The Blog of Jake Kelfer
You guys have really been enjoying the articles when I get quotes or stories from various people across different areas of expertise, so today we’re featuring educators from across the country.
As I speak more and more, I’m realizing it’s not enough to just teach students how to get by or to teach just the traditional curriculum. Instead, we should be teaching and encouraging the next generation how to thrive and create incredible lives for themselves in and out of the classroom!
I asked a handful of Student Council Executive Directors, teachers, and coaches who I think do a fantastic job the following question to see what we can do across the globe to help our youth THRIVE!
What characteristic or skill set should we be encouraging our youth to develop to thrive in and out of the classroom?
Sara Nilles - Executive Director of Oregon Association of Student Councils
I believe the strongest skill set we should be developing is communication. Within that there are a variety of separate skills sets. Public Speaking, Written & Oral communication and the one I feel is neglected the most is conflict resolution / difficult conversations. Too often these days "ghosting" is the way our youth handle situations that are difficult. With technology it's too easy to hide, not respond or ignore. I have found when we role play and prepare our students to have difficult conversations their confidence improves and opens up more opportunities vs shutting down and shutting doors along the way.
Karen Crawford - Maryland Association of Student Councils
3 R’s: RESILIENCY, RESPONSIBILITY, and RELATIONSHIPS
I think that students need to embrace three new "R's" in order to be successful in and out of the classroom. Yes, reading, writing, and arithmetic are still important, but let's add to those basic skills with some to make students a productive member of society.
1) Resiliency - students need to "recover" quickly from difficulties that they may encounter. Pouting or complaining is not going to solve any problem. Seeking help when appropriate and not letting others dictate or impose their feelings to shape your attitude is a necessity. That being said, owning your own attitude brings you to the second “R"
2) Responsibility - taking ownership in your own work ethic, your attitude, and your actions. Don't blame others - you have control over your own choices and actions.
3) Relationships - this third "R" is all about relationships. Inside or outside of the classroom, once you enter the workforce, relationships are important. Rare is the job where you work alone. Cultivating appropriate relationships with friends, family, and later with the people with whom you work equals meaningful and successful lives.
Greg Hayes - Youth Basketball Camp Director / Retired HS Teacher
LIVING IN THE PRESENT
My advice to teenagers in terms of characteristics or skill set really focuses more along living and thriving in the present. Too often adults, whether parents or teachers or counselors or college recruiters, etc., put a heavy emphasis on kids preparing for the future. With that can come pressure and even unrealistic expectations. It also produces a lot of underlying pressure as well an insinuation that you are not good enough now or are too immature to make a difference now, and that you have to prepare for the “real world".
My advice is to stay and thrive in the moment and recognize that you ARE living in your real world TODAY. It is real now. Most importantly, I would stress making choices to promote physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health TODAY. Recognize your unique talents, abilities, and goodness to make a difference NOW and to feel fulfilled TODAY by doing that. Feel a real purpose in your youth through a life of love, compassion, and consideration of others. Don’t let older people sell you short. Be true to yourself TODAY and be healthy in your habits and in how you treat others.
And yes, develop your talents and prepare for you future ... but by being in the present and doing your best each day and living a life of purpose TODAY.. You are talented, good and passionate:ate NOW and can make a big difference NOW. The best way to be a good, talented, productive, person of character in the future is to be a good, talented productive person of character TODAY.
Sandy Ginger - Executive Director of Nevada Association of Student Councils
I think students need to learn BALANCE.
I don't mean "work hard, play hard," I mean prioritize, work smart and take time for yourself and for meaningful time with friends and family.
You can't be balanced if you have a single-minded interest so take some "me" time and dabble in a variety of activities/interests (knowing you don't have to be the best at everything!)
"Back in my day" there were many 2- and 3-sport athletes, but now it seems students are so immersed in 1 sport they don't try anything else. And as a result, they spend their time doing the same thing with the same people all year round.
We are so worried about "success" via GPA and test scores that we don't take classes for fun. Not only will an art class develop another part of your brain, but you will also meet an entirely new group of people.
Michelle McGrath - Executive Director of Wisconsin Association of Student Councils
CIVILITY, LISTENING, COMMUNICATION, and COLLABORATION
Students need to spend more time developing skills like civility, listening, communication, and collaboration. These skills and the experiences that go hand in hand with teaching them will allow them to experience how to maneuver into environments with unwritten rules, participate in conversations with people of differing opinions, and lead the change we all so desperately seek.
The most current research provides measurable data that shows the positive impact of effective communication, collaboration and student voice has on a multitude of educational outcomes. Research also shows that student voice is more than giving them a seat at the school board table or on your council; it is an approach to school improvement that makes the learning environment engaging, relevant, meaningful and more productive.
My journey with making these skills a priority has always been filled with an abundance of authentic examples of purposeful, meaningful, student voice and engagement. Connected, collaborative and engaged students are a necessary piece to safe schools.
Brooke Morales - 7th Grade English & ELD Teacher / Freshman Girls Basketball Coach
As a teacher and a coach, the most important characteristic we can foster in our youth is mental grit and a determination to succeed, no matter what. In my class, we call this having a "Growth Mindset." Our talents and abilities can remain dormant within us, or they can grow exponentially depending on our mindset. I hear many of my students say, "Oh, I suck at math," or "I can't draw." This is an example of a "Fixed Mindset" - an attitude that says talents and skills cannot be developed. Many people believe that if we don't have a particular talent or skill immediately from the time we are young, we can never develop or improve in that area, which is just plain false. I see many of my students and athletes mentally give up long before they should because they don't see themselves ever improving in an area they struggle in, or if they experience failure, they internalize it to a point where they just stop trying. As someone wise once said, "Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will."
Instead, we should encourage our youth today to have a "Growth Mindset," which recognizes that the brain is like a muscle - it requires challenges in order to grow stronger, and when it struggles, it is actually improving. So, whether you are on the court or in the classroom, encourage your students, athletes, and kids to develop a "Growth Mindset." Remind them that challenges are a normal part of our existence and they CAN improve and develop their skills if they are willing to persevere through difficulties that come their way.
I believe that we can improve if we are willing to work hard and not give up trying. Having an attitude of determination, fearlessness, and an eagerness to improve will make our youth unstoppable!
Bringing it All Together
As you can see there is no shortage of incredible thoughts and beliefs on how to help the youth and future leaders THRIVE in and out of the classroom.
The interesting thing for me is none of the skills shared are traditionally taught in course curriculum. I didn’t have a class on mental grit or living in the present, but as I experience more and more of life, I realize these are the skills needed to succeed.
As many people alluded, writing, math, and other skills are important and I don’t want to take away from the basics of education…
But, I do think it’s incredibly important for us to encourage our students, children, teammates, and colleagues, to learn about becoming a WHOLE success not just a CLASSROOM success.
Elevate in Action:
I am a motivational speaker on a mission to inspire people to achieve their own definition of success and reach the highest level of personal success and happiness.