The start of a new school year is coming! School supplies are flying off the shelves as summer vacation comes to a close. This week, let’s take a minute to think about how we can best converse with students to help them reach their goals. Have a minute?
It’s 8:00 am on a Monday. I answer my ringing phone and, on the other end, find the determined voice of a protective mother:
“You said something to my daughter…”
Uh-oh, I think to myself. This is not going to be good.
She continues, “…you said something that made her want to go to college, even though she was set against it! Last week, she kept telling me she didn’t want to go. I want to know what you said!”
I breathed a sigh of relief. Oh! This parent is not upset – she’s happy! Nothing like a Monday morning surprise.
I chuckle, “Kind of a mystery how your daughter changed her mind so quickly, huh.”
“Yes! You must have said something magic to make her change her mind!” the mom insisted.
This mom was referencing a conversation I had with her daughter earlier in the spring. I remember the conversation. Her daughter, a high school senior probably stricken with senioritis, told me she didn’t want to go to college right away. I sat across from the tired, overworked, straight-A high school student and listened to her dilemma. I reflected how tired she was of school right now. Then, I asked: “What are you looking forward to after you graduate?”
Her answer contained two parts. On one hand, she was looking forward continuing her education to get a job she really wants: a physical therapy assistant. On the other hand, senior year has been tough. Her AP classes are a lot of work and she can barely keep up. She doesn’t want to start college feeling burned-out. (What great self-insight!)
As you know, and as this student’s mother knows, there are no magic words that can make anyone do anything. I didn’t have a clever saying or an impressive rejoinder for her daughter. I didn’t wave a wand or cast a spell. What I did was listen. I listened carefully and I reflected strategically. I offered an affirmation about what a conscientious student she is. After a brief but deep conversation, I asked the 18-year-old senior one more question: “So, what do you think you’ll do?”
She paused and then replied, “I want to come to college next year. Taking a year off is definitely not a good idea for me. I will do my application today. (To my surprise, she pulled out a half-completed application.) Can you please help me with one part of the application that I don’t know the answer to?”
Yes, yes, I can. (That’s the easy part.)
I can’t make your student come to college with “magic words,” but I can listen to her, help her resolve her ambivalence and figure out what she wants to do, and then smile as she successfully navigates her way.
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