An Open Letter to Dream Crushers (and other lessons from #ISTE2015)

A tweet from yesterday at ISTE:
Jack Gallegher, Keynote at #ISTE2015reminds us that our kids deserve the right to dream whatever they want to dream! Don’t crush dreams!-@latoyadixon5
Dear Dream Crushers (myself included),
So often we spend too much time trying to be realistic and as educators we almost become missionaries in helping students develop realistic goals. My experience at ISTE 2015 has stirred my thinking on this quite a bit. Mostly, it’s made me question myself-which is a good practice for all of us. It means we reflect on what we do and why we do it.
Listening to Jack Gallegher, the keynote speaker on Tuesday at #ISTE2015 really pushed my thinking. We (yes-I am assuming you do this too for two reasons-1. You probably do, 2. It makes me feel better) are good at telling our students to be realistic about what they want for their future. Jack spoke extensively about his son, a child with autism, not  his autistic child-I loved the distinction he made. He spoke to us about how labels are limiting and why he made the distinction. He spoke personally and passionately about how much time he wasted trying to help his son fit in and how once he stopped trying to make him into what he thought he ought to be, his son really blossomed.
It leads me to think, who are we to say what is realistic for our students? We don’t know if the next scientist who will find the cure for cancer is sitting right in our classrooms. Or if the next computer scientists who will revolutionize the way we work, live, and play is walking the halls in our school. You’d think with experience we would get better at being open to the fact that although our students are the future, we certainly don’t know and can’t say with certainty what their future holds.  When I think about growing up with my two older sisters in poverty, raised by my single mother, in the projects, I am so glad we were not realistic. We were crazy enough to believe that we were smart enough to do whatever we wanted to do…and we did. If we had been realistic we wouldn’t have had the power to defy every statistic connected to kids of poverty.
Perhaps there is a kid who we perceive as having a non-impact on the future, or an otherwise negative one, who is just waiting for us to stop being dream crushers to blossom. Instead of telling our kids “well, I’d like for you to make a practical goal. Choose something realistic that you can accomplish,” why aren’t we saying-Your dream is too small. Dream big. Why can’t you be the scientist who finds the cure for cancer? Sure you can.
Conversely, it leads me to think or question: Why is it that we think we know that the future of some our students are bright based on their parents or SES status? We still operate under the assumption “You come from a good family so you’ll be fine”. After years of experience, I have seen this theory disproven over and over again. What I am sure of, is that we limit the dreams of our kids, when our own dreams are limited by our thinking.
Success is not a birthright and neither is failure.  Your parents’ success has nothing to do with yours. Who our students’ parents are, their family values, etc. does not guarantee success as student or learner. The sooner we confront how often we make this assumption and how blind we are, the better off we will be. All of our students need to be developed and guided to dream and dream big. Don’t sell your kids short just because you have your own set of issues believing in things you’ve not seen or experienced.
So to all you dream crushers-stop it!
Until next time-be you, be true, and be a hope builder,

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