In this post I describe the fourth of what I consider to be the five most important traits needed for success in school. By giving attention to these high-leverage behaviors and nurturing their development over time, teachers and parents can empower children to maximize their amazing potential.
Of course, no two children are alike, and not all high-achieving students will display the traits I am about to describe in the same way. Some of the following details may not be true of every successful student. My goal, then, is not to paint a picture of a single, rigid "type" that all children must emulate. Rather, it's to share the specific behaviors that, in my experience, have the greatest impact on a child's success. Focusing on these behaviors gives teachers and parents the greatest bang for our buck in our efforts to help children become better students.
V - Venture Toward Important Purposes
Successful students have a strong understanding of why they're in school and why it's important to work hard and do well academically. They know that doing well in school matters, both now and in the future. These kids understand the link between today's successes and tomorrow's opportunities. They think about such things as what type of careers they might want to pursue and what areas they might want to study in college. Understanding the multiple purposes of doing well in school increases students' intrinsic motivation to learn, leads to higher levels of maturity, and positively impacts the other four traits featured in this blog series.
As I describe in the First Month of School, I believe that one of our highest priorities in the classroom at the beginning of each school year is to establish a sense of purpose with our students to help every one of them develop this type of strong understanding. We invest time to write a class mission statement that identifies the reasons why it's important to come to school each day and work hard, and we review that statement at least once a week to ensure that these critical ideas remain in the hearts and minds of our students. Later in the year, we provide children with the opportunity to write their own personal mission statements so they can further develop an understanding of why it's important to commit themselves to education. We also use tools such as The Tower of Opportunity to help our students make daily connections between what they study in school and the life roles that we all fulfill throughout our lives. As often as possible, we point out and discuss why we are studying class content. The better children understand the purposes of their learning, the more motivated and successful they will be.