Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Aspirations Dysmorphia

The other day a teacher used an interesting analogy for students who are in the category we refer to as Imagination in our Aspirations Profile. He said they are like someone with a body dysmorphic disorder. He went on to explain how people with this condition look in the mirror and see something that's not really there. They may see themselves as overweight when really they are very thin. They project what they see in their imagination onto to what they see in the mirror, and the result is a kind of disconnect from reality.

Many male students tell us that they want to be professional athletes. Most of those, NFL or NBA. As a sports fan myself, I can see the attraction. What boy doesn't imagine himself catching a pass from Tom Brady or out rebounding LeBron James? The excitement, the fans, the salaries! The reality is that a very small percentage of students who play high school sports wind up in the professional ranks. It's .08% for football and .02% for basketball. The best bet is baseball at .5%.

This brings up an ongoing discussion we have whenever we discuss Aspirations that are, shall we say, lofty. On the one hand we want students to dream big, to feel like "the sky is the limit," and to believe they can become whoever they want to become. On the other hand, we have a responsibility as teachers, guides, and coaches to point out reality and the steps necessary to attain such a goal. Doing the latter without bursting the former is a tricky business.

I am a big fan of connecting as many assignments to a student's dream as possible - biography reports of those who have done well in a particular field, using numbers and statistics from a field of interest in math, social studies assignments related to the field. There is good evidence that such connections make learning more engaging for students. Perhaps another benefit will be a better grounding in reality, discovered by the students themselves. Such grounding might lead them to the actual "doing" that is necessary to make a run at their lofty dreams - or to adjust these dreams to be more in-line with what they are prepared to do to achieve them.

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