In LEAP for Education’s College Success Program (CSP), it is one of our goals to support students while leading them towards finding their own autonomy, which is vital in order to succeed as independent adults in college and future careers.
It is important to the CSP staff that students are taught the appropriate way to communicate with every professional in their lives. In addition, it is incredibly important that our students see themselves as adults who can solve problems instead of looking for adults around them to solve problems for them. In today’s parlance, these 21st Century skills of problem-solving, initiative, resiliency, risk-taking, and persistence are skills not taught is many classrooms.
The article, “Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for Colleges”(1), discusses the increasingly prevalent issue concerning student dependence and their inability to face the increased demands and responsibility found on college campuses. While all students should have a support system made up of caring adults (parents, counselors, advisors, etc), these systems should only be accessed after a student has tried to problem-solve themselves and only then, should they seek out guidance or validation when their attempts don’t work or they need more input from someone more experienced. Students need to receive a balance of support and challenge, and not constant “hand-holding”. However, there is an onus on the adult as well to encourage students to think it through on their own and not be so quick to jump in with the solution, as tempting as it might be. No one likes to see a child in pain, emotionally or physically but in most instances, a child could be left alone to problem-solve on their own.
When teachers worry about their students’ fragility or fear inducing an emotional crisis, they are more likely to jump in to give students the answer, or make exams or projects less challenging and might be more reluctant to give out bad grades.
As educators and counselors we need to change the conversation about what success is and how we reward it. Am I more successful if an adult tells me what to do and I finish it quickly and get a high grade or if I figure it out by myself after several tries even if it took much longer? What if I take the safe route and stay in my comfort zone and get high grades vs pushing myself and taking risks and perhaps getting lower grades. Many professors find it difficult to straddle the fine line between creating a learning environment and grading environment to give each student what he or she needs to succeed in life versus a safe and less challenging environment that sets low expectations but yields higher grades and less emotional crises.
It is important for students to take challenges head-on instead of looking for those around them to help smooth things over and it is important for educators to let them without fear that initial failure will derail their college (or job) in an increasingly competitive and complex world.
And all of this needs to take place in K-12 as a way to prepare students before they get to college.
It is imperative that all of the concerns explored in this article are discussed and examined in more detail in order to further help students grow emotionally and intellectually. The more these issues continue, the more the culture and expectations involving students on college campuses will be affected.
For these reasons, the College Success Program staff will continue to focus on pushing our students to be responsible adults who are accountable for their education, relationships, and actions.
By Betty Haggery, Peabody College Success Site Coordinator
(1) Psychology Today, September 15, 2015, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201509/declining-student-resilience-serious-problem-colleges
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