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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

3 Things We Should Be Teaching In School (Right Now)...

...but we are not doing, nearly enough.

I spent almost my entire school career, kindergarten through 12th grade, mostly either worried about the past or the future.  No one, and I really do mean no one, taught me the value of living in...and focusing on...the present moment.  Having spent a significant amount of time actually reading about and studying this topic now for a few years as an adult, I can only imagine how I would have benefitted from learning this lesson as a young adult.  The lesson itself isn't difficult, but it's having the guidance to help in practicing it that makes all the difference.

How much better prepared academically would students be if they had the tools to actually be present, both physically and mentally, when lessons are taught?  What if instead of students be afraid of an upcoming test they could focus on mastering the material in the moment?  I think the possibilities are many.

Perspective on Competition
This is America, where we talk about "winning".  Want to know why I almost never play games?  Even board games?  Because I don't like competition.  I've found, from my childhood onward, that when I'm placed in competitive situations, my natural reaction is to obsess on winning, to the exclusion of everything else.  However, in the real world, especially when it comes to personal relationships and business, most of the time you can win without someone else losing.  That lesson though wasn't taught to me in school.  Instead I was brought up on an institutional diet that compared me to other students in a mindless kind of competitive sport.

Where this shows up mostly is in the area of conflict.

You see the by-product of this today in political campaigns, which are just about at the pinnacle of senseless competition:  "My candidate needs to win, and yours needs to lose; it doesn't matter if my candidate says some pretty stupid soundbite-esque nonsense...I just want (him or her) to WIN!".  When winning is everything we all end up losing, because life isn't a game.  Life isn't about the finish line, goal line, home plate or anything else of the sort.  Life isn't about me "beating" you.  Life is, to extend the sports talk, mostly about learning to enjoy the game.  We need to teach children that competition has a place in this world, but the world itself is not simply a big competition.  Yes, play games for the enjoyment, but extending a game philosophy to life in general, as we tend to do in the United States today, is disastrous.

Emotional Intelligence
As someone who teaches adults about Emotional Intelligence (EI), I can not express in words just how positively this can impact someone's life.  Having an awareness of one's own emotional state in real time, being able to consciously regulation your reactions, being able to recognize emotions in others and having the skills to build/manage relationships is truly life changing stuff.  I know that many good teachers help their students with these skills (either directly or indirectly), but I really do think this needs to done more overtly in our educational system.  Don't just take my word for it, as noted author Dan Goleman writes extensively about the topic in his book Emotional Intelligence:  Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

Goleman has written several books on the topic of EI, and while this isn't the "go to" book for business people, it's my favorite in part because he does talk about EI and children.  I think one of the reasons why we don't teach this in school is because it doesn't fit into a paradigm of grades and competition.  All too often we don't challenge people to look inside, as opposed to outside, for answers because that inner awareness is simply too difficult to master and to measure.

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