Parents, you know that look your son gets when he's concentrating really hard on a task?
Or that huge smile that spreads across your daughter's face when she's just done something really courageous?
Those are the moments when you feel like you can really see the heart of who your child is.
There's just one problem: very few people ever get a chance to see your child the way you do. And it's having a huge impact on their futures.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that kids spend so much time sitting at their desks memorizing a bunch of facts to spit back on their tests.
Their natural genius can't be expressed because they're stuck in a system where conformity and sameness are rewarded and difference is punished.
Yet this kind of standardized education system is completely outdated in today's innovation era. We're no longer grooming our kids to stand mute and obedient in a factory line all day.
Instead, we're living in an era where 9-5 jobs and 30-year careers at the same company are quickly becoming relics of an era fading fast.
And as pioneers in this digital age we live in, our economy requires massive creativity and innovation.
But let's be frank: our kids are not learning these qualities in school.
Now, I want to be clear: this is not the fault of our teachers. Our teachers are under so much pressure to teach to a specific, standardized curriculum that they don't have time to ask deeper questions.
They don't get to ask, "What lights you up? What are you curious about? What do you want to be known for? How do you want to touch your community?"
And because teachers can't ask these kinds of questions, our kids have very little sense that these questions actually exist.
But the good news is that the minute we show our kids that they can ask new questions, they're natural genius begins to shine through.
Last year when I asked a student what he loved to do, he told me, "Nothing. I don't even like video games." But that was his way of testing me. Of seeing whether I would stick around long enough and ask deep enough questions to get to know him, to really see him and value him for his unique personality.
And so I took the challenge. I stuck around, and after a few sessions where I asked him questions he didn't even know he could ask, he'd decided to join his robotics team and was thinking about becoming a personal trainer. He was so much more alive to his interests and skills.
So, I want to leave you with this today: start helping your child develop new questions. Start by asking, "What do you love to do?"
And even if the answer is something you don't want to hear ("Play video games!") don't silence it. Use it as an opportunity to develop a deeper level of creativity. Maybe your child would like to learn to design her own video game or learn the code to build his gaming app.
Finally, be sure to ask, "What kinds of problems would you like to solve? How would you like to use your talents to make the world around you better?"
This isn't just about creating a strategy to get in to college. This is about creating a strategy for LIFE.
Because when students understand that they have the power to make a difference in other people's lives we don't have to talk about motivation anymore. Their natural zone of genius is leading the way, urging them on to step into the greatness that each of them is born with.
So, go ahead, start a new conversation with your child and watch how their genius starts to shine through -- in a way that *everyone* can see. Your child's confidence will surge, and you'll see a newfound hunger emerge to create something inspiring with their talents.
For the last 15 years, Elizabeth Dankoski has helped hundreds of high achieving students get into the nation's top schools, including Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Cornell, Yale, UPenn, among many others.
Her unusual approach of helping students discover what lights them up and how they can make an impact on their communities not only earns her students incredible acceptance rates but also allows them to thrive in college and beyond.
To learn more about Elizabeth's approach, please visit dreamschoolproject.com.