Future of Education – Ready, Set, Go, Gen Z!

This is part 2 of our series on the future of education. In this part, I will share some stories about the changes in education I see around me and some changes that are waiting to happen.

My daughter loved soccer. She would ask me every day, “Mom, are we going to soccer today?” She had an awesome coach who encouraged her, cheered her, corrected her, and made the whole experience very positive while still being fun and playful. She really looked up to her coach and looked forward to her soccer class. Then she graduated up to the next level. On the first day of this new class, she came to me 5 mins after the class started and asked, “Mom, can we go home?” This surprised me a little and also concerned me. What happened? Why was she not enjoying her favorite class? It was the same soccer field, kids her age, everything was the same. Except it was not. She had a new coach. I started observing the new coach a little more intently and realized he was not engaged with the kids in the manner the previous coach was and paid most attention to the kids who were physically stronger and had played at that level previously. Being the youngest in the class, she was trying really hard to keep up but the change in the coaching style and lack of encouragement from the new coach left her demotivated. She was not enjoying soccer anymore!

Such is the importance of a good coach/mentor/teacher in our lives. A teacher is not just our surrogate in school for our child’s safety, but SO much more. Teachers or coaches, to me, are the most crucial element of our society. We entrust them with our future generations, the growth of our children and the broadening of their horizons. A teacher is the difference between an engaged child exploring their curiosity versus a disengaged child being indifferent and disinterested. Maturity and patience of the teacher in dealing with different personalities and behaviors is worthy of a standing ovation by millions of football stadiums.

A good teacher will also find ways to challenge both the left and right side of the brain. They can encourage children to think outside the box. This is one my favorite stories about the change in the style of teaching. I was visiting my sister and found out that she was running late from a tarot card reading appointment. My sister is a very scientific person and does not believe in astrology or psychics. So for her to go for psychic reading was rather surprising and interesting. When she came back, I asked her about it and learned that it was for my niece’s class project. Further intrigued, I asked my niece about the topic of discussion. It turned out, that my niece’s class was studying the functioning of the human brain and the topic of psychology came up. That is when my niece asked her teacher about how tarot card readers and astrologers work on human mind. Her teacher encouraged her to visit one and find out first hand, how they utilized the human “need to believe” to predict the future. What an awesome experience my niece had and also got to share with her class!

My appreciation for the teacher also grew by leaps and bounds. The teacher was doing multiple things with this activity: teaching kids to explore all aspects of the topic, encouraging them to test their hypothesis and draw their own conclusions. It was creative thinking, challenging the norms, problem solving and being resourceful all rolled in one. This is the type of creative teaching we need to encourage!

Another important aspect of education that we explored in part 1 of this series was development of EQ, especially empathy. Empathy is going to be especially important for our next generation. I feel that parents, in their role of coaches, can play a very important role in helping our children be considerate of others. My co-blogger Mamta, wrote about how she is providing experiences for her boys to help others and learn co-existential living with mutual respect (read how she does it here).

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Spending quality time with our littles and teaching them the beauty of empathy in how we interact with all of nature’s beings.

In addition to providing experiences of community service, it is through the small things we do with them, that can teach them to be grateful for what we have. Studies are showing that with the onset of social of media, Gen Z has the largest number of people diagnosed with depression for their age. Which is why, we need them to look away from their electronics and be grateful for all they have. A story from my own learning from an experience in the recent past is – we were on a vacation recently and on one of the days, we had to get up early (6:30 am) to leave for a hike. We packed breakfast for our daughter that included all her favorite things. We were driving past beautiful mountains on one side and beautiful ocean on the other. While she ate her breakfast looking out at the beautiful scenery, she suddenly realized one of her favorite things was missing from the box. IMG_1908We were on the verge a tantrum. In that moment, I realized that my daughter was not valuing all that she had and was focusing on what she did not have. It was only human of her, as an adult, I still struggle with it! I decided to use some of the cues from my own struggle to be happy and grateful with what I have and used this as a teaching moment for my daughter to focus on the glass half full. I took a deep breath. I smiled and reminded her of all the fun we had had in the last few days, the favorite foods we had eaten and lastly pointed to everything that was around her. I reminded her to enjoy her present and appreciate the beauty around her. It was as if a light bulb turned on and she said, “thank you mommy papa, I am having such a good time.” My heart was so full to see her being happy and acknowledge it.

I am sure there are examples galore about how we are changing the lens on teaching the skills of the future to our children. But these are just that, examples. We need to make systematic changes so these are ingrained in our education system and not just one-of examples. We, as parents along with teachers, play a very important role – both in the lives of our children directly and demanding the change in the education system that our children deserve to be successful.

What are some of the things you do with your kids which are preparing them for a very different future? I would love to hear from you.

– Charu

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