How Imaginary Limits Can Determine Our Academic Track

What are you?

It’s an open-ended question that could mean a lot of different things, but it’s one that we love to answer in our own minds all day long.

How is your inner voice answering?

With label after label after label, I would guess.

School presents an especially tough category of potential answers.

“I’m not the kind of person who gets into that school.”

“I’ve never been a very good student.”

“I am a reading person, not a math person.”

“I’m not a good test-taker.”

When these thoughts pop up, we have a choice:

(a) believe them

(b) forget them and take action in the direction of something new.

Why, then, do most of us fall victim to the former option? It’s largely because we’ve been told, little by little over many years in a stifling education system, that there is one way to be a successful student. There’s one ideal profile of the kind of person we must emulate in order to achieve anything substantial in the long term. As a result, we tend to see our classroom performance as either living up to that image or not.

Big Bad Brainery -How We Limit Ourselves in Education

We begin to adopt this method of self-judgment as early as elementary school. The first time we write our letters backwards. The first time our papers are covered in red marks, rather than gold star stickers. The message of our compulsory education system comes through loud and clear: Perfection is the goal, and there is only one correct way to do things.

Some of us happen to fall into the ‘correct’ category rather easily. If we start out with touchdown after academic touchdown, the reinforcement from parents and teachers serves to propel us down the accepted path. Others are not so naturally aligned with what we value in education. Veering off - by having a less mainstream learning style or questioning the way things are - forms artificial limits in our mind. They serve as invisible blocks to our educational progress.

These limits stick with us until one day, we’re sitting in front of a blank screen talking ourselves out of a college application.

We live in a linear culture. Everything is structured around ‘logical’ steps that fall one after the other. School is no exception. The damage this does to our psyches, and our academic endpoints, is irreversible.

It’s easy to look at a child and draw conclusions about where they might be in ten or fifteen years, but our judgments should be kept from the littlest ears. Hearing a statement about who or what we are at a young age can create images in our mind’s eye, which we’ll internalize and ultimately manifest.

Just like years of encouragement give us the inspiration we need to rise above genuine obstacles, imaginary limits have the same potential of turning into our destiny.

While we all have free will and can push through these limits that subconsciously form as young learners, we face an unnecessary battle when they are a factor.

Instead of asking What are you? of our children and students, let’s ask Who do you want to be? and How can I help you get where you want to go?

What are the limits you faced, or still face, as a student? Let me know in the comments below.

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Chelsea TorresComment