We live in a culture where the stereotype is of “breaking ties” as a key part of growing up and exploring the world. Young people are expected to rebel from families so they can “find themselves.” They must “find their own way,” and so they need adults to “back off” and “give them space.”

There is some truth behind this conventional wisdom. As students move through middle school and high school, they are actively internalizing a sense of who they are as unique individuals and how they will present themselves and leave their mark in the world. They need to find their own voice and discover who they are, their gifts and their passions.

At the same time, that growing and discovery process is most successful when it transpires while young people maintain strong relationships with parents, teachers, mentors, coaches and other trustworthy adults (not to mention positive friendships with peers). Important people in young people’s lives not only offer mirrors and sounding boards for self-reflection, they can also introduce young people to people, places, vocations, cultures and ideas that capture their imagination, expand their thinking and open possibilities for their future.

Teachers and other school staff play an important and unique role in expanding possibilities for students. They often have access to opportunities and ideas that the student may not think of or that the student’s family may not have experienced. They also can sometimes see possibilities in a young person that may not be obvious to families and friends who may have preconceptions of who a young person is or what possibilities they have for the future.

This month’s book from Search Institute focuses on how teachers can help students expand possibilities for the future, by introducing them to ideas, cultures, people and places that connect with their interests, passions and gifts and help them see expanded possibilities for themselves.

Click the image below for research, tips, and activities:

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