According to my Pocket Oxford Dictionary, to educate means, “Bring up a child: train mentally and morally: provide schooling for”. So what does education mean for us today as parents, teachers, schools and associated professionals, who work at the coalface of educating our young folk? If we listen to ‘the media’ and our politicians, we should focus solely on kids’ academic standards and how they compare to each other, and the rest of the world. That line of thinking makes a huge assumption- that academic standards are a key indicator of future workplace performance and, more importantly, of the future emotional, social and financial wellbeing of our society. I believe that is a flawed assumption.
I am much more inclined to agree with Sir Ken Robinson who has been knighted for his contribution to education, and makes the point that our world is now changing so fast that no one knows what the world we are educating our children for, will be like. He goes on to ask, “What will our children do if we continue to prepare them for life using the old models of education?”
Sir Ken will be glad to know I often see wonderful examples of innovative, creative teachers inspiring kids and, apart from teaching the important ‘academics’ in a meaningful way, also teach them critical life skills that will help our kids to function effectively in our ever changing world.
One of the key life skills I like to encourage with the kids I work with is the communication skill and I’m not talking about texting and social networking communication. I’m talking about effective communication at a personal level and the first step towards effective communication, is to learn how to communicate effectively with yourself.
I’ll give you an example from a kid (let’s call him Johnny) I was working with during this week. He explained to me he was having issues with another kid at school who was relentlessly ‘chatting’ at him with comments such as: “You look like a girl”, “Your mum’s a xxxxx” etc, etc. Johnny’s gut reaction to these comments is to get angry (which is a completely natural and normal human emotion) and his communication to himself is, “I’m going to bash some sense into this kid’s head”.
So I talked to Johnny about how this is an opportunity to learn some communication skills that will be very important to him right throughout his life.
And the key skill here is how he is communicating with himself.
Johnny learnt that he has choices in the way he chooses to view the intimidation. He learnt that by choosing to let himself get angry in this situation, he is empowering his perpetrator (he’s getting the reaction he’s looking for) and disempowering himself (he’s losing control and reacting in a potentially dangerous way).
So Johnny started to discover that, if he changes the way he communicates with himself, he gives himself choices such as:
- he could choose to take a calm ‘who cares’ attitude and convey that to his perpetrator.
- he could choose to get some help and guidance from the student welfare co ordinator.
- he could choose to see this as a challenge to see if he has the maturity and self control to handle it without reacting with aggression.
- he could choose to talk to his perpetrator about this issue.
Johnny chose to practise taking a ‘who cares’ attitude for one whole week and to see how that works for him. Education is not all about the three’r's. Sure they’re important, but education today needs to take a much more holistic approach to educating our kids for the future.