Graduation season has arrived. Many of our Valo youth are diving into marching practice, learning the art of moving the tassel from the right to the left. We hear the familiar “Pomp and Circumstance” streaming from school auditoriums, while balloons tied to mailboxes invite family and friends to come toast the graduate. We find ourselves asking, “What are we celebrating?”
What often comes to mind are tangible, outcome-oriented accomplishments. Suzie earned a 3.8 GPA. Johnny made the varsity soccer team. Peter got the lead role in the play. Sally was admitted into a competitive college. While these achievements are impressive, aren’t we missing the point when we focus on WHAT these young people have done?
At Valo, we want to shift the paradigm. What if schools (or life, for that matter) emphasized what kind of person someone is growing into rather than what he or she did? Wouldn’t it be heartening to hear HOW they earned their recognitions or, better yet, WHAT they struggled with, and WHO they are now as a result? When teens leave high school, their accomplishment is that they know themselves. They are resilient and honest, generous and creative, or thoughtful and bold. They feel valued for their person, not their prizes.
In his recent New York Times article, “Stop Asking Kids What They Want to Be When They Grow up,” Adam Grant agrees: “My first beef with the question [What do you want to be when you grow up?] is that it forces kids to define themselves in terms of work. When you’re asked what you want to be when you grow up, it’s not socially acceptable to say, ‘A father,’ or, ‘A mother,’ let alone, ‘A person of integrity.’ This might be one of the reasons many parents say their most important value for their children is to care about others, yet their kids believe that top value is success. When we define ourselves by our jobs, our worth depends on what we achieve.”
break the mold
As we head into this season of caps and gowns, what if we think a bit differently about how we frame our congratulatory conversations with members of the class of 2019? We’d love to hear how you broke the mold and asked some version of: “Who are you becoming?” or “What are you learning about yourself?” It stirs us to think about who these young people are growing into, and the impact they will have on our world. They bring us hope. You can count on it.