Trying To Sell Tomorrow To Those With No Today

tomorrow

Our job is to help kids dream big. We want them to realize that with education anything is possible. And to an extent this is true. We show them the myriad of possibilities that lay before them and hope that this is enough to light a spark that will eventually catch fire.

Sometimes this works.

Many times it doesn’t.

And while we are not ever going to stop trying to get our students to reach their full potential, I think there is a crucial fact that we need to be aware of.

For a large portion of our kids:

“We are trying to sell tomorrow for those with no today.”

While I have written several posts about the importance of allowing kids to dream and listening to kids’ dreams, it has just occurred to me that I wrote those posts from a privileged point of view that may have caused me to underestimate the ease at which one can actually dream of the future.

Many of the children I encounter every day simply want a better today. They want a good night’s sleep. They want three meals a day. They want to feel safe. They want to be happy. And they want school to be fun and seem meaningful.

maslow

Of course there are those that are able to focus on tomorrow. They have their feet firmly planted in today and therefore have the luxury of a good vantage point.

But what about those that don’t? What about those that have never had anyone in their family even see tomorrow? We know this is the case. Unfortunately, we see generational poverty and generational ambivalence for school and we wonder why.

Aren’t we doing a great job of showing the virtues of a great education? I think we are. We bring in guest speakers, we read about success stories, we even promote such feel-good movies as Dangerous Minds and Coach Carter.

So what gives? Why are we not able to inspire many of our students to strive for this utopia? Clearly there is a better tomorrow just waiting for our students if they are just willing to work hard for it.

Well, we think it is clear, but maybe it is not so clear for those children who are just trying to make it day-to-day. You see, those of us that promote and try to inspire this grand tomorrow have our feet firmly planted and are therefore able to see great distances and temporarily step away from our todays.

feet planted firmly

Please don’t think this piece is a call for us to prevent kids from dreaming. I think, especially for those with difficult todays, dreaming of a better tomorrow is what will keep their fires burning. I simply think we need to proceed with a little less befuddlement when our students seem indifferent or unmotivated about the promises of tomorrow.

These students will begin to see the benefits of tomorrow, and it will start to mean something to them. But not until we show them that today is worth it. That today can be better than yesterday. That school is not just about tests and walking in straight lines. Because really, if the tomorrow we speak of is just a another version of that, why would anyone sign up anyway?

right now

So let’s start taking a closer look at our students’ todays and see if we can make them better. Once our students start to experience better todays I truly believe we will have helped them to dream about better tomorrows. And once we have done that, selling tomorrow will take care of itself. Or at least that is my hope.

“Tomorrow is a luxury for those of us that do not have to worry about today.”

4 thoughts on “Trying To Sell Tomorrow To Those With No Today

  1. A very thoughtful piece, Jon and one we can’t ignore. Many kids don’t have the opportunities or the necessarily circumstances to worry about dreaming because they live hand to mouth. As teachers, we can do what we can do, but we can’t let these children get swallowed up in systems. We must encourage them and empower them but also recognize there are real limitations that can’t be belittled.
    Such an important topic. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Probably the best post I’ve read in a week. Reminds us that every day counts for kids. It’s not about teaching them for tomorrow, it’s about helping them today. Education should have significance, be a fun experience, and allow people to feel that they belong. Great stuff, my friend!

  3. Jon, this makes me feel (once again) very fortunate that I work where I do. Most of my students have families that let them have a “today,” and many look forward to things that will be happening in the future. However, there are a few that need to stay on my radar, and I will use this piece as my reminder. Thank you for sharing.

  4. So true! When I started teaching I was in rough schools that were, themselves, sanctuaries in the rougher neighborhoods. It took me a while to figure out that I was asking my students to take huge psychological risks when I would inspire them to get hyped about lessons chasing big ideas. The smaller leaps that made one day better were always immediately successful. Wish I’d read this in 1999, I would have been much more thoughtful about presentation and more sensitive to reluctance. I also would have been more open to the hard to explain frustration and outrage on their part. How could they not clearly feel how incomplete my understanding of their daily reality was?

    Reading this, I am reminded that the many off-task misbehaviors were practice for later that day but also for tomorrow, however. The kids were practicing self-defense across a broad spectrum from words to posturing to action. So, I guess I believe that all kids do think and actively prepare for their tomorrows but for as long as the basic level safeties are not addressed, they don’t have many choices about how they want to use that preparation time. My point is, I think it is a mistake to conclude that they are not working hard to prepare for the future. They may lack the words but not the impulse. They are actually overwhelmed by it. From that point of view our job is to clear their plates just enough to allow them to mke more choices for what they want to prepare for. Just like yoga, we need to stretch and create just a little space at a time to add awareness and insight to make us stronger.

    Thanks for the inspirationa piece!

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