The Problem: Students Believe What They Are Told

Tomorrow, I’ll be at my nephew’s high school graduation.  Three years ago, I attended a high school graduation for another family member.  It was great to see so many young men and women excited about their achievements, and the enthusiasm about the world they’re going to enter and affect.

It reminded me of my daughter’s college graduation ceremony the year before that.  It was great to see so many young men and women excited about their achievements, and the enthusiasm about the world they’re going to enter and affect.

Does anyone else see a pattern here?  It’s a great example of spaced repetition.  As teachers, we know the power of spaced repetition as a learning strategy.  It’s why teachers review and reassess.  Even adults in the work world know that cramming for an exam doesn’t lead to retained knowledge.  (Well, employees know that – supervisors and management personnel don’t.)

Unfortunately for our bright and enthusiastic young adults, they are reminder over and over again that they are the leaders of tomorrow!  In their mindset, however, tomorrow is, well, tomorrow, because we’ve taught them the importance of using the proper words in the compositions, projects, thesis papers and dissertations.

So why do educators and those that enter the learning environment speak euphemistically?

Indeed, they will be leaders “at some point in the future,” but even the Disney-esque description of “Tomorrowland” has been changed in recent years.  Remember Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist-radio?  We call that an Apple Watch today.  Indeed, fueled by technology, tomorrow is not “at some point in the future.”  Tomorrow is the day after today.

And it’s not just the learning environment, as the media they’re choosing to consume offers the same message, and the encouragement and support that parents provide augments this mindset.  Consequently, today’s students participate in leadership experiences and internships, study abroad, and then return to prepare to find their role as a leader.  Unfortunately, all to often, they find themselves as the little fish in the big pond of business, sitting in a cubicle, and are told, “You know what?  That’s a great idea!  Now do your job.”

Sure, they’ve been little fish before in elementary school, but that lasted until they got to middle school, and they were big fish in a few short years.  The same thing happened in high school, and the same thing happened in college.  The difference is that there is a known construct of time that makes the “little fish syndrome” bearable.  One knows that they will progress.  The real world?  Not so much.  And even after working for a year and doing great things, they may still be “downsized” since they have the least seniority at the company.  They’re told, “It’s nothing against you…it’s just business,” which is something those steeped in academia don’t teach, and therefore, learners don’t learn.  Perhaps that’s why most new businesses don’t make it to year #2.

To all the graduates this year, remember: the world doesn’t give you honors cords.