What Are We Teaching?

There are tons of questions about what the future holds right now, especially for educating the next generation (and even some of the adults interested in furthering their formal education), thanks to the virus. If you’ve been reading along for a while now you probably know that I’m not the biggest fan of the current system we have, or maybe I should say the specifics that they’re required to teach. I think the concept of having kids come together to learn for set amounts of time is a good one, for many reasons including because it does typically work with the need for many parents to be out of the house at work, but more importantly because it should teach them many of the essential interpersonal skills they need when they’re adults.

But with all the questions being raised about the safety of crowds and large gatherings like school classrooms and the number of parents who say that they absolutely aren’t capable of really helping their kids learn this stuff, even though they’ve all been through it, I think it’s beyond time that we really sat down and talked about what had to change in the education world (especially with schools charging the same fees for not doing all the work or providing the same experience as in person). I think parents are right to be questioning the value of what their kids are learning both from an at-home/in school basis and in subject matter and with regards to finances too (paying teachers a fair rate and how much school costs for what’s provided especially if the students are at home).

This week two things that relate to this topic have been happening, first that I’ve been listening to an online seminar about wealth, and second that I’ve been hearing from some people about how challenged they’ve been lately by people. It got me thinking about what we’re really teaching our kids and what we need to be teaching them (and as part of that what you can teach them or make sure they’re learning even if you can’t teach them math and history well). So what do kids need to learn? They need to learn things like honesty, openness, communication, literacy, finances, interpersonal relationships, nutrition, basic health practices, consideration for others, hard work, and curiosity. You don’t have to be good at all those things, you can learn together, and there are many ways including TV shows and teachers/experts that can help you help them establish a strong foundation to build on in whatever ways they do in the future.

You can’t force your kids to become lawyers or doctors because it’s the “best future” for them according to all the experts, nor should your dream for them necessarily be the dream they pursue. Not only will you be prouder of them, I know they’ll be better set for success and they’ll do more to make the world a better place, if you instead help ingrain in them these values. What are you working on teaching your kids or learning with them so far this summer?

The Future of Education

Many schools around the US are either trying to finish the term in school or calling it a year and having the kids finish it up at home. Either way, I think the way this year has gone will cause many school districts to reconsider what’s essential and how to educate over the summer break should we face this situation again in the autumn or further in the future. It’s a conversation many schools and educators have been putting off, and it is an important one to have because most parents aren’t equipped to replace teachers, and school has played an essential role in helping kids reach adulthood with a grasp on community, communication and a whole host of educational topics that might or will be helpful in whatever pursuits they follow in their future. 

As part of that conversation, I think it’s important to teach all that’s taught in schools right now, but I don’t know that we need to spend as much time as we do on history or classic books or some of the things that are taught practically every year repeatedly. I think we should reevaluate and include or have a bigger focus some of the things that are essential in today’s world like health, finances, economics, technology, mental health, and home economic skills (sewing, cooking, basic home care etc.).

Maybe you were fortunate growing up to learn some of these skills and can or have been helping your kids learn them throughout this change in life situation we’ve been going through with the virus and staying at home. Or maybe as restrictions lift you’ve got a friend or family member who can help you and your kids learn some of those skills so you’ll be better prepared in the future.  Like many other conversations, I believe the education one is long past due, and I think this whole situation has really encouraged all of us to reconsider our skill sets and what it really takes to survive in this world. What are you seeing as necessary going forward?

Reflections on School in 2020

Lately I’ve been contemplating schooling and how we’re raising kids these days. I remember years of history and math lessons, and with a few very infrequent clients, I can’t say I do much with either topic, certainly not at the level that we were taught in school. I was talking with a mother the other day who was saying she can’t handle the homework the kids are bringing home, and her kids aren’t even in high school yet, and I often cringe when I hear about some of the homework kids are doing because it’s far above my knowledge, or at least not anything I remember or put into practice today.

Are we teaching kids what we really need to in school these days? Is homework the best practice? Are teachers really sensitive to the amount of time homework takes and how many additional hours of schooling that adds to the day? Are we really preparing them for what comes after school and are we truly giving them a well-rounded education? I know that a big challenge is the internet and how much information is available there and figuring out what should really be in our brains and what we can just look up when we need to. But let’s face it, when it comes to homework most kids aren’t going home to a teacher who can really help them if they’re struggling with the lesson, and it’s not fair to the kids or parents to be in that situation at least weekly.

School is a topic that I come back to frequently, because it’s the foundation of how we’re raising kids today, and if we want something to look different when the kids turn into adults, we need to revisit and revise how we’re raising them so they have options on living, including differently. I’m not suggesting all of school as we know it is a waste, just that with cell phones in many kids’ pockets, it’s time to reevaluate what we’re teaching them, why we’re teaching it and how. While we’re having the conversation we should also be talking about time for kids to be kids and use their imaginations, something that we don’t often have time left over for them to do, or don’t force the issue because technology is easier.

So as we enter this new year, what are your thoughts on the current education system? Are we doing right by our kids? What needs to change or improve the most in your opinion?

The Wealth of Knowledge

One of the things that I love most about the day and age that we live in is the ease of education.  Now you can pull out your phone, turn on the computer, visit a library or Skype with someone and get answers to just about every question you have.  Technology also empowers the people around the world who are trying to answer the questions we don’t have answers to like cancer and Alzheimers.  When you have an education or when you can learn something you’re much better off than if you just are given something.  Your knowledge is far more valuable in most cases than anything anyone else can give you.

As a parent one of the biggest gifts you can give your kids is an education, and I’m not just talking about sending them to school each week.  Learning happens inside and outside the school, and many of the things I learned weren’t taught in a traditional classroom setting or about English, math or science.  What you teach your kids about relationships, communication, driving, money, how you handle problems, and how to see the world are usually more important than what they’ll learn in school.

When kids have an education or know how to solve their own problems and answer their own questions you’ve given them a more valuable legacy than just handing over a large fortune to them.  What will you teach your kids today?

Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.” Epictetus

A Visit to the Library

I did something this week that I haven’t done in a while: took my work to the library. I had a couple of appointments in an area and decide that it would be more productive if I didn’t run home in between the appointments so I brought some work with me and decided I would work at the library in between appointments and errands. As I worked I watched the comings and goings of people of all ages. I watched parents and kids get excited about the books they could check out, heard librarians helping visitors find books and movies, and listened to the librarians make plans for how they could better organize their collection of materials to better serve their community.

It all reminded me how important something like a library is to the local community. It’s a place where people of all ages are and can learn from each other. It’s a place where you can work and learn. It’s a place where kids who don’t have grandparents can see seniors and learn that they’re not scary. It’s a place where kids can have instilled in them an appetite for learning, knowledge, curiosity, creativity and growth. It’s a place where teens can come with their friends and learn how to respect others while still hanging out with their friends. It’s a place where groups can come together to learn about different crafts or historical events or hear from local authors. It’s a safe, warm, dry place to go when you need a break from your life.

If you haven’t been to the library recently I encourage you to go visit and bring the kids along as well. You can save a lot of money on movies and books for them (and yourself) and keep them entertained for hours. If you can make a donation of books that your kids don’t read anymore or have outgrown or make a donation to their Friends of the Library fund (it’s tax deductible!).  What do you love most about your local library?

Educating for Convenience?

We live in an age of modern conveniences. I’m a big fan of many of them, especially grocery stores, email and indoor bathrooms. It’s great to be able to use a search engine and get a bunch of instant responses to your question (hopefully you’ve input the right question and the right results show up). However, I’m concerned by something I see increasingly in adults (and kids) with all of these advances and instant responses: laziness. Now, I’m not against taking time off or relaxing or necessarily even shortcuts. However, I am not a fan of the people who expect to have everything handed to them causing extra work for others when they could easily find the answer or do it themselves in about 5 seconds.

As a parent part of your responsibility is to teach your kids to fend for themselves. That means giving them the education and tools necessary to be equipped for whatever life may throw at them. One of the most valuable tools my parents passed on to me was my reading skills. TV was definitely a thing when I was a kid and I have learned a lot watching it, but I have learned so much more from reading. Reading has given me more power and knowledge than the TV ever could. Reading has empowered me to ask questions, to learn to research and even the lesson and value of patience.

Directly tied in with reading as I mentioned is the lesson of patience. Some things have to happen in stages, that’s just the way it is. Yes, we can take some shortcuts and can find ways to speed up many processes, but for many other things the only way or the best way to get from A to Z is by going through all 26 letters. I don’t believe there’s a shortcut that can be taken when building trust, growing relationships or becoming an adult (regardless of whether you’re an ‘old soul’ or not).

If you teach your kids that all the answers are out there if they’re willing to take the adventure, do the work, try new things, find the solutions, have the conversations and do the reading, you’ll equip them to conquer just about any challenge they will face as an adult, whether you’re there to help them through it or not. Don’t teach them to be the person who asks what’s in a “#1 breakfast combo” when the answer is clearly printed on the screen outside the car window, on the menu on the wall or in the printed menu. Teach them to think up ways to create needles that don’t hurt chronically ill kids so much, or get water from Texas to California, or bring back the dodo bird, and empower them to make the world a better place.

Sometimes School Stinks

Schools are officially in full swing and kids are getting back into their schedules and of course doing lots of homework.   I graduated from both high school and college, attended both public and private schools and attended 3 different colleges in different states during my college years, so I’ve seen some of what the educational world has to offer.  I’ve had some great teachers, I’ve had some teachers who had great personalities even if I don’t remember learning anything, I’ve had a ton of forgettable teachers, and I’ve had teachers who were terrible in more ways than one.

I’ve also met lots of of people having worked in schools and with kids outside of my own educational experience, plus owning my own business has introduced me to many people.  I know people from all around the world, and while their corners of the world may be a little different than mine, there are things that are unfortunately the same throughout the world that we need to pay attention to so that we can make the world a better place for the next generation.

School was created as a way to make sure that everyone learns certain things, like reading, writing and math.  We’re all exposed to some science, history and physical education as well, but those are less memorable for many of us.  Today I want to take just a couple minutes to talk about something that we don’t really like to admit: school failures.  I’ve already spoken to one of those negatives: teachers who stink.  Some teachers just don’t care about the kids, they’re just in it for the paycheck.  They share the same info every year and don’t take the time to make it come to life for new students, or consider the interests of their new students to add additional aspects to the classes.  It’s unfortunate because at some point in time they probably were passionate and did bring life to what they teach, they just don’t anymore.  As a parent there’s not a lot you can do other than encourage your kid to do the best they can and just get through it.  Sure, you can bring it up to the school board, but that doesn’t always work out in your favor and may do more harm than good.

Issue number two is that schools don’t always teach what people really need to know.  Because of the fact that I work with a wide variety of businesses some of my education that may not apply to others has been practically helpful, but much of it has not been, especially with the availability of Google and answers being a couple of clicks away.  There are many other skills that I wish had been taught but weren’t.  As a parent the best thing you can do is help teach some of those things at home and get kids involved in activities and learning experiences that are available extracurricularally.

Finally is an issue that we’ll talk about in greater depth in the coming weeks: bullying.  Relationships are the building blocks of our world.  If we aren’t able to create relationships of all kinds it’s much harder to do our jobs and live our lives.  There will always be some who are just bad people, but I believe most people don’t grow up wanting to be bad, they want to stand out or finally find acceptance.  If it’s your kid doing the bullying make sure to put an immediate stop to it and teach them better ways of interacting with others.  If they’re the target of a bully, encourage them to stand up for themselves and try to help the bully see the error of their ways, but if they don’t and adults aren’t able to intervene and turn the behaviors around, it’s time for new friends and acquaintances.

What lessons about school have you learned?

Asking A Better Question

As business owners one of the best ways to have a breakthrough in our business or with a client is to ask the right questions.  It’s not always easy to know what questions to ask, and sometimes we think we’re asking the right question only to keep getting frustrated because it turns out that we’re not asking the right question.  So today I’ve got a whole bunch of questions that may be new to you that you could try when you get stuck with an issue.  Some are questions you an ask to someone else, others are those you can use in your own thought processes.

What should questions do?

They should empower, challenge assumptions, re-frame issues, stretch the person/people asking, and encourage breakthrough thinking.

Question Disclaimers:

Sometimes you’ll get an answer you weren’t expecting or wanting to hear.  Sometimes you’ll need to ask another question to get deeper into the heart of the matter.  Sometimes a vague question is good, other times you want to be specific.  Not everyone can give you an instant answer, don’t be afraid to wait for the answer (unless you’re looking for that first impression). You expect a response when you ask a question, and those who are giving the answer expect to be given some kind of feedback on their answer.  Sometimes ‘I don’t know’ is the answer you get.

Let’s talk about some questions to ask yourself to ask the right question:

Do I need a factually correct answer?

Do I need an expert opinion?

Do I need a well-reasoned judgment?

Do I want the truth or the answer they think I want to hear?

Is yes/no sufficient, or do I want more?

Do I really want an answer?

And now some questions you might try:

What’s the RONI — the Risk of Not Investing?

When did you last do something fun?

What can I do to help you?

Do I want to add value?

Do your core values make business sense?

What do you stand for?

Who do you serve?

What is your competitor’s plan to win?

Is it helping?

What is the one thing you have postponed changing about yourself? Are you prepared to make that change now?

Are you a good friend who keeps your word all the time?

Would you offer a good friend much needed (uninvited) advice when you can see he/she is headed for disaster, or remain silent?

Are you open to receiving uninvited counsel from a good friend if the situation were reversed?

Is it more important for you to win the power game or to know the truth?

What is more important to you – wealth or love? (No, you can’t have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Have you explored your creativity to your satisfaction?

What do you need to stop?

Do you dismiss your creative ideas based on financial thinking or lack of time?

Which would you prefer: Losing your creative energy and spark or gaining more free time in your life? (No, you cannot have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Can you actually name a creative project or dream that you would like to pursue now?

What do you notice about the reasons for your success?

What are you trying to accomplish?

How are you being helpful to your team?

What are you doing that hurts your team? (Insert customers, employees, manager, yourself, or organization?)

What’s working for you?

What could be better?

What matters most to your customers? (Insert you, team, employees, manager, or leaders?)

What are the most impactful things you do?

If things were going perfectly, what would it look like?

How does this support the company’s mission, goals and projected success?

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learned along the way?

If all jobs paid the same, what would you be doing?

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

What does my (audience/customer/employee/partner/teammate) need to hear from me?

What kind of leader am I?

Do you know what I see in you?

How could we do that differently?

What are people concerned about, but no one says?

Did I help someone else succeed today?

What do we want to sustain?

What questions would you add to this list that have helped you in the past?

Trend Talk for August

Today I want to talk about two trends I’ve been seeing and reading about in business this month.

Facebook’s update: the latest update dropped page organic reach to somewhere around 1%.  Yep, it really stinks.  While we won’t dive into the obvious discussion of what to do about it, the thing I do want to talk about is why I support the update in some ways (but of course not totally because it does not encourage business owners to remain involved).  The thing that I see so many businesses forget is that Facebook (and the others like Twitter, YouTube and Instagram) is a social network.  That means that the goal of Facebook etc.  is to connect people and have them interact and be engaged.  Too many businesses are so busy being promotional and trying to create viral content that they forget the basic requirement of Facebook to be social.  If businesses showed that they actually cared about the Facebook community I think Facebook would reconsider this latest update.

Learning and Training: Do you train your employees? Do you expect them to stay up to date on relevant trainings?  Do you get training and educate yourself? When you’re looking to hire an employee how important is it for them to be up-to-date with their education (even in fields where it’s not required (training is required in the medical field))?  One of the current debates is over whether or not to invest in training your employees and potentially lose their skills to another company.  The other is why employees aren’t pursuing education that would help bring them up to par with more recent graduates and help them stand out in the job market.  Personally I think you should always be learning things, and it’s your responsibility to do so.  As to whether or not to train, in talking it over with someone the other day they reminded me that if a business is really a great place to work for their people have no desire to go elsewhere with their new skills.

What are your thoughts on Facebook’s change and learning and training in business?

Teaching for Eternity

Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking about a topic that is top of mind for many families: going back to school.  Today I want to talk about one of the most fundamental and key aspects to school: teachers.  My mom has been involved in schools in many different ways for as long as I can remember.  She’s taught, been an aide, been a substitute teacher and of course gone back to school.  I’ve taught classes and groups and helped in many types of classrooms too and know how much work in involved, as well as how challenging some students can be, and how rewarding it can be as well as a teacher.  As a student I’ve had a few good teachers, some average (and forgettable) ones, and a few bad ones.  While there’s a shortage of teachers I don’t believe that’s a good reason to let the bad teachers stay at schools and continue to damage the learning experience for kids (and adults).

First I want to encourage each of us to accept the role of teacher as part of our lives.  I don’t think it’s necessary or right to hand that off to those who are officially teachers and say that we don’t have to do any teaching as parents, neighbors or community members.  All of us have skills and knowledge that can benefit the youngest of us, as well as the adults around us too.  Parents and caretakers especially have a big responsibility to not only make sure their kids are having fun, but also that the learning continues outside the classroom.  It’s a great opportunity to educate them about topics that most interest them and in ways that they learn best.

Second, it’s important to support the teachers.  Teachers are always in need of books and supplies for the classrooms, as budgets are tight in most schools.  I’ve known countless teachers who reach into their own pockets to pay for supplies, and to help students who aren’t as well-off as others.  A great way to help would be to sponsor kids for field trips, support the music or arts programs or give gift cards to the teachers so they can pick up what they need most.  For the teachers who regularly interact with your kids, you can give them gift baskets with things they like, gift certificates to restaurants, and most important ask how you can support them and your kids in their classroom.

Learning is a life-long activity but our foundations are built in those early classroom years by the men and women who give hours, days, months and years to invest in the next generation of minds.  Their impact continues long after a child leaves their classroom and goes out into the world.  What are you teaching those around you?

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”  Henry Adams