What does it take to be prepared for the future? In the 20th Century world there were mostly predictable patterns of going to college or learning a trade and then getting a job and working in the same career for many years.
But as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus astutely observed, "The only thing that is constant is change." Truly, we are living in a world of unprecedented change and complexity.
In past decades, soft skills were abundant. Even the TV shows included character lessons. There was the Andy Griffith Show, Leave it to Beaver, and Father Knows Best. Mister Rogers Neighborhood spanned decades highlighting social and emotional learning. Being respectful, helping others, and doing one's best were all values that were encouraged.
While soft skills were abundant, knowledge was scarce. The teacher was the purveyor of knowledge. Experts held onto most of the knowing. It was possible to train for a profession and perhaps what you learned would serve you well for many years, maybe your entire career.
Finding information involved learning from an expert in the field or maybe exerting the effort to visit an actual library. Compare that to today's connected world where we have access to the sum of human knowledge at any time, in any place, at the tip of our fingers.
Soft skills were abundant and knowledge was scarce.
And now it seems that has flipped. It's possible to learn in ways like never before. Is knowledge still important? Absolutely. But the abilities to empathize, listen, connect, and accept differences are skills on the rise.
As technology becomes more and more pervasive in just about every aspect of life and productivity, the skills that are becoming most valuable are human only traits.
So what's that mean for educators? We need to make sure learning in schools includes a focus on developing character and leadership. We need to make sure it's intentional. And we need to make sure it's systematic.
How is your school becoming intentional about developing leadership and character? We can just hope our students are learning these lessons at home. We can hope individual teachers will do the best they can to impart these skills. Or, we can activate the entire school culture to promote these skills. We can all pull in the same direction.
As the world continues to change, we don't know what technology might bring. But we can know for sure, if our students take with them more kindness, understanding, forgiveness, selflessness, and honesty, the world will be a better place.
What is your school doing to be intentional about developing soft skills in your students? Our school has partnered with CharacterStrong for training and curriculum to enhance our efforts to teach social emotional learning and leadership development.
I believe it's the missing piece for many schools. We must reach the heart before we can teach the mind.
In my book, Future Driven, I challenge educators to consider if their students will be prepared for an unpredictable future? I believe if we teach as we've always taught, we're preparing kids for a world that no longer exists. We need adaptable schools that are preparing adaptable learners.
And one important way we can adapt is to be more intentional about teaching character and leadership in our schools.
Before you say yes to something, an opportunity or adventure, ask yourself why you are saying yes. Are you saying yes because you think it will win someone’s approval? Is what you are saying yes to in line with the person and leader you want to be? In saying yes to this, what are you saying no to? Take a minute or two to think about it - or even better, journal it somewhere.
Start a journal of self-reflection to figure out the real you, who you truly are when you aren’t trying to gain anyone’s approval. It’s hard not to mold ourselves to others expectations when we don’t even know who we are! Some questions to get you started:
When and where do you feel the most in tune with yourself?
What are 10 (non-physical!) things you love about yourself?
What are your core values?
About the Author: David Geurin has served as principal and lead learner of Bolivar High School since 2008. In 2013, the school was named a National Blue Ribbon School and Missouri Gold Star School. More recently, he was honored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) as a 2017 National Digital Principal of the Year. David is the author of Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive in An Unpredictable World? He’s passionate about leadership, school culture, and authentic learning experiences. David shares insights with educators at the local, state, and national level through his keynotes, workshops, and presentations. He also shares his voice regularly via his blog, davidgeurin.com.