Delray Newspaper: There’s No Business Like School Business

School is a child’s full-time job. There isn’t really a paycheck, of course, but hours are logged, sweat equity is paid, and lessons are learned (sometimes the hard way). Like adults at work, students in today’s traditional school system face a daily grind that can be everything from fun to frantic. There’s little sleep at night and lots of stimulation and opportunities to miss a beat during the busy day. Students often go home tired, and even worse, uninspired.

The trouble is that school is supposed to be the training ground for on-the-job life.It’s supposed to be the place where kids make mistakes, form questions, make friends – and figure out the do’s and don’ts of positive daily habits. It’s where our passions should be ignited, setting in place a career path and promise for future success.

In a professional setting, we are motivated by payroll, yet school performance is measured by the Honor Roll. Unable to cash in GPA points for cash, more and more, students are unmotivated to work hard because they aren’t invested in their daily purpose. If education is a building block, are we too stuck in building the here-and-now when we really should be building for students’ futures?

According to the Government Accountability Office’s study, 40% of our workforce is already freelancing, and this number will continue to go up as our economy continues to globalize. So, how do we offer students the skills for life in their non-9-to-5 future, while still meeting the data-driven measurements set forth by the present current school system?

Here are some ideas:
Build confidence: Happiness and self-fulfillment come from self-esteem. Learning to do what’s right, even when it’s unpopular, will sustain a student throughout all waves on the learning curve.
Encourage creativity: Creativity is today’s workforce currency. Those who can access and articulate their creativity are hired over those who can’t. Creativity is a process, not a product, and can only be taught when students feel safe and accepted.

Teach communication skills: Students should be taught to be solid self-advocates, articulate their mission and extract information from the resources around them in a way that others will understand and rally behind.

Allow for failure: Learning to accept and rise up from failures teaches resilience. Bad grades are only temporary if a student is given the opportunity to learn what they don’t yet know. Most teachers don’t have the time to go back and teach what a student missed on a test. Most parents worry too much about the failing grade to understand that it’s a temperature, not a testament.

Encourage play: Social exploration, imagination and emotional learning happen during play. We often learn best about ourselves from others when engaged in playful activities, academic collaboration and unstructured discovery.
Provide mentors: Many successful adults generally credit a childhood lesson, mentor or experience for inspiring their passions.

Instead of worrying about where a student ranks on state standardized testing, perhaps parents and educators should ask different, more future-thinking questions: Where will today’s students be at age 30? What are they being introduced to now to be given the stepping stones to growth? How do we raise lifelong learners who will seek out knowledge for self-betterment (and not just because there’s an assignment due)?

Many parents have fallen into a cycle of fear, worrying that a student’s classroom performance is a barometer for their life performance. However, our classrooms are not mirroring the real-world in a way that the skills from school are designed to translate for life. Ask any entrepreneur, and they will tell you that failure is the key to success, communication skills are everything, and creativity will unlock any door.

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