Success! For Teenagers in School and in Life

September 6, 2018

Letter to the Editor_Wide

Dear Editor:

As the new school year begins, within the first minutes of class, I let my students know what I want for each and every one of them. I want them to be SUCCESSFUL! As a teacher, a parent, a community member, and a proud American, I truly want nothing more than for all high school students to be successful. However, it is not up to me, as their teacher, mentor, or even a parent, to define success for each student and besides most teenagers do not listen when you do. It is up to each individual student to determine what his or her success will look like.

Students must be encouraged to develop their own, personal definition of success. As open-ended as that may appear, there are many aspects of success that are steadfast. Virtues of success include being in a caring relationship, being loved, having finical security with a steady income and possibly savings, and being secure in house and home, along with many other “adult” issues. These are some of the greater concerns that teenagers must clarify within their definition of success.

After I proclaim my sincere desire for all teenagers to be successful and how I will not define success for them, their feelings of excitement and confidence are short-lived when the hardships of achieving such success is contemplated.

Scenarios that demonstrate the realities teenagers must work through are Google, YouTube, and robots. In addition, many teenagers believe that, in the future, they will always have a calculator, so why do they need to learn math?

With a tone of urgency and concern I ask all teenagers, “Why would anyone pay you $25.00 an hour with benefits? When Google knows everything thing that has ever been known, YouTube has endless instructional videos and robots are designed to work faster, more precisely, and longer than any human possibly can. So really, what good are you?” Although these services have been great allies in youth, they will now have to compete against them as adults.

Kids don’t like that scenario, but they do understand it. It is not being mean, but it is their realty. In efforts to clarify their definition of success, they must prove why someone would pay them $25.00 an hour?

Soft skills are key to success; they always have been and always will be. These are the innately human characteristic that are within all of us, but the same skills technology may never achieve. Use Google to search “soft skills” for a complete list.

Soft skills must be practiced at home and at school. A STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) emphasizes imagination, critical thinking, organization, and communication along with many others. Parents and teachers need to be united in the skills teenagers will need to be successful, no matter how they define success. Teenagers need to be informed that they will be paid to think, create, and solve problems that have not yet been solved, all while being organized and communicating effectively. And when they lose focus, we must remind them that no one will pay them for something technology will do for free.

Which leads to teenagers’ belief that having a calculator means you are good at math, but that would also mean that having a game system means you will be awesome at Overwatch. It is not having access to a game or calculator, it is what you do with it. Teenagers get frustrated with adults when gaming is referred to as easy and simple, much like adults get frustrated with teenagers refer to life as simple and easy. Teenagers do have access to the greatest technology and techniques, but that does not mean that they will be successful using them.

All this wraps together nicely as we begin the new year, when teenagers are empowered to define their success. They will need to use the skills learned in school, home, and in life. Imagination, critical thinking, organization, and communication, along with all the other soft skills will lead them to success.

Andrew J. Frisch
Science & Mathematics teacher
Farwell High School

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