The Problem

My classroom bubbled with anticipation as the final bell of the year came to life. I turned my attention to some pressing paperwork as students emptied the building for summer vacation. The door closed. The room filled with silence. Lost in work, I was startled by a soft whimper. I raised my head to discover one of my seniors sitting across the room staring out the door. Tears streamed down her face. I walked over and asked what was wrong. Her answer still troubles me. I’m afraid to walk out this door. I have no idea what the future holds for me.”

The two of us spent the next hour discussing how prepared she was to take her place on the global stage. I left school that year determined to make the “future” an ongoing discussion in my classroom.

The next fall I quickly discovered most of my seniors had similar anxieties. Classroom discussions revealed that students struggled with:

  • A lack of confidence in one’s own ability
  • The belief they were ill prepared for life beyond high school
  • Felt threatened due to constant bullying at school and via social media
  • Found it difficult to have meaningful conversations with their parents about how to prepare for the future
  • Concerned about the stability of the world as a result of a focus by the media on negative geo-political stories

According to a recent survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, most college students have similar feelings. As adults, we know it is impossible to provide our students with a complete snapshot of what the future holds. However, it is vital they have the confidence and necessary skills to thrive in the 21st Century.

Things to Consider

Parents, here are a few points that I try to cover during the course of the year.

  • Dream big
  • Failure is part of success
  • Learning is fun
  • One person can change the world

At first glance those skills may appear simple. They are not. It takes time and a concentrated effort from both parents and teachers to create a culture where those skills will grow and thrive in the mind of a child.

As a father of two, I understand the rigors of parenting. If you don’t watch it, life can consume you. Even the best parents can spend an entire childhood trying to go to every PTA meeting and soccer game, bandaging scratches and bruises, planning birthday parties all while forgetting to take time to stop and talk with their children. Your children want to spend time dreaming, planning, laughing and talking with you. Don’t miss out on these opportunities. Take time this summer to turn off all of the technology and just play games. Start new traditions. Let your kids see you having fun.  Listen to their stories. Help them dream big. As a teacher, I am a band aide. You are the cure. With your help, next year’s class can take the global stage with a little less fear and trepidation.

Joseph Fatheree is an award winning author, educator, and filmmaker. He has received numerous educational awards, including being recognized as a Top 10 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, Illinois Teacher of the Year, and the NEA’s National Award for Teaching Excellence.  He currently serves as the Director of Strategic Projects for the National Network of State Teachers of the Year in Washington, D.C. and is the Instructor of Creativity and Innovation at Effingham High School in Illinois. His opinions are his own.