Late Bloomers

So there’s this boy in our High School who seems to thrive on negative attention. For whatever reason, he seems to always be in some sort of trouble or giving his teachers some cause for concern, and it’s unfortunately making it hard for people not to judge or label him in a less than flattering light. He’s outspoken, he questions authority, he isn’t all that concerned with his academic standing and it’s fair to say that he doesn’t do traditional school very well…..but……there’s something about him that screams “successful adult”. He has tremendous natural leadership qualities, he is kind to younger kids, he’s a fantastic athlete, and if you go out of your way to get to know him, you’ll find that he’s really a beautiful young man with loads of potential. For me, there’s something about these “fringe” kids that make me want to grab a crystal ball and peer into the future to see the amazing adults that they’re going to eventually grow up to be. For lack of a better term, I’m going to call these students the late bloomers……the kids who won’t find their way until later on in life……the kids who challenge our patience and make us want to rip our hair out……the kids who don’t fit the mold.

I find myself drawn to these kids because I feel like I was one of them. I didn’t “do” school that well growing up, I didn’t care that much about my grades, and I didn’t have a clue about what I wanted to do with my life when I graduated from High School. I struggled through my early twenties and I certainly didn’t set the world on fire academically during my undergraduate degree. It wasn’t until I traveled a bit, matured a lot, and went back to school in my mid twenties that I began to hit my stride and find my passion and purpose. I’m sure that you all know a kid or two that fit this description, and maybe you were one yourself. The important thing for us as educators is to not lose faith in these late bloomers, and not to write them off as trouble makers or distractions. These kids tend to be a lot of extra work, and they can be disruptive and draining on your teaching (as well as to the other students) and it can sour you quickly on them as students and people. It‘s these kids however, in my opinion, that need our extra attention. Without the proper support and encouragement, these labels and judgments can impact who they are and negatively affect their future. I was lucky because I had parents and coaches and a few select teachers who believed in me, and who were patient with me, and who saw the parts of me that would eventually help me become a successful adult. Many of these kids aren’t that lucky though, and they can grow up thinking that they don’t belong, or that their future is less than exciting. It’s often the case that the students who really push your buttons, and the ones who are the easiest to give up on, and maybe the ones that you simply just don’t like, are the ones that need you the most. They are also the ones who will make you the proudest when they do eventually find their way. I know that every one of you has a student like this in your mind right now, and the hardest thing to do is to go out of your way to make that extra effort or connection with them…..but…..that’s what it’s all about as a teacher isn’t it? The easy kids are easy…..but the hard ones are the ones who will make your career when you look back on it.

I’m asking you this week to give a little extra to these “fringe” students…… these late bloomers who drive you crazy, and push your buttons, and make you want to scream. Find the good in them….find their sparks…..develop those strong relationships and believe in them. Because when they grow up, and come into their own, and set the world on fire….you’re going to want to be around for it to say, “ I knew you had it in you”……and with a smile on your face you will be able to say, “what took you so long?”………Remember that kids learn and grown and develop at very different rates, and there’s no telling when they’ll start to bloom. Have a fantastic short week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. Happy Chinese New Year to all of you…….. Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Quote of the Week……..
No one knows how long it will take anyone to learn anything – Anonymous

The American Psychological Association on Learning
http://www.apa.org/education/k12/brain-function.aspx

Interesting articles and websites
http://www.positivelypositive.com/2013/02/13/the-secret-to-finding-your-passion-hint-its-not-what-you-think/
http://powertothelearner.com/post/653655757/how-do-we-help-students-find-their-passion-a
http://www.kenneymyers.com/blog/18-of-the-best-blogs-for-helping-kids-find-their-passion/

TED Talk – Dr. Tae TEDx EastsidePrep (Learning and Skateboarding)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHfo17ikSpY

Apple YouTube clip – The Crazy Ones
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rwsuXHA7RA

3 comments for “Late Bloomers

  1. Peter Burnside
    January 26, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Nice post Dan. This rang true for me on many levels. I love to see results happen on my watch, but as you point out, sometimes the blooming doesn’t happen until the kids are out of our schools. We have believe and do our best anyway.

    Peter Burnside
    International School of Dakar

  2. Aaron Davis
    January 27, 2014 at 2:54 am

    Great post. The call is usually for reform and revolution. However, this does not account for what should happen if the status quo still holds strong. I think that a part of the problem is forgiving such students. So often such ‘problem’ students may disrupt a class or cross a teacher and the teacher crossed fails to forgive or provide a second chance. I wrote a reflection on the matter http://readingwritingresponding.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/new-year-new-beginnings.html

  3. Theresa
    January 27, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Interesting post – thank you! It reminds me of students that I have who are diagnosed or not with dyslexia. They just don’t do school well sometimes, but IQ and deep thinking is absolutely a part of who they are. I wonder how often it’s the structure of school that is the problem? Do they find ways to show what they know and develop a growth mind-set? Knowing that 35 percent of entrepreneurs are dyslexic we know that they have valuable talents and strengths that don’t always resonate well in a classroom. I don’t mean to take your post in another direction, but I do think that empathy and figuring it out is part of the solution…

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