At TGS, we work to help students recognize and realize their potential. Recognize and realize – there are two parts (at least) to this task, which is more complicated than it sounds. Schools everywhere are full of classes and programs to help students realize their potential. Much of this is focused on academics, with AP and IB content in the traditional disciplines of science, social studies, language arts, math, and foreign language. With careful planning and focus, conscientious college-bound students can accelerate their learning, and advance more quickly to courses in their area of interest. Potential realized. Or is it?
Before students can truly realize their potential, they have to recognize who they are and how their brain works. This process of exploring identity includes understanding that potential has limits. It can be stretched with hard work and the support of teachers, family and friends. But different minds are best matched to different styles of learning and working, and part of recognizing potential includes knowing how your mind works and how that focuses your life choices.
As Temple Grandin frequently points out, the world needs all kinds of minds. Recently, there has been a lot of buzz around careers in technology for individuals with autism. Many on the spectrum, including some of our students, have minds that can focus on details (“bottom-up thinking,”), see patterns, and thrive on repetitive tasks. Students with these minds, at TGS and elsewhere, should be exposed to coding and other STEM-related courses to be well-prepared for skilled jobs in the tech industry.
But what about students with different kinds of minds, who aren’t visual thinkers? They too, need support to recognize their potential, which may be realized in other fields. And for all students, we must provide the time and space for them to discover the identity they want for themselves, and determine how they can build on their strengths to realize it.