The Aspirations component of Search Institute’s new REACH Framework introduces the importance of helping all young people develop a positive view of themselves in the future and connecting their ability to become that positive possible self to the actions they do—or do not—take every day.

For this reason, having a clear, positive idea of their “best possible selves” can motivate young people to work harder and do better in school, particularly if they are shown connections between what they’re doing in school and these future aspirations.

Teachers, youth workers, mentors, parents, and other caring adults can do a lot to help students connect today’s learning and actions with future aspirations and goals. Here are seven ideas that can help you nurture a young person’s sense of purpose and plans for becoming her or his best self.

  1. Connect: The foundation of helping youth cultivate their possible selves is to build a strong relationship with them that helps them trust you and open up to you. Then they’re more likely to share with you what they really aspire to do or be.
     
  2. Describe: Regularly explain to young people how what they are learning in school will help them lead better lives in the future, including how they will use the knowledge and skills in future learning.
     
  3. Reveal: Share your own sense of purpose related to your profession and other things you are passionate about. It may not be their interest, but your energy and enthusiasm can still inspire them to reflect on what really matters for them.
     
  4. Notice: Pay attention to the things young people are interested in. This lets them know that you see and support their aspirations for the future. Ask what they enjoy. How does it relate to their hopes or goals for the next few years? Where possible, find connections between what’s important to them and their focus on learning in school.
     
  5. Coach: When you learn about students’ aspirations or sources of purpose, coach them to identify actions they can take and people who they can connect to in order to work toward that aspiration.
     
  6. Highlight: Find and share stories about people from your community or the world who are using the knowledge and skills they learned in school to make a difference.
     
  7. Dig deeper: When young people are disengaged, don’t immediately dismiss their behavior as evidence that they don’t care. Try to connect with their aspirations, which can help to re-engage them in learning.
     

In the end, a student’s possible self must come from within; teachers, parents, and others can’t impose it or create it for the young person. However, adults can open up opportunities, create relationships, and be available and supportive as young people explore and discover their aspirations and sense of purpose.

For more information on the REACH Framework, request “The REACH Resources Overview” White Paper or register for our upcoming webinar and learn how schools can use REACH to strengthen students’ motivation to succeed in the classroom and beyond.

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