3 tips for educators so the next Andre Agassi is not as unhappy

On September 13, 2010, in Curriculum, General, by Nicole Lantz

“Make your first decision in life the most important one, which is how I’m going to define success, because if you define success the wrong way, you’re in for a series of real, real hard lessons. And you’re in for a life that you won’t be at peace with.” Andre Agassi , September 7, 2010 on CBC Radio Q

(Image by Katie Tegtmeyer, Tennis in the Fall, 2006)

1. Be proud of success as you define it, but define it carefully

We all know of course that our obsession with the Joneses won’t make us happy (See The Joneses (2009) They’re not just living the American dream, they’re selling it), but then we go and do things, and buy things, and set up our days as if posturing some external success is what’s truly important to us.

And maybe it is. Maybe our posturing of success as we define it might actually be a practical step in our constant battle to help connect our values to our actions, such as in our quest for a more sustainable environment (See Dan Ariely: The Polar Bear and the Prius). Maybe if there was a “tomatometer” on the side of our house showing our net eco-worth, folks would be ashamed of that second SUV rather than proud…? Interesting idea. Maybe if we do it right, whatever “it” is, this is just part of showing the world who we truly are and what we care about.

What does this have to do with education? Basically, consider many facets of success when you define your outcomes and choose wisely (See 4 tips for good facilitation I learned from riding a bike). Also, remember that as an educator your students may not define success the same way you do. Talk to your class about what this means for the classroom environment and for them as individuals. Ask them how this evolves over time – will it be the same when they graduate? Let their input influence your planning for the year (or at least for some of it).

2. Give someone a choice today

We see this all the time with children, yet as educators we forget how important it is to know that someone trusts us to make good choices for ourselves. My four-year-old told me the other day that he didn’t want me to lock his car window when we drive onto the highway. I asked him, if you’re not allowed to open it, why do you care if it is locked? He answered simply, “I want the choice.”

So we hear from Andre Agassi that it is important to give children the opportunity to choose their own life and highlights education as a key part in making true systemic change (See With Education, There is Hope and his interview on CBC Radio Q).

It makes me think about how we can build choice into our education system, right down to the level of the lesson. Using inquiry-based instructional strategies, discovery learning, a real-world context, giving real problems and real choices to students as they learn.

3. Teach the process

Our definition of success permeates into each aspect of our day – from what we eat to whether we walk our children to school in the morning. We need to actually teach students how to define success for themselves. Let them articulate it, revisit it, and think critically about the things that influence it, good or bad.

Surely if we teach it to them on a micro level, it will become their life on a macro level? Right?

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