Monday, January 23, 2012

Tenet #7 - Every Student Represents a Success Story Waiting to be Told.

     Of the ten tenets that are foundational to my views as an educator, this one is the one I'm most passionate about. It has become my mantra over the last number of years and is the one belief I will really try to push on my colleagues (if they don't already believe this to be true). I also take great pride in my inability, after 29 years as an educator, to be able to accurately predict the future of any student. As a result I err on the side of "anything is possible" especially when students are engaged and passionate about their learning.

     When I present this viewpoint I have been asked if it's my intent to make educators feel like they will never be successful. That if I insist on 100% of students meeting success as the target, we'll never reach that lofty goal. My reply to these queries is three-fold. First, I am not so naive as to ignore that, sometimes, the other outside influences in a student's life so overwhelms them that they cannot complete their time with us. They may leave and pursue other options but I always want them to know school will always be an option if they are willing to return. Second, I take no pride in setting the bar too low and then reaching the goal. Should we aim for a 95% success rate? If we achieve that is it cause for celebration? What about the 5% we missed? If they remain faceless and nameless we may find a way to walk away from their lack of achievement. But what if I asked you to put names and faces to that 5%. Could you do that with a clear conscience? Could you identify kids who are not entitled to a viable future? Kids for whom prisons are constructed? Third, our definition of success may not be the same. While academics are very important, not all of our students will go on to a post secondary degree. All can be contributing members to the communities we live in. If we have taught them the value of relationships, the ability to seek out knowledge, and given them confidence in themselves, we will have sent forward an individual we can all take pride in.

     In a brilliant post ( Chris Wejr (@MrWejr) outlines the two options available to all of us as educators. We can take the easy option or we can push for the harder to achieve option. I see no value in limiting the potential of any students by denying them opportunity or shrinking their available skill set even further by denying them access to all of the richness that schools contain. Every one of our students has a gift and a talent. They may not even know its potential. They are all success stories waiting to be told. Our job is to help them unfold their story.

She contemplated for a second, searching for the right words. Then they came to her, and a smile emerged as she realized their truth. 

“I’m a student. With or without your support, I am the future.”

* From the upcoming book “I Am the Future” by Tom and David Hierck (Spring release date)


  1. Hey Tom... well said. We too often narrowly define student success in schools. I wrote a post about a boy that I taught a few years ago. That experienced changed how I teach and how I view students. You can read it here:

    Honouring A Student’s Strength: Story of Daniel

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Look forward to the book!

  2. Thanks Chris, I found that post very moving. What I love the most about this profession is how we are regularly presented with opportunities to impact and be impacted by students. I am humbled when former students contact me to provide updates and ask me to still be a part of their lives. I can only imagine how you felt when your read the comments from Dom. You continue to honor him by remembering the impact he had on your practice and continuing to push to find the gifts each student possesses.

    As for the book, it was a real treat to have my son help with the text and another former student do the artwork. Honoring their talents was important for me.