Written By: David Geurin
What does it take to be prepared for the future? In the 20th Century world there were mostly predictable patterns of going to college or learning a trade and then getting a job and working in the same career for many years.
But as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus astutely observed, "The only thing that is constant is change." Truly, we are living in a world of unprecedented change and complexity.
In past decades, soft skills were abundant. Even the TV shows included character lessons. There was the Andy Griffith Show, Leave it to Beaver, and Father Knows Best. Mister Rogers Neighborhood spanned decades highlighting social and emotional learning. Being respectful, helping others, and doing one's best were all values that were encouraged.
While soft skills were abundant, knowledge was scarce. The teacher was the purveyor of knowledge. Experts held onto most of the knowing. It was possible to train for a profession and perhaps what you learned would serve you well for many years, maybe your entire career.
Finding information involved learning from an expert in the field or maybe exerting the effort to visit an actual library. Compare that to today's connected world where we have access to the sum of human knowledge at any time, in any place, at the tip of our fingers.
Soft skills were abundant and knowledge was scarce.
And now it seems that has flipped. It's possible to learn in ways like never before. Is knowledge still important? Absolutely. But the abilities to empathize, listen, connect, and accept differences are skills on the rise.
As technology becomes more and more pervasive in just about every aspect of life and productivity, the skills that are becoming most valuable are human only traits.
So what's that mean for educators? We need to make sure learning in schools includes a focus on developing character and leadership. We need to make sure it's intentional. And we need to make sure it's systematic.
How is your school becoming intentional about developing leadership and character? We can just hope our students are learning these lessons at home. We can hope individual teachers will do the best they can to impart these skills. Or, we can activate the entire school culture to promote these skills. We can all pull in the same direction.
As the world continues to change, we don't know what technology might bring. But we can know for sure, if our students take with them more kindness, understanding, forgiveness, selflessness, and honesty, the world will be a better place.
What is your school doing to be intentional about developing soft skills in your students? Our school has partnered with CharacterStrong for training and curriculum to enhance our efforts to teach social emotional learning and leadership development.
I believe it's the missing piece for many schools. We must reach the heart before we can teach the mind.
In my book, Future Driven, I challenge educators to consider if their students will be prepared for an unpredictable future? I believe if we teach as we've always taught, we're preparing kids for a world that no longer exists. We need adaptable schools that are preparing adaptable learners.
And one important way we can adapt is to be more intentional about teaching character and leadership in our schools.
Here are five reasons you should have a systematic approach to character education for your school:
1. Relationships are the foundation of everything we do as educators. Kids will learn more in classrooms where relationships are nurtured.
2. If we're not intentional about developing character and leadership, it won't happen in our schools. We can't just hope some of these lessons will stick. Non-academic factors will play a critical role in the future success of our students.
3. Soft skills are more becoming more valuable for the future. Technology can "take over" many tasks that were reserved for people in the past. But human only traits will become even more valuable and essential as technology becomes even more integrated into every aspect of life.
4. Character is more important than compliance. Too many schools are focused on simply getting kids to comply. Do what you're told, when you're told. But compliance won't get you far in life. We want kids to learn to do the right things for the right reasons, not just because someone else told them to.
5. Everyone in our schools needs more hope, meaning, and purpose. We all need reminders about what's most important. When we build connection and empathy into the rhythms of our schools, we are creating places where everyone will flourish.
About the Author:
David Geurin has served as principal and lead learner of Bolivar High School since 2008. In 2013, the school was named a National Blue Ribbon School and Missouri Gold Star School. More recently, he was honored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) as a 2017 National Digital Principal of the Year.
David is the author of Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive in An Unpredictable World? He’s passionate about leadership, school culture, and authentic learning experiences.
David shares insights with educators at the local, state, and national level through his keynotes, workshops, and presentations. He also shares his voice regularly via his blog, davidgeurin.com.