What I ended up finding out about these kids was a real surprise to me though.
Low self esteem.
Not a new concept, especially when talking about high schoolers. These students were the ones who sat at the bottom of the class for a bunch of different reasons, and had been there a long time, so I knew they weren't all necessarily bouncing off the walls with happiness. But when we asked them to write down what they were good at for their CV, there were some kids who drew blanks.
"I'm not good at anything though, what am I meant to write for skills?"
They had nothing. No concept of any strengths they had, all they knew was, they weren't smart.
It really bummed me out. These kids have been dealt a bum deal in life and coming to school wasn't necessarily making it any better for them, in fact, it highlighted their shortcomings. This is NOT what we're meant to be doing for students at all! In fact, it's the total opposite!
I was walking home from the gym listening to a Ken Robinson TED talk and there were some things he said that really resonated with me, especially after talking to these kids.
"I believe fundamentally, as many speakers have said during the past few days, that we make very poor use of our talents. Very many people go through their whole lives having no real sense of what their talents may be, or if they have any to speak of. I meet all kinds of people who don't think they're really good at anything"
"An example of a useful skill, is when your brother and sister are fighting again, you know how to make them stop - you have negotiation skills"
"You correct the checkout chicks when they give you the wrong change - you're good at mental maths, and with money"
"Can you explain computer stuff to your parents? Yes? You have communication and IT skills"
They had no idea that these were good things.
"Human resources are like natural resources; they're often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they're not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves. And you might imagine education would be the way that happens, but too often it's not."
"There are ideas that all of us are enthralled to, which we simply take for granted as the natural order of things, the way things are. And many of our ideas have been formed, not to meet the circumstances of this century, but to cope with the circumstances of previous centuries. But our minds are still hypnotized by them, and we have to disenthrall ourselves of some of them."
"I think we have to recognize a couple of things here. One is that human talent is tremendously diverse.People have very different aptitudes. I worked out recently that I was given a guitar as a kid at about the same time that Eric Clapton got his first guitar. You know, it worked out for Eric, that's all I'm saying."