Photo courtesy of Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Results. This season you’ve heard politicians and pundits tout them, your gym advertises them, and your boss demand them. Results make the world go ‘round. Without them, progress is unobtainable and success is unreachable. We live in a country obsessed with results. We post them to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds for all to see. The rush to produce results, and show those results off, whips many of us into a competitive and brutal frenzy.

Pause for a moment and think about it. In that drive for results, are we comfortable showing off where we are when we are only just beginning? Are we keener to post that picture of us before our grueling six months in the gym, or after we see the results of our workout? Do we prefer instagramming our freshly planted seeds in a patch of dirt or that garden flourishing with fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers? Do we really want to show off where we are on day one of our journey, or on day one hundred? Like many, I assume that you opted for the latter option in each of these questions. If so, congratulations!  You are normal!

But, just because something is “normal” does not mean that it should be. In our results driven world, it is wise to remind ourselves that results take work and time. Results are often achieved with an end goal in mind, but are rarely achieved over a short period of time. We seldom recognize those facts in our rush to showcase the end result. The need to perform at high levels is something we all strive to do, but it should not be all about that moment in the sun, but for the satisfaction that comes from working toward our goal.

Now, let’s apply that to our kids in school. Do we celebrate their journey, or demand a result? Imagine working in the gym striving for that ideal figure, but having your weights taken away from you for failing to produce results after a few weeks in the gym. Or, imagine losing fifty pounds in six months, only to be shamed by your trainer for not losing a hundred. Will that motivate you to go to the gym? The answer is no. While the gym can build a solid body, the school builds a solid mind. Like adults needing motivation in the gym, kids need continued motivation in school. That means focusing on academic growth.

We all grow at different rates. Let’s stick with our gym metaphor. While some fitness nuts can shed those pounds at a lightning pace, we in the real world are going to take a lot longer. The end results might look differently. The fitness nut will drop fat, build muscle, and end up on the cover of Sports Illustrated. We normal humans will likely drop a few pounds and continue working toward our fitness goals. Both the Sports Illustrated athlete and the gym-going cubicle worker are exposed to the same gym, the same trainer, and the same exercise equipment. But, the Sports Illustrated athlete comes from a long line of Olympic weightlifters, hired a personal chef, and has a small home gym. Our gym-going cubicle worker just has the gym membership with a family history of obesity. Does this mean that our cubicle worker should give up? No. Does this mean that our cubicle worker should achieve the same end result as our Sports Illustrated athlete? No. Does this mean that our Sports Illustrated athlete is a success and our cubicle worker is a failure? Absolutely not! The two gym members will, however, grow at a different rate. The important thing is that both continue to grow in pursuit of their goal.

Our kids face a similar situation in school. Some students will grow at an incredible pace. Some will grow at a slower pace. Some students will have access to hired personal tutors and college educated parents. Others will not. But, each should continue to grow.

But, what will we choose to celebrate? Will we celebrate the work and time of all students by showcasing their growth over the academic year, or seek only to uphold that Instagram worthy straight A report card?  This school year, let’s realize that while results make the world go ‘round, growth is what makes results possible. Maybe we should put away those Instagram ready smart phones poised to capture the end result, and celebrate the growth our kids will have along the way this academic year. Our kids will be apt to achieve more academically if adults focus on their growth toward achieving their goals, rather than obsessing over the almighty end result. After all, how do we expect our kids to achieve if we consistently tell them that their growth does not matter?

Here are five questions to ask your child’s teachers this school year that emphasize academic growth:

  1. How will you assist me in charting my child’s growth in your class this year?
  2. What tools can my child use to grow academically away from the classroom?
  3. What goals do you have for my child’s academic growth this year?
  4. How can I help my child view their school work through a growth mindset lens?
  5. How can we celebrate my child’s academic growth at home?