I don’t know about you, but there are some days I would rather not come to work. I like my job and I’m reasonably good at it, but there are other things I like to do and am good at, too. But the bottom line is this: my work has to be my priority. It is what I have chosen to do, and it carries obligations. Granted, it’s important to sometimes take time away and do that other stuff, but it just can’t be whenever I feel like it or just because I feel like it. First things first, you know, and most days that means coming to work.
So, what’s the point?
I got to thinking about this analogy because of a conversation I was having with a student. It went something like this:
Me: “We like to see more rigor during senior year.”
Student: “But you said that extracurriculars were important. I was in band (and went to state), three sports (and lettered in all of them), and I worked, too. I didn’t want to load up too much with classes because I didn’t want my GPA to go down.”
Me: “Yes, we noticed your involvement, and actually your ‘engagement’ was a plus factor in our evaluation. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that you could have – and should have – fit more college-prep classes into your senior schedule. Lack of rigor was a ‘minus’ factor.”
Student: “But I LIKE those other classes, and I’m good at them. And I LIKE music and sports, and I’m good at them. Why shouldn’t I be able to do those things?”
Maybe you see my point. The lesson this particular student had to learn was about priorities, making choices, and balance. If you think of the primary “job” of a college-bound student as preparing for college-level course work, then the analogy falls into place. We all have to make choices, and we all have to decide what is most important when making choices – it’s called “priorities.” No one can do it all. It’s a life lesson: the choices we have to make are not always the choices we want to make.
Having said that, I would also acknowledge that the “other stuff” is important and worthy of some portion of available time. That’s where the “balance” comes in. It is true that we like to see engagement and leadership in high school – and we like to see it in college, too. The things learned outside of the classroom are valuable life lessons, and can serve students well in the future. It’s when the “other stuff” crowds out the primary responsibility – academics – that both high school and college students run into trouble. Every student must find the point at which their academics and activities balance in such a way as to allow for excellence in both.
I won’t pretend that it’s an easy lesson to teach because so much depends upon the individual. However, high school is a good time for students to start learning to recognize their skills and limitations, and to learn the life lessons of priorities, choices and balance. When they learn this in high school, it will carry into their college years, hopefully leading to success there, and then into their career and family lives.
No, I didn’t particularly want to come to work today. It’s cold, blustery, and rainy and I’d have preferred to stay home and can homemade applesauce (which I’m good at and I LIKE doing). But I did come to work, and will fulfill my obligations here, and will plan to can applesauce on the weekend. Priorities, choices and balance. It’s real life.