'Potential'... do we ever 'Reach' it?

I have a 'bee in my bonnet', a 'bone-to-pick' ... something to 'get off my chest'.

It's all to do with a phrase, one tiny little phrase that is widely used..but in my opinion; widely mis-used.

The phrase in question? 

"Reach our/their potential"

Educationalists across the world use this phrase, and in my opinion, do so with wanten thought-lessness.

Is "potential" a fixed state?

Do we ever reach or fulfil it?

Who judges/determines if we have reached the nirvana of 'potential' - and how do they know?


Latin origins of the word 'potential' (potent, potentia, potentialis) define it as 'being able', 'power', 'potent'. Never once does it state there is an end-point, that you have 'reached' your potential.

Too often I am hearing the term connected with 'growth mindset' phrases, and in my opinion this is an oxymoron, a contradiction... counter-productive.

So I would like to propose alternative phrases you might consider using:

Unlock their potential
OR
Grow their potential

Because after all, isn't this what we are in the business of doing as educators?

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