Stop Asking Students: What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

When I first started teaching, I was at a school that was pushing these students towards college as the only option and I figured that's the norm and it's great! As I have taught at other schools I've realized that we need to be pushing students towards more than college.  I used to ask students,

"What do you want to be/what career do you want to have in the future?"

As my knowledge has grown in the field of education and I've started to focus more on providing students with culturally relevant pedagogy, I've begun to ask 

"How do you want to change the world in the future?"

Students don't need college for that. And it makes me wish that we'd ask more adults this question: How do you want to change the world? This question does not confine us to degrees, salaries, and status, but spans across multiple disciplines and life perspectives.  I remember the first time I posed that question to a group of middle school students and I gave them some time to ponder it. The answers were astounding and much better than what I would have received if I simply asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This type of question allows students to use critical thinking skills and helps students to recognize the role they have as an individual in the world around them.  It removes the limitations of school and allows students to expand their thinking beyond education.  

Start asking your students the right question and you will be amazed at the things you hear.