Sunday, October 6, 2013


 The Potentiality of a Child

The child, his peers, teacher and environment
I was discussing the role of a teacher in a constructivist classroom this week with several colleagues.  How do we as teachers and parents hold students to their potential but yet respect each child's individual path?  The child exists, learns and journeys in context to his or her peers, teacher and family and environment. 

The word potentiality carries much weight for me. 
It conveys fluidity, process, evolution and most importantly hope. Does a child or even an adult ever reach their final potential? Are we able to predict potentiality or is it a variable that is in flux for the duration of our lives as human beings?

My oldest child transitioned this year from high school into community college. We learned when he entered Kindergarten that his journey might involve a different path than we had hoped. It was often a struggle to tuck away the fear and instead be guided by our love for him and hope in his future. We found that we had to focus on his potentiality and yet remain willing and open to the path that was his to take.  As his parents, my husband and I often suffered through the realization that by protecting our son we were stripping him of his  independence and encouraging learned helplessness.  We tried to listen, console and empathize but then gently place the ownership of the problem or decision back into his hands. Our experience taught us that his potentiality would be evident through the interactions with his peers, teachers and environment BUT it was never easy to  let go and trust. 

Childhood and even adulthood for that matter is a journey not a race. 

Is there ever a finishing line? 
Perhaps there are just milestones to be celebrated along the way? 

Of course, early bloomers should be nurtured. There's no value to squandering ability. But nor should we dismiss the tortoise. At any given time, it's impossible to predict the extent to which a person will eventually blossom—and disastrously naive for "experts" (or parents or teachers) to decree limits on what that person can achieve. This is reason enough to treat everyone as if they have the potential to reach full bloom.
Scott Barry Kaufman is an American psychologist, author, and popular science writer known for his research and writing on intelligence and creativity.  This article appeared in Psychology Today.

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