Back to School: Helping Kids Dream Big

Depending on where you are in the country, school may have already started. My nephew’s kids, who live in Georgia, have been in school for more than two weeks already, whereas kids in New York are still enjoying the waning days of summer.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and education advocate, writes in the excerpt below about how school has changed since she was a girl, how kids are dreaming big, and how they’re taking bold risks.



As my family and I get ready for the beginning of the new school year, I find myself thinking a lot about my own days in school. Over and over again, through my work with the foundation, I’ve seen that school today is much more creative and supportive than it was when I was a kid. Here are some of the eye-opening lessons I’ve learned from students and teachers at some of the schools I’ve visited over the last few years.


More than Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

When I talked to Sumi and Zanaasha at Seattle Girls’ School, I was impressed by how much they said they had learned from their teachers, not just academically but also personally. Here and in many other schools I visit, I see teachers helping kids learn how to set priorities, self-advocate, and figure out what their values are. If we encourage our kids to see teachers as sources of knowledge and as role models, they’ll have even more positive influences in their lives.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Students are a lot more in tune with their feelings than I remember being. The University of Washington students from TUNE House, a housing and scholarship program for women pursuing computer science, engineering, and information technology degrees, told me that they gather weekly to write their highs and lows on Post-its, whether they’re significant or silly, and stick them on the wall in their living room. I make a habit of sharing “roses and thorns” with my kids, but whatever we call them, it’s important for our kids to know that it’s OK to have both ups and downs.

Don’t Aspire to Perfection

Fear of failure is so common, and so destructive. That’s why I was blown away at Summit Sierra Public School to see student after student talking about not just what they were good at but also what they were having trouble with — and what they were doing to get better. If an adult had visited my school, I would have found all the tests I got an A on and put them right on top. But if we let our kids risk imperfection, they’ll be a lot more resilient when they head into the world.

Read more at Medium.


Melinda Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.