At the beginning of the past school year the New York Times’ Tara Parker-Pope wrote an article diving into what she argued is one of the biggest shortcomings of school curriculums today: life lessons. The article explores research into what children are actually learning and argues that: “The ever-growing emphasis on academic performance and test scores means many children aren’t developing life skills like self-control, motivation, focus and resilience, which are far better predictors of long-term success than high grades.” As summer sets in, it’s worth it to take the time to sit back and evaluate how we can all go about incorporating goals of education for life, and not just for education’s sake, into our daily routine. We already know that modern learners have different needs and require an atmosphere of engagement, but what else can we do to set our students up for success?
- Encourage Communication – As educators we take communication for granted – because, well, communicating ideas is a lot of what we do! If we don’t encourage peer to peer interaction and communication, then how can we expect students to be able to feel the kind of motivation that comes from group activities? In today’s technological classroom there are a lot of tools that encourage these types of interactions.
- Use Tools to Help Plan – It’s so easy to get caught up in the details of lesson plans, evaluations and other structural elements that we don’t always have time to think about how we can develop classroom strategies to nurture important life skills. Edudemic just came out with a great list of 100 Web Tools Every Teacher Should Know About which is sure to have some good tips.
- Teach With Technology – Active learners are all about absorbing information in a variety of ways – and frankly, they are pretty accustomed to doing this kind of research on their own. Staying ahead of the curve and taking some time this summer to immerse yourself in tools that are designed to help students learn to think critically, or even make big life decisions can help you become a stronger resource. It’s no longer the exception; most universities are integrating and enabling mobile technologies into the lecture hall and campus life in some capacity – so whether you are teaching on the collegiate level or K-12, digital platforms are great places to teach students life lessons.
- Serving a Purpose Larger Than Yourself – Eric Grietens, former Navy SEAL recently addressed the class of 2012 at Tufts University. His commencement speech called on the students to think above and beyond their own dreams and desires and think about what service they can provide that will make a positive difference on the lives of others. While most of today’s advice for success revolves around tools and technologies in an educational setting, students, teachers and parents can learn something from Grietens’ life lesson.