Student: Rich and famous.
Anyone remember Lepidus? You know, Marcus Amilius Lepidus? C’mon, really? Only the history nerds out there? Ok, he was part of the second triumvirate and the last Pontifex Maximus (high priest) of the Roman Republic. Arguably (very arguably) he had power on the level of Octavian (Caesar Augustus) and Mark Antony. On, NOW everyone’s a classical historian... Here’s the point.
Most of us aren’t Caesar Augustus; in fact, most of us aren’t even Lepidus. He was a great man in his time, but within a generation or two, he was more or less forgotten, lost to history. Was he successful in his lifetime? Absolutely, but he’s not one of those few that has a name famous enough to endure the test of time and remain in the collective imagination of everyone on the planet. Of the billions of people who have lived and died in these United States, only 44 have ever been president. Out of a population of about 320 million, only about 1300 are billionaires.
If those are the odds and all of our kids are different, then why is that the standard by which we judge the success of ALL of our students?
We’re defining early on what success means for our kids. That's the problem. When I tell people that I chose to be in education, I don’t even get into the explanation before they sigh and pat me on the shoulder like my puppy died. Why do they deserve an explanation anyway? We should be teaching our kids to find happiness within themselves and facilitating their journey toward that.
Should they be prepared to walk down any path they choose? Yes, that’s our job as educators, but if a student tells you they want to work on cars and open their own body shop, instead of telling them “aim higher” or “keep that as something to fall back on,” why not coach them on how to be the best at what they’re passionate about?
This is not measuring expectations or accepting defeat, this is letting success be determined by the individual not the collective. This is teaching internal versus external motivation.
Most of us will only be Lepidus if we’re lucky. Most of us are probably Quintus the candle maker that is a friend to Gaius the blacksmith, a good neighbor to Flavius the leather tanner, and a dedicated spouse and father. We’ll be known to the people that know us, missed by the people that we’ve met more than once, and then we’ll disappear into our respective family trees.
What’s wrong with that though? That doesn’t mean you can’t have an impact on your community and the people you care about. There’s value in being a good person and helping people around you, even if it’s just a handful. You don’t have to move mountains to change the world. Small victories are still victories and they aren’t small if they’re big to you.
Education isn't a means to an end, it's a worthy and worthwhile goal in and of itself. Serving your community is something to be proud of, not ashamed. Being happy and leaving the world better than you found it is something to be proud of. That’s what we should be emphasizing to our kids. Let’s create that foundation then let them take over.