Russell J. Quaglia
President/Founder, Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations
It’s our turn to listen and learn from students.
Most adults agree with the notion that we need to listen to students. Over the many years I have been advocating for student voice, we have come a long way in asking students for their opinions on important matters. However, I have come to realize that asking is the easy part. It is what happens after we ask that truly matters.
Simply asking students what they think does very little for creating meaningful change, and it does very little to support the attainment of their aspirations. The real challenge lies in listening carefully to what they are telling us, reflecting upon it, learning from it, and leading change with students by our sides. Listen, learn, and lead. Those are my new favorite words.
Dreaming + Doing = Aspirations.
Dreamers espouse lofty goals, but make little effort to achieve them. Doers work hard in school, but can’t tell us what they will be doing tomorrow (never mind in the more distant future). Educators know that something powerful happens when dreaming and doing come together: students have aspirations. Students with strong aspirations show that they have dreams for the future, and are inspired to do what it takes in the present to work toward their fulfillment. However, there is no mold for student aspirations; they will be as different and unique as the young people who have them. Schools have a responsibility to support ‘dreaming and doing’ in ways that ensure the success of all students.
We always have time to do what we think is most important.
People often leave meetings and seminars excited, and overflowing with great ideas about everything they are going to do to make things better for their students. Then they are faced with the reality that there is always too much going on, and there is only so much time in a day. Well, that may be true, but we always have time to do what we think is most important.
If we think settling a teacher contract dispute is more important than a child’s aspirations, then we will not have time for a child’s aspirations. If we think it is more important for students to score well on standardized tests than to be connected in a meaningful way to their school and learning, then we will not have time to ensure each and every child feels like they matter at school. If we believe it is of paramount importance that each student has self-worth, is actively engaged in their learning, and has a sense of purpose, then we will invest the time it takes to ensure all students reach their fullest potential.
A student with purpose is a student with unlimited promise.
The most successful students I know are clear about who they are and what they believe in; they are not afraid to show it and are confident they will make a difference in this world. That is called purpose. So is it really all about academics?
Even though our ultimate goal in education is to ensure all students reach their full academic potential, we do not want to graduate bright kids who lack social and personal skills. We do not want to graduate students who are devoid of curiosity and creativity, or who lack a spirit of adventure. We want to graduate bright young people who have the confidence to take action, are responsible leaders, and are genuine heroes to those whose lives they touch.
Frustration is enthusiasm in need of an attitude adjustment.
We all know the frustration of feeling our initial excitement fade when a new endeavor leads to unexpected roadblocks and takes longer than expected. The journey can feel long and lonely. But I’ve learned that we must be thankful for the frustration, because that feeling means that we really care, that we really want something to happen, and that we are impatient for the future possibilities to be realized.
In moments of frustration it is important to take a step back. Reflect on what is happening: How are things working? How have they changed? How can they continue to improve? Taking stock and gaining perspective provides the necessary attitude adjustment to turn frustration back into enthusiasm.
The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.
Dr. Russell J. Quaglia is the president and founder of the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations (QISA). He is a pioneer in the field of education and has been described by national news media as America's foremost authority on the development and achievement of student aspirations. Dr. Quaglia's innovative work in student aspirations is evidenced by his authorship and leadership of the My Voice suite of surveys and associated professional development products.
As a dynamic speaker, Dr. Quaglia travels extensively presenting research-based information on student aspirations and engagement to audiences around the world. His research and insights on education are published frequently in professional journals and popular magazines, and he has written numerous books. Dr. Quaglia has also made several national and international television and radio appearances.
Dr. Quaglia earned his bachelor's degree at Assumption College, a master of arts degree in economics from Boston College, and master of education and doctorate degrees from Columbia University, specializing in the area of organizational theory and behavior. He has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates in humanitarian services for his dedication to students. Dr. Quaglia's work has also led him to serve on several national committees, reflecting his passion for ensuring that students' voices are always heard, honored, and acted upon.
In addition to leading the Quaglia Institute, Dr. Quaglia is the Chief Academic Officer of the Student Engagement Trust, a nonprofit organization based in the United Kingdom. He also founded and currently chairs the Aspirations Academy Trust, an organization set to open a number of Aspirations Academies, based on Dr. Quaglia's aspirations philosophy, in the London area.
Combining his entrepreneurial spirit with his devotion to helping students achieve their aspirations, Dr. Quaglia established the Q-Bean Coffee company. Q-Bean Coffee roasts and distributes the best eco-friendly coffee on the planet while providing a convenient way to make a difference—all profits serve to fund educational organizations that support children and their dreams.