Environmental Education

What sort of environment suits you? Do you function better in tranquil surroundings or do you thrive in commotion with a side serving of chaos? Are you academically oriented or athletic? Perhaps creativity is your thing, or you need a little of all of the above?

Each of us prefers certain conditions and feels energized by specific subject matter. But are we well matched to the environments in which we find ourselves?

A friend of mine is a long-time teacher. Occasionally we discuss secondary school education, his perceptions of the diversity of students he has encountered, and the expectations of their parents. Some are of those expectations are on the money. Others are unrealistic. And what parent doesn’t have blind spots when it comes to their children?

More than once, my friend has mentioned the assumption that everyone will attend college. But is every kid college material? Or college material at that particular time in life?

How many kids are pushed by insistent parents (and packaged up for college consideration) – woefully, dutifully, and dully following the standard curriculum and the “usual” expectations?

Taking Cues from Our Kids

For the student who muddles through classes without enthusiasm, I wonder what might develop if alternate environments could awaken genuine motivation. After all, we may not be raising the next CEO or great surgeon, but instead – the entrepreneur or caregiver, the talented athlete or extraordinary chef. How does it make sense to squeeze them into a generic academic track?

Might some 17 and 18-year olds learn more from a stint in the Peace Corps or some other international service – something to open their eyes to the larger world? Many of us believe that we should find our passions and pursue them, but what if you haven’t explored sufficiently to know what those passions are?

Parenting for the College Track

Perhaps I haven’t a right to discuss this issue.

My sons were bright; I pushed them to achieve and to shoot for good colleges. But it seems like yesterday that my younger son was inundated with classwork and the burdens of his college applications. Add to that the portfolio requirements for architecture, and the pressure in our household teetered in the danger zone for months.

Don’t think I didn’t spend countless hours worrying if my “guidance” was too intense, particularly watching my younger deal with one all-nighter after another.

As I look forward to my sons returning for the holiday break, I’m certain that my elder is happy where he is, and excited about heading overseas for the upcoming semester. As for my younger, I’m aware of his initial (positive) impressions. Yet I imagine he’ll have much more to recount, and I’m hoping his university environment is well suited to his learning style and creative passions.

Matching Environment to Passion, or its Discovery 

For me, college was about study, about socializing, about focusing and also expanding. I worked hard during the week, and enjoyed the parties on the weekends. What I learned about myself, and what I learned about learning remain immensely important as I recall those years.

College served as a foundation and without question, opened doors. But life experience has been the greatest teacher.

  • Do you know what environment suits you?
  • Are you still searching?
  • Were you pushed into one field because it was expected, only to discover that you felt drawn to another?
  • How would you feel if your kids said “I don’t want to go to college?’
  • Do you hang your hopes on your child’s future, based on what you did or didn’t choose?