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Don’t Screw it up Kid

This week I engaged with two very dedicated teachers that I admire not only for their love of the profession, but for their courage and determination in trying to work out the solution between education and the world of work. They work in one of the oldest schools in Johannesburg and have embarked on a couple of projects that aim to look at how eight subjects can be consolidated into four. Cross-curricula at its best drowning in innovation, reflection and the will to provide others with key answers on how the gap between school and future of jobs can be met.

As we sat in the coffee shop, with laughter and loud voices of teenagers at the next table (elated from completing their Maths exam), there were a couple of topics in our conversation that struck me. The pressure, yes the pressure that we put our children under. It was at this point that I was told to watch a great TEDx Talk on ‘Throw out the Check-listed childhood’ by Julie Lythcott-Haims (   I would encourage you to watch this 22-minute clip purely from the point of view that this collateral adds too beautifully to some of the new thinking we see about pressure, wellbeing and our children.

Julie was the Standford University’s Dean of Freshman for ten years.  She has come up with a few recommendations for parents that start to shift the ‘pressure button’ we so often see in our children and schools at large.  She has also written a book on ‘How to Raise an Adult’ which should prove excellent reading.
education-1In short she talks about how many young adults would enter Stanford University, excellent at being told what to do but failing dismally at not knowing who they were as people.  With the high increase in mental illness, depression and anxiety, it was clear that something had changed dramatically when it came to childhood.
As parents, we put this checklist in place for our children: excel at that, be part of that club, do that sport, do this with your homework and soon we began to see things like the introduction of study drugs, an impulse to cheat and the obvious mental health issues that come with pressure.
Julie has provided some sound advice to our school going children, and perhaps this will start to add to the joy, adventure and fun we are supposed to see in our lives.

  1. Figure out what you’re good at, what you love and what you value.
  2. Be kind.
  3. Work hard, don’t just do your best… try doing your best.
  4. Learn how to think for yourself.
  5. Choose the college/university that is right for you. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the top university in the country.
  6. Study what you love.

“Study what you love,” she concludes “as it will make and contribute towards an awesome life.”
In our journey of trying to be the best parents we can be, I encourage you to explore more of Julie Lythcott-Haims’ thinking as it has provided food for thought. Perhaps the discovery of our talents and the things we so enjoy doing should be what we focus on and not the 90% aggregate we insist on.

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