiasm of our clientele? What if the first couple of weeks of class were spent showing and instilling the care levels, on individual basis’? Like a football team preparing for their last game of the season, which would mean a championship, what if we reached their hearts and filled them with the kind of momentum that would make them stop at nothing until they had their goal? What if we spent time learning what made each of our kids tick instead of immediately assuming they all did for the same reasons?
Also, what if we all revisited our drive to become educators, and examine our own desires, our own care. Education for all, and bridging the achievement gap, largely depends on this root driving force of care. We need to have gallon sizes of love and care for our professions, and with that we can pass it on to our kids. We can try all the tactics in the world, and then continuously strive to “sell” education to our kids with the overflowing amount of care we nourish within us.