What is potential?

When we say that we want every child to achieve their potential, what do we mean? Do all pupils have inherent potentials – some things they may be able to do or become as opposed to other things they never will? If a teacher’s job is to unlock potential, what if the pupil’s potential is to become a burglar?!

I don’t think we can really ever measure or categorise meaningfully the positive potential for anything. We can maybe measure potential negatively and for easily definable achievements – a man with no legs probably doesn’t have the potential to be the fastest man on the day and win the Olympic Hundred Metres in 2012. But what positive criteria would we use to measure whether a pupil has the potential to become, say, Prime Minister? Would we give it a score? So that pupil X, in the debating team and developing his empathy skills well, has a Prime Ministerial potential score of 50%, possibly alongside a CEO of middle-sized corporation potential of 85%? More importantly, if we could find such a measure, what use would it be?

I heard a nice definition of potential the other day. ‘Potential’ simply recognises that given motivating circumstances pupils do better. Achieving their potential really means providing the most motivating circumstances. This is useful. It means we can start to describe motivating circumstances. We can take two groups of pupils, with intelligence as the constant, observe which group performs better and begin to define what ‘motivating circumstances’ are.

It is, of course, the motivating circumstances that explain the stories behind the statistic that says the biggest determinant of success at GCSE is socio-economic status. And those motivating circumstances include the physical, social and emotional prerequisites mentioned in the previous post on social work.


18 thoughts on “What is potential?”

  1. dear sir,

    thank u for the experience uou share to pupil, concerning this potential is every important in humanbeing, b/c for one to make it in life he/she have to know their potential and develop it for fulture poposes and for his life time.

    so sir u have wonderfully example this , thank you for that.

    thanks for hearing from you.


  2. Gud day sir,hw is work n evrytin hop fine? sir i realy enjoy ur coment on potential any one hw can try readin it wil neva reagrat.sir i wl luv 2 hav more abt potential on ma add tank u.

  3. To my opinion, potential is something you like to do or something you want to become.
    potential is something you find your self doing, no matter the challenges you face, no matter how people posed you, no matter how people criticize you, you steel have a feelings to do it irrespective of how and why.

  4. I want to thank you for talking about potential b/cos i believe without knowing your true self, it will be very difficult for one to make it (success).

  5. Thanks for your explanation potentials. To me it an inbuilt capability deposited by God in every person. A step to understanding this ability may be thriving in what u do easily and joyfully even in the absence of all favorable circumstances. Potentials are not maximised only in rigth premises

  6. Voltage is an informal term for electric potential difference and is also called electric tension. Voltage is a measure of the energy of electricity, …

  7. Am very greatful sir. Having gotting to understand that if one does not identify him self, he/she will never be recorgnise by the world. Your gift is your potential but without skills your gift will only be a short time success. we need to be extra ordinary skillful with our gift b/c is the seed that will blossom in the long run.

  8. I want to say thanks sir, for this explanation I must say am impressed. My own understanding you are trying to tell me that potential is the capacities or abilities one has in creating and motivating society and its self and is also a gift given to everyone but my question is how can I know my potentials.

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