“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
My last month of working with kids taught me a lot about education and my abilities as a teacher. After I learned a few key pieces of information on how the brain processes information and the different styles of learning I was able to sit and observe the kids with much more patience and understanding. I really started to get them.
I grew up getting smacked for not listening. I got in a lot of trouble in school when I was younger. I was disruptive, hyperactive, and always talked back to my teachers. Even though I could ace every test with little effort, I was considered a kid that needed extensive disciplinary reinforcement. The thing that really sucked was that I was a nice kid. I cared about other people and I wanted my teachers to like me.
Instead of facilitating my obvious desire to learn and be challenged, my teachers tried to control me and stuff me into a box. As a result, by the end of my time in organized education, I couldn’t stand school and I looked at authority figures as cowards instead of role models.
Educators spend a lot of time being stifled by limited resources in their classrooms. They also don’t feel like they get the respect they deserve from their students. And the entire education system reeks of missed opportunities.
We have to understand, kids are smarter than us. We can’t teach them the same way we used to. They are now the ones teaching us. And if we can get over our pride and pay attention to what’s in front of us, we can give them just the right push to help shape the future of powerful young leaders.
“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” – Margaret Mead
Here are 5 things I learned from my students that have made me a better person and a much better educator.
1. We can’t lie to ourselves. Kids are immune to bullshit and they tell it like it is around their friends. Being inauthentic literally hurts them and is the fastest way to lose their attention and never get it back.
Kids don’t even mind if you’re dorky or listen to bad music, as long as you own it. They respect that. Everyone does. And it might take them some time to appreciate you for who you are but they are paying attention and taking pieces of what you’re giving off and shaping their own personalities because it’s real, and that’s what they understand.
2. We need support. We are emotional creatures. We love art and self-expression. But nearly every ounce of freedom has been squeezed out of us in the course of our lives. Standing alone hurts. Being supported by the people around you doesn’t hurt. In fact it rocks so hard it should be included in Obamacare. Everyone wants the freedom to stand out and be themselves, especially when they’re young.
We’ve all got weird stuff we do in our bathroom mirrors in a moment of liberation that we would love to do in front of the people we care about. Who doesn’t want to feel more connected to the people around them? Support is the same as love and when we encourage those around us to stand up and be something original the love comes back around in a big way. Kids do this naturally when their friends put themselves on the line. They light up and make those brave people feel like heroes.
3. We need to be challenged. If you’ve ever tried to half-ass a lesson to a kid you know that they aren’t buying it. They respond well and function at their highest when they are under some form of pressure. The people around us aren’t there to agree with everything we say and coddle us so much that we never experience the fear of standing on our own. We will only grow from our challenges.
When we roll into work and get to the computer and know that there is no chance of anything exceptional happening to us in that day then we are truly suffering. But when we are given the opportunity to rise up and solve problems under pressure and think creativity, then we start to operate with a touch of magic and our days give us life instead of taking it away from us.
4. We must speak up. A lot of unjust stuff happens in our periphery. What kind of people are we if we don’t say anything? Kids don’t look up to that. Their communication style is still so pure. When they feel something in their little hearts, they say it. And you can tell by looking at them how they are feeling.
We can’t keep putting on masks and saving face. We feel things inside and we don’t say anything because when we take a look around we are afraid people will think we are stupid. But we’re not. Our thoughts are significant and our judgment is inherently good, it’s nothing to keep inside.
5. There has to be dancing. Watch a kid when music comes on. Then pay attention to how you feel inside the first 5 or 10 seconds of a song, that time before you filter your existence through a lens that tends to let other people ruin your fun. Movement is inherent. There’s no such person that can feel bad after dancing. It’s more liberating than drugs and alcohol combined. And although it might be incredibly scary to get started, it’s nearly impossible to stop.
Watching someone dance, even if they suck, gives you hope. It’s who you want to be. Get moving and be changed forever.
And thank you kids for rocking so hard it hurts.