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Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

This school year needs to be better for all of us. None of us, parents, teachers, or students, can take another year like the last three we have had.

But how do we make this year different? How do we leave behind the patterns of the past years, even before the pandemic, and get into a new groove? We have to commit to mindfully choosing to do things differently.

Visualize a Different Version of Success

First we have to identify what we really want out of this school year. We will each have different visions based on our prospective perspective, but it is important that we all work together to create a shared vision of what could be. Specifically, how do we define success? How will we know we are successful? What will this success do for us? Have a discussion with the teens in your world about what they need and what they hope for from this coming school year. How do they want to build success? Share your own needs and hopes; what would make this school year successful for you(hint: it has to be about you… who do you want to be and what do you want to achieve?). Then work together to build a shared vision of how you each can achieve a different level of success.

Develop a Plan of Action

A vision without a plan is just a wish that will go unfulfilled. We have all hoped that these past years would go differently but none of us really took the time to develop a concrete plan to get there. Even if we have to change course along the way, we are still more likely to achieve a better version of what we have than with no plan at all.

Most of us would take the vision and build a plan and share it with the teens we work with. However, this is a backwards approach. The teens we know, whether students or our children, have ideas and are more creative than we give them credit for. Invite them to develop the plan, collectively or individually, or both. Then partner with them to help them move forward.

Change the Failure Mindset

Inevitably, when presented with an opportunity to step out of our comfort zone, we push back and resist. It doesn’t matter if we want the change or not; we love to stay in our comfort zones. However, change that leads to growth requires us to leave our current comfort zones and continually build new ones, evolving from one to the next. What holds us back? Fear of failure. We have come to believe that failure is something terrible to be avoided so if we do not believe we can be successful we do not try.

You can see how this can be a huge stumbling block to a teen who is anxious for things to be better but does not believe they will be successful. We can help by reframing failure as a learning experience, which it is. Failure to turn a paper in on time teaches us we need to change our time management. Failure to do well on a test teaches us we need to study differently. Instead of letting failures linger, invite teens to problem solve (don’t tell them what to do) and encourage them to keep trying telling them you believe they will improve.

Build Accountability Partnerships

Visualizing a better outcome, developing a plan to bring it to life, and changing failure mindsets won’t work without accountability. We wrongly assume that education has built-in accountability, but due dates and consequences are poor substitutes for true accountability. Instead, positive accountability involves building relationships of respect and belief in the potential of the teens in our world. Plans will change, failure will happen, but true accountability to persevere comes through connection. Every teen has limitless potential; just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Hold your teens accountable to continuing to build their vision in the face of changes and failures. Invite them to hold you accountable to achieve your vision of success. And continue to partner with each other to build a shared vision of success.

Nothing changes if nothing changes… If we want a better school year we have to visualize something better, make a plan, address failure, and build accountability. Otherwise, we will be here next year, wishing yet again, for things to be better.

Stephanie is an Education Coach and Consultant providing custom educational consulting and coaching for schools, educators, parents, and students that equips all stakeholders to empower teens to build a pathway to a future teens are excited to pursue. Learn more here.


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