HELPING KIDS FIND THEIR PURPOSE: FOR TEACHERS
Chances are you became a teacher because you wanted to help kids build better futures. Besides helping them acquire overall skills and knowledge, you can take a big step toward helping each individual student find optimum fulfillment (and get started toward a long-term career) by encouraging everyone to find the “life purpose” that suits their temperament and talents. Here are some hints for getting started.
Make Opportunities for Exploring Personal Dreams
Depending on your class and the subject(s) you teach, you might:
- Assign an essay or other project on “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up” or “What I Like to Do For Fun.”
- Initiate class discussions on how games and hobbies grow into well-paying careers.
- Have students fill out a questionnaire that categories preferences for group activities or being alone, high-energy or quiet activities, indoor or outdoor play, favorite vacation places, and other indicators of personality traits.
- Personally observe what students focus on, in organized activities and casual conversation.
Utilize a Variety of Teaching Formats
If every school day and every assignment looks pretty much alike, only students who naturally relate to that one style will reap full benefit. Make regular room in your curricula for energetic and low-key activities, left-brained and right-brained projects, ideas clearly related and loosely related to the main topic. You might even schedule periodic brainstorming sessions where students can toss out suggestions for lesson types they’d like to try.
Leave Some Leeway For Personal Choice
Even if you teach a subject (such as mathematics) with clear “right” and “wrong” answers, don’t make a big deal over having everyone take the exact same path to those answers. The more children are allowed to improvise and innovate, the easier they will find it to pinpoint the life paths they were made for.
Other ways to leave room for personal choice in the classroom:
- Instead of multiple-choice tests, give tests that allow students to practice active thinking and put answers into their own words.
- Keep homework-assignment topics fairly broad (“report on nineteenth-century river travel” rather than “essay on the first steamboat”) to encourage students to develop their own slants.
- Leave it up to students whether to include infographics, sidebars, or images—or just text—in their projects. (Book publishers use all the above; why shouldn’t children of the online generation?)
Insist on an Atmosphere of All-Around Respect
If you (or any of your students) belittle any type of work or personality—however subtly—you’ve insulted everyone who has natural inclinations in that direction. Perhaps it’ll even discourage them from pursuing their purpose. Emphasize seeing every individual as an essential and equally valuable part of the whole. The world needs sanitation workers and artists no less than computer programmers, and the world benefits most when everyone in every job genuinely loves their work!