My oldest son is twenty-one. He finished school three years ago. A well-rounded, well-liked, happy child (if you can call a 6ft person a child) with a wicked sense of humour. He absolutely loves living life to the full and has mastered being in the moment. He has always been quick to get bored, so school life for him was always full and busy. And happy.
Like most teenagers, he went through the obligatory ‘know it all’ phase where his teachers were just clueless, and his parents, well, clearly born in the dark ages and didn’t know anything because “it’s different now, you just don’t understand”.
He finished school with a reasonable matric, but of course he knew everything he needed to know, and was fully prepared to face this adulting thing with confidence and gusto. We knew he still had a lot to learn, but given the education he had, and his personality, we also thought our job was pretty much done and he was well prepared to begin his journey into adulting.
Then real life started.
He had plans to explore overseas. He needed to decide on his future studies. He started working.
Unfortunately for him, none of this was straightforward. He had to learn about visas and work permits and international residency rules, and travel and airport taxes and visa fees. He had to figure out application processes and student loans and budgets. He had to get a tax number and police clearance and health assessments and medical aid. He quickly learnt the value of petrol and petrol money. Impulse buying was something he could no longer afford.
He quickly learnt that adulting is not simple. His learning curve was steep and unforgiving.
At every turn, he would say something along the lines of, “why don’t they teach us this stuff at school! I feel like I know nothing!”
It was a bittersweet realisation to witness. He had a very good education; he was always gung-ho to try new things. He was what we considered resilient and smart, but he still felt like he was ill-prepared for real life.
Which begs me to ask the question, what preparation should an education provide? Why did he feel so clueless about adulting?
Obviously, skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic are crucial and cannot be replaced with visa application skills, income tax and medical aid lessons. But what can we do to better prepare them for these eventualities? And for a future of work that is no longer linear or predictable?
I believe these key abilities are essential:
A growth mindset
Agility & flexibility
A strong work ethic
Problem solving and critical thinking
Emotional intelligence & empathy
Thanks to neuroplasticity, all of these can be taught and nurtured, and I believe they need to be fostered from an early age. These abilities need to be embodied in our parenting, and our education systems so that when children do leave home, they are able to feel more equipped and less like they learnt “nothing” at school.
In the next few weeks, I will be sharing some “training tips” on how to instil these qualities in our young people from early on. I will be covering the above eight abilities and how to instil these in your youth, to equip them with a power pack of skills to face whatever the future throws their way.
WEEK 1 – RESILIENCE
re·sil·ience | \ ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s \
1: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or changeThe key to resilience is the ability to bounce back from challenges and overcome failure.
WEEK 2 – GRIT
\ ˈgrit \
1: very small pieces of sand or stone.
2: mental toughness and courage.Grit is passion and perseverance, and it requires a sustained commitment over time
WEEK 3 – GROWTH MINDSET
The idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and solve problems.
2: easily changed: able to change or to do different things.
3: willing to change or to try different things
WEEK 5 – WORK ETHIC
The belief that hard work and diligence have a moral benefit and an inherent ability, virtue, or value to strengthen character and individual abilities.
WEEK 6 – PROBLEM SOLVING & CRITICAL THINKING
Problem solving and critical thinking refers to the ability to use knowledge, facts, and data to effectively solve problems. This doesn’t mean you need to have an immediate answer, it means you have to be able to think on your feet, assess problems and find solutions.
WEEK 7 – INTEGRITY
in·teg·ri·ty | \ in-ˈte-grə-tē \
1: the quality of being honest and fair
2: the state of being complete or whole
The practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values.
WEEK 8 – EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND EMPATHY
em·pa·thy | \ ˈem-pə-thē \
1: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner
also:the capacity for this
2: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
As the world around us changes, there are fears that education is not meeting the needs of the future. There are concerns about technology replacing people. Some educators even have worries that there will not be any students to teach in the near future, as technology might take over a lot of tasks and abilities that we have been teaching our students for decades. The bottom line though, is that education will never disappear. It will just take up different forms.
The biggest goal we should have for young people, is to ensure that when they exit the education system, they are capable and confident to take on whatever life throws at them.
I look forward to sharing my tips on how to equip your youth with those skills in the coming weeks.