In the high school classroom, conscientious objectors are students who intentionally rail against authority or take a more passive approach and refuse to participate in school. The underlying causes are few, but the reasons you'll hear about why school sucks are many:
* I have to be here by law. Otherwise, I would be out of here.
* It starts too early in the morning.
* We aren't going to use any of this in the real world, anyway.
* This is boring.
* Adults don't understand me.
The reality is that these complaints contain more than just a kernal of truth. For many students, high school is not a place they would choose to be. The good news is that even though the conscientious objectors may be on a first-name basis with the school's administration and/or have difficulty with the curriculum, they are still showing up to school.
Short of entirely re-vamping a school system that a time traveller from the nineteenth century would recognize, there are some things we can do between now and September to increase our teens' motivation and engagement with school:
1. Focus on strengths: Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs states that after our basic survival needs are taken care of (food, shelter, clothing, safety) people need to belong, feel loved and accepted, and feel that we're realizing our full potential. Not everyone's full potential involves excelling in an academic environment. Neither Sir Richard Branson nor Simon Cowell graduated from high school.
2. Help your teen develop their personal brand: Personal branding has a bad rap as being an egocentric process based solely on self-promotion. It can also be used to help our teens pull together information they develop in career education, computer science and other curriculum areas. It's never too soon for teens to start to think about who they are now and what makes them shine. Free web-based tools and social media applications can help them put together a web presence that not only acts as a career portfolio, but also helps them see that they have something of value to offer. Working through the personal branding process – especially the online social media aspect of branding - gives adults the opportunity to effectively address bigger issues (such as online reputation management) with our teens. If you or the teachers at your student's school don't have this expertise, find someone locally who can help you all to get up to speed. Social media and personal branding provides too great of an opportunity for connecting with teens to be missed!
3. Help your teen see why (s)he has to learn that: One of the big negative effects of separating high school into a number of different “courses” is that students (and adults) find it difficult to see the use of what they're learning. Math isn't really about arithemtic; it's about learning logic and abstract thought. These are valuable skills, even if it seems on the surface that there's no point to it. It doesn't help your teens when you agree that they're learning a “bunch of crap that they'll never use in the real world”. Who knows what they'll use “in the real world”? All learning is important.
If you're the parent of a teenaged conscientious objector, know there are many paths to success in life. Students do realize that to complete high school, they need to fulfill a certain number of requirements and they're looking for much more than that. For many conscientious objectors, failing a class is a result of poor attendance and an almost Herculean effort to do none of the work assigned. These students are making a point and want to be heard, even if they don't have the words to explain their point fully. You can help your teenager learn to make his point, and to get more from his high school experience by helping him through the personal branding process. Find a local career counsellor or personal branding coach who includes self-assessment tools and online marketing tools along with other personal branding services. It's important that students take what they learn and know about themselves and translate it into a public showcase that they can use as a tool for finding a job or volunteer position, applying to a post-secondary institution or getting a small business going. Working through the personal branding process goes a long way to getting the conscientious objector to see how he can use classes at school for his own ends.
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Elizabeth Campbell Duke empowers job hunters, career changers and solopreneurs to translate their dreams into reality. She has a special soft-spot for conscientious objectors because they're often just too smart for their own good. Elizabeth operates CampbellDuke Personal Branding from her home in British Columbia. FMI about her services and print resources see www.CampbellDuke.com or find CampbellDuke Personal Branding on Facebook.