Hopes and Dreams
I read a report the other day about the hopes and dreams of seven-year-olds and how there seems to be a link between the level of aspiration children hold and resilient they are; it made me think of two things, one what are the hopes and dreams of our children; should we encourage children out of unrealistic dreams or into dreaming bigger and also, how have our own dreams panned out?
The report on the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-19586824) noted that “ambitious children from poor homes had fewer behavioural problems than those with lesser dreams. “ It also stated that “Early aspirations may therefore be a very good indicator of a cluster of characteristics associated with resilience – or the lack of it – such as self-perception of competence or a feeling of hopelessness,”
Some interesting aspects of gender roles seem to be present too. “The researchers found girls were more interested in careers involving helping or caring for people or animals while boys were more likely to be motivated by dreams of becoming powerful, popular or wealthy.” Over 80% of the children interviewed had ambitions to hold managerial or professional jobs, although more girls than boys wanted professional careers whilst a third of boys wanted to be sportsmen.
So it seems that the dreams of the young are big, if not necessarily realistic. If this big dreaming gives kids the edge when it comes to feelings of their own self worth, then surely we should encourage our children to dream big. And yet this reminds me of a couple stories from my early days of teaching. The first is this: a 15 year old boy in my bottom set English class; special needs; he struggled to write a sentence and was pretty badly behaved. When asked what he wanted to do when he left school he said he wanted to be a marine biologist. I struggled with whether or not I should crush this dream. I talked to him about going to University and writing essays and asked him about his science grades (which were worse than his English) and asked him if he felt this was a dream he could achieve. The following week he went on work experience and came back having secured himself a job as a labourer with the building firm he had worked for and was pleased as punch. Had he had more encouragement for his big dreams, would he have been able to achieve them?
The second story is about a younger girl I knew who was told off by her primary school teacher for saying she wanted to be a nurse. She was told she should have bigger dreams and want to be a doctor. Again I see two sides to this. Firstly, what is wrong with wanting to be a nurse? It’s a valuable job. It’s a hard job. Why shouldn’t it be your dream? However, what if this particular young girl’s dream was limited by her own perception of self worth – that she wasn’t good enough to be a doctor? What if it was limited by gender stereotypes? Boys can be doctors, girls can be nurses? If these two things were the case then perhaps she should have been challenged to dream bigger.
Finally all of these thoughts about dreaming big brought me back to an exercise which Loretta does with our course attendees all about remembering your childhood passions and dreams when anything seemed possible and you were not limited by your own interpretation of reality. What did you dream of being when you were young and how close are you to it. Could you achieve it if you revisited things? Would the right encouragement have helped? Are you there already? Could you manage to achieve even a little bit of that dream in a hobby or a career?
If encouraging our children to dream big is a way of ensuring their resilience, surely we too should allow ourselves to dream big and hope for things for ourselves and our futures. If we can dream them then we’re one step closer to making them happen.