Reading, writing, and arithmetic are obviously important subjects. So, too, are science, history, and all the other required courses that students take throughout their academic careers. But what are some of the indelible skills we can teach our students: the skills that will remain with them for their whole lives and help them to be successful members of society? Teaching valuable life lessons along with required courses and curricula will augment students’ educations and equip them for life after school. Below, we will explore some of the ways in which education can provide opportunities for deeper lessons to be taught.
Patience, Empathy, and Compassion: Everyone’s heard the old saying that “patience is a virtue.” Nowhere is this truer than in an academic setting where pressure, anxiety, and uncertainty can deeply affect young people and their ability to thrive. It is important to understand the psychology of youth and adolescence and the fact that, for many young people, everyday is a battle to not be embarrassed; how many students are reluctant to raise their hands in class or to contribute to the discussion for fear of looking “stupid” or of being judged by classmates? Thus, it is vital that we teach our students to empathize with the situations of others. Rather than grow impatient or judgmental, students can understand the perspective of classmates who are struggling and, by extension, act as supports. It goes without saying that an empathic understanding of others and their unique situations will be an incredible asset later in life both in a career and in one’s interpersonal relationships. The teaching of patience, empathy, and compassion should always underlie the more concrete information being taught in the classroom.
Cultural Competence: Our global community continues to grow and with it must come an understanding of and curiosity about different cultures. Teaching students to embrace rather than to be suspicious of difference is a vital life lesson that can be taught beginning even before kindergarten. Twenty years down the road, the student who is now a successful businessperson will benefit greatly from understanding cultural norms and how to work with and respect those from cultures different from one’s own. This understanding can and should be taught from an early age and grow and mature with the student over time and throughout his life.
Healthy Habits: More than we realize, kids watch what we do, so it’s important to model positive habits. “Health” as a general term applies to more than just what we eat or how often we exercise; social health means understanding how to work together and fit into a larger group; intellectual health means keeping our minds in shape and staying up-to-date on what’s happening around us. All of these are important. Overall health leads to success and an ability to thrive in a stressful, fast-paced, and sometimes overwhelming world. By teaching young people how to eat healthy and stay in shape, we lay the foundation for lifelong habits that can help them deal with stress, fatigue, and illness in positive ways. By encouraging our students to stay socially and intellectually healthy, we ensure that they become integrated into a culture where we are constantly bombarded with opinions and information. The foundations of healthy living can be instilled from the early ages.
Fair Play: Similar to having a grasp on empathy and compassion, it’s important that young people are taught about fairness. Through play and group activity, students can learn valuable lessons about how to exist equitably in a group setting and to treat others with respect and fairness. As with everything, taught at young age, a student’s understanding of this concept will only grow over time and eventually serve as a vital personality trait when it comes time to enter a career. Nobody likes a bully and the sooner we instill the values of respect for others, the better chance we have of ensuring that the belief stays with the student over the years.
Social Responsibility: Teaching students the importance of having a social conscience is vital in setting them up to be assets to the larger society. Simple lessons we can teach the young like, for instance, not littering can transform over time into a person who values the earth and treads lightly with his carbon footprint. Responsible citizens believe in their obligation to the greater good and become highly valued members of society. The teaching of the responsibility to honor the social contract is so important to shaping a generation of people who will thrive on the values mentioned earlier in this post: patience, empathy, compassion, cultural competency, health, and fair play.
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Written by Phil Lane