6 Oct 2014

What School Didn't Teach Me

School holidays are almost over once again ... woohoo the shops and playgrounds can be a little less crowded again!

Conversations of schools seems to be circulating amongst me and my parented friends lately. I don't know why the topic has suddenly increased. Maybe because our children are getting older quicker than we like, and topics and worries of all things "in the near future" crosses our minds.

Ian has an idea of where the boys are going. I have a more simplistic approach. I think ultimately no matter what school you put a kids in, their success in school is determined by the actual child. You can put a child in the best school, be paying school fees that require you to remortgage your house but they may just not be ... smart. Ok that's a big harsh, but lets get real not everyone is book smart. Every child (or person) is unique, with different strengths and weaknesses and some people are more creatively inclined (think Beyonce), or may be gifted with impeccable coordination (think Lebron James). 

This is why I think schools should teach our children other knowledge besides the standard school subjects. I'm not debating the current education curriculum, I just feel we need to broaden the education to teach children life skills that they will probably more likely use and need. I've identified a few skills I think children should learn in school ...

1. How to bounce back from rejection / set back
Now in full fledge adulthood, I've realised life is full of set backs and rejections. Whether its not getting that job you applied for, the end of a long term relationship, death of a close family member or making a decision only to realise it was the wrong one ... life sometimes doesn't pan out exactly how we'd like it to. Over the years I've realised and been surprised how many people actually don't know how to handle set backs very well. They don't have the drive to get their head space in a good place and rely heavily on others to do it for them or simply stop trying. I was fortunate to have grown up in an environment where, even though excelling was of highest priority, when I didn't get 100%, I was still always encouraged. I was taught the skills to recognise and learn from my mistakes; and how to over come feelings or thoughts of failure. It's a skill we constantly use in varying forms throughout our lives. Most people learn it eventually but I think its a skill our kids need to be taught early. I say this because maybe if our kids harness this skill earlier in life they will become more confident. 

2. The impact of saving, spending and losing money
School teaches the value of earning money. They build up expectations that finishing a certain education will allow us to make a certain amount of it. But what I think the school system fails to teach our children is what to do with it once they start earning it. I'm not talking about teaching kids the nitty gritty about investments, but more education establishing good money habits for the future. I remember getting a $1,000 credit card at age 21 and within eighteen months I had maxed it out. Obviously I was spending more than my means and its a lesson I learnt the hard way and took many years to recover from. The education system needs to teach our kids the the value in saving and the impact of debt.

3. Listening to your gut instinct
This is a life skill I'm constantly working on. This ... feeling, common sense, conscious, spirit - whatever you want to call it, is usually right, and we ignore or shut it down instantly in fear or failure or the unknown. We need to teach our children at a young age to listen to that voice inside. Encouraging our children to go with what their instincts builds on their confidence and not be scared to speak up. Harnessing this skill may one day stop your child from getting into a car driven by someone who was drinking; or provide the skills to make difficult decisions; or give them confidence to realise and pursue their calling.

4. Understanding risk
Again now being an adult I've realised life is full of risks and when I think back on my teens even in my twenties I was very risks adverse. I feared the unknown, rejection and failure. I realise now if I wasn't so afraid or understood the risk involved I may have made different decisions. Like never working overseas even though it was something I've always wanted to do. Even as a teen I signed up for a student exchange program and was in the final stages ... but my parents pulled me out (that's another post). It was something I thought about doing in my twenties but never pursued it because I was worried about not knowing if I'll have a job, and not being able to make my mortgage repayments. In hind sight I could have actually gone because I had enough money to cover several weeks of repayments and if all else failed I could've asked my parents to help me out - this is the kind of risk assessment we need to teach our children. We need to teach them there's more than one answer to a situation and then educate them how to rank these options based on their values and comfort.

Sure these skills should not be limited to being taught in school, but especially at home. As parents we're our children's teachers and they are our mirrors so we play a big part in moulding and providing them with life skills. But I remember hitting a stage in life (my terrible teens) where I didn't want to listen to anything my parents said, but I always listened to my teachers.

What life lessons do you think the education system should teach our children in schools? What skills do you wish you learned in school instead of later in life?
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