For most of us, memories of our early school years include multiplication table drills, spelling bees and the constant cramming of facts into our brains.
Even now, silly rhymes that were used to help us remember are still stuck in our heads… I before E except after C and words that sound like...Today’s kids are faced with a brave new world of information at their fingertips.
Ask even the youngest of students today how to find information. You’ll get the universal answer, albeit of questionable grammar - “Just search it up!”. After all, who needs to memorize when you can “Google-it”?
So with all facts just a click away, and the need to memorize almost obsolete, what tools do we to equip our kids with for their future? Recent research tells us that social-emotional development is now taking a front row seat in the formula for success.
It’s not just about knowing but more about showing.
Accessing the information is the easy part. Now you have to take it, shape it and make something happen; hopefully something amazing.
With this value shift comes the need to focus more on teaching key soft skills. These are the personality traits that enable us to fit, function and be productive in our society. Our kids need to learn the “4 C’s”, right up there with the traditional 3 R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic.
Learning to “play nice” is no longer just a lesson in the playground. Leaders do not exist without a team that wants to follow. Unless you’re the Wizard of Oz, pushing the buttons all by yourself behind that big curtain, being able to work with others is essential. Active listening, empathy and conflict resolution are valued skills in the workplace.
Emotional IQ, the ability to moderate your own emotions and be sensitive to the needs of those around you, is actually a characteristic found in most charismatic leaders. Studies have found that people with a high emotional IQ have better mental health, life relationships and success in business.
While your Intelligence IQ (book smarts) is difficult to change, Emotional IQ is something that can be learned at an early age. “Why does Suzy not like it when you make fun of her lunch box? How would you feel if it was your lunch box.” This kind of learning begins with more group work, honing of social skills and teaching our kids how to use collaborative tools to share with others.
As cliché as this may sound “there’s no “I” in team” - and this is one spelling lesson that needs to be driven home in today’s classrooms.
Remember how frustrating the game of charades could be to play? Wondering how your partner cannot possibly decipher that you are so obviously acting out “Love Boat” with your flailing arms. Being able to communicate your ideas across the room, across the country and across the globe has never been more important in a world where traditional boundaries have been erased.
The different methods of communicating put a whole new spin on effective messaging.
How could Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech have been effective over Twitter? There are new rules to be taught with respect to emailing, blogging, texting and social media.
Good digital citizenship is a new frontier for students to explore. Our kids must learn to what it means to “speak up” and be heard above the constant hum of mediocrity.
8 Computing with the right tools
Hand in hand with learning to work with others and good communication comes learning how to work with others. Our kids need to learning how to use the right technologies to share information with others in their team. Forget working in the silo of of computer-based word processing applications. Today, our kids need to learn about Google Docs, Drop Box and other technologies that can help them work well in groups.
Albert Einstein put it best when he said “Imagination is more important than knowledge”; and we all know he was right about a lot of stuff.
Making the next best App, designing the latest fashion trend or coming up with a killer business strategy; these all require a creative flair. Standing apart from the masses in today’s mass society is what makes the difference.
Kids need to be encouraged to take their work just a one step further. To add that little special “je ne sais quoi” to everything they do. Being creative also means not being afraid to be different. We need to encourage diversity and celebrate individuality in our kids.
Not always so easy in our cookie-cutter consumer society. In schools, art, drama, music and storytelling help young minds shape their creativity and harness the power of imagination
6 Global Awareness - It’s a big world after-all
Kids need to understand that there’s a big world out there, beyond their backyard, their school yard and their local mall. We need to help our kids be more sensitive to other societies, cultures and people.
Our kids need to understand where they stand in the world and how they can in fact make a difference in issues that may be happening halfway across the world.
5 Go green or go home
Part of understanding our place in the world is learning that we are all responsible for keeping this world liveable for the long term. Today’s kids tend to think that everything is disposable and in endless supply.
And why shouldn’t they - the juice boxes just keep appearing in their lunch boxes and the toilet paper is always on the roll (unless they use the last square of course!) Schools need to have a “Green Plan” in place to teach our kids that if we don’t stop using all our resources like there’s no tomorrow - one day there will be no tomorrow!
Recycling programs, pollution awareness and environmental science are key learning topics.
We often we focus on what we need to get rather than what we actually have. Recent studies have shown that the expression of gratitude can have profound and positive effects on our well-being. So much so that when we think about what we're grateful for on a daily basis, it can actually improve our life. Studies also show that being grateful is a behaviour that can be learned. Our kids need to learn to be thankful for everything that they have in their lives. Simple activities like a “gratitude journal” can help kids remember how full their lives actually are - even though they don’t have the IPhone 6.
3 Learning that change is good
Gone are the days of living in the same city and working at the same company until you are old enough for the “golden handshake” retirement plan.
Studies show that on average, these days, a person will change their careers or workplace 7 times in a lifetime. Unfortunately, as people, we tend to be “creatures of habit” and change does not always come naturally for us.
Our kids need to be taught how to embrace change and manage it as a productive part of their lives. Dynamic structuring of curriculum can teach our kids how to “shake it up a bit” when necessary.
2 Critical Thinking
Thinking “out of the box” has evolved to thinking about why we even need “the box” in the first place.
Questioning, exploring and making new logical connections brings us to different solutions. Introducing computer coding, situational problem solving and real hands-on learning in the classroom all help with critical thinking skills.
As scary as this may sound to some parents in our constant struggle for parental authority, our kids need to learn to always question the status quo. They need to not always take “no” for the final answer.
1 Preparing for whatever comes next
The truth is, who knows how the problems facing the next generation will be solved. It’s been said that today’s kids are preparing for jobs that don’t even exist yet.
We can assume however that some of these challenges will require a radical change in thinking, creativity and teamwork. Obviously our kids still need to learn the basics of writing and reading, but that’s not enough.
Coming up with alternative answers and looking at issues from a different perspective are the stepping stones to a better future. We need to emphasize the necessary skills to give our kids the chance to get there.