The Digital Age has brought about a change in the way children are taught – and the way they need to think and understand the world around them.
Education is becoming less and less about regurgitating memorized facts, formulas, and dates, and becoming more focused on the skills learned during the actual process of learning and working.
This shift in the way students are taught provides children with the skills they will need in order to be successful in the world of tomorrow. And it also fosters within them the confidence they will need in order to thrive as a valuable member of society.
While learning and retaining knowledge and information is still a huge part of education today, we’re now beginning to focus on fostering the “21st century skills” that are becoming more and more necessary as our society continues to evolve. Children who master these skills will continue to grow not only in terms of abilities and talents, but in self-worth as well.
Collaboration and Teamwork
Modern education is highly focused on collaboration.
It’s no longer acceptable for teachers to plan lessons in which they stand at the front of the classroom and lecture to their students for hours at a time. While this method may work if the teachers simply want to impart knowledge into the brains of their students (and even then, it’s questionable), it won’t help build students’ collaborative skills and their ability to work within a team – something they’ll certainly need to be able to do once they enter the workforce.
Working within a team can also positively affect a child’s sense of self-worth, and ultimately build his or her confidence.
When working within a group, children will receive continuous and instantaneous feedback from their teammates regarding their performance.
Of course, it’s the teacher’s duty to set ground rules for giving such feedback in order to avoid bullying and other negative comments. But once appropriate rules have been set – and are continually followed by the class – the feedback gleaned by each child can be invaluable.
Since a child’s teammates will be available to help them out when they find themselves confused or stuck on a specific problem, they won’t have to waste time waiting for their teacher to check their work and offer assistance. Many times, receiving help from a peer is less intimidating than having to constantly rely on the teacher to get through a problem. In instances such as these, the teacher would do well to partner struggling students with children who are always willing to help out, and who won’t ostracize a peer for not understanding a certain concept or idea.
Helping and Teaching Others
On the other side of the coin, children working in groups can also offer feedback when necessary.
In fact, teaching someone else can actually be beneficial to your own learning.
When a student attempts to help a struggling peer understand a concept, he or she must first have a deeper understanding of the concept in the first place. It’s not enough to simply give a peer the correct answer. The goals of these mini-tutoring sessions are to help the struggling learner understand the gaps in their thought process and to ensure they have a better comprehension of the concept moving forward.
Children who are able to explain complex topics to their peers and see their efforts pay off immediately will certainly feel a boost in their own confidence as they see their struggling friend begin to succeed.
A Sense of Belonging
Perhaps most importantly, when children successfully work in groups, they feel a part of something bigger than themselves.
Each member of a group brings something valuable to the team. The innovative thinker, the artist, the spokesperson, and the leader are all important members of the whole. If any one of these members is absent, or doesn’t pull their weight within the group, the entire team will fall short of their goals.
The boost of confidence this notion of belonging brings cannot be understated – especially for those who usually struggle with their schoolwork. Teachers must plan the makeup of groups accordingly, so that each student in the class has a chance to shine – both as an individual and as a member of a team.
Creativity and Problem Solving
It’s ironic – and unfortunate – that many of the world’s most creative minds tend to also suffer from low self-esteem and other debilitating senses of a lack of self-worth.
Parents and teachers can do their best to stop this trend by promoting creativity and innovation throughout their children’s lives. This can be done by celebrating a child’s willingness to think outside-the-box, come up with new ways to solve problems, and, most importantly, buck societal norms.
How many times in your adult life have you heard the phrase “That’s not how we do things here”?
“It is what it is.” “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The list goes on. The people who make these statements are stagnant thinkers who are too jaded and apathetic to work hard enough to improve the world around them.
Children need to know that they have the power to change something if they don’t like it, or improve upon something even if it’s already “good enough.”
The children who come up with creative uses for common objects are the future innovators who will invent the next “big thing,” and become their generation’s Steve Jobs.
And they’ll do so because they have always been allowed to explore, and have always been confident in their abilities – whether they succeed or not.
Too often, children feel as if they need to fit in in order to be worth something. Once in a while, however, a child will come around who really couldn’t care less about doing things the way everyone else does.
These are the children who are as close to what Maslow refers to as self-actualization. These children are confident in their abilities, and will not question their seemingly outside-the-box thoughts, ideas, and actions – they’ll question the masses who don’t think like them.
Self-actualized children will reply to authoritative statements such as “We don’t do things that way here” with “Why not?”. Obviously, this unbridled enthusiasm must be harnessed by parents and teachers in order to avoid dangerous situations, but when such a self-driven mind is focused on productive outlets, there’s no telling what good can come of it.
Flexibility and Adaptability
It’s becoming more and more common for teachers to instill in their students the idea that there are more ways than one to solve most problems they will face.
In fact, children should know that most problems they face are at least somewhat unique, and therefore will require solutions that aren’t pre-programmed or scripted.
In other words, children can’t go through life thinking there’s one single formula to help them deal with each specific situation they’ll face.
The children who understand this are the ones who will be able to navigate any problem they face, and have the confidence to be able to do so.
Going with the Flow
When children understand that life is a continuum of events rather than a collection of disjointed events, they’ll be more apt to take each problem they face as it comes.
These children will take what they’ve learned in the past and apply it in different ways in order to solve problems that are similar, but not identical.
For example, a class may be given a math test in which they must find the area of half of a circle – despite never being given the formula to do so.
While many students might get stuck on the idea that they “were never taught how to do this,” the adaptable students will know to simply use the formula to find the area of the entire circle and then divide it in half.
Obviously, this is a simple example – but it shows the difference between a student who is flexible in his thought process and confident in his abilities, and one who isn’t.
Simply put: Solution-oriented individuals don’t waste time thinking about how they feel or whether or not they can do what’s being asked of them. They just do it.
Task-oriented students actively seek out challenges and trust in their abilities to complete them sufficiently.
Even when they fall short of their goal, they know it’s not that they’re “not good enough,” but more likely that they made a mistake or did something wrong along the way. Rather than shutting down and wallow in their sorrows, they pick themselves up and learn from their missteps.
These adaptable students are confident in their abilities, and understand that the outcome of a venture is an assessment of their performance on that specific venture, not their entire worth.
Children who have a strong sense of responsibility are perhaps the most confident of the whole bunch.
Being responsible requires students to be collaborative team players who are flexible, adaptable, and innovative. They understand that the impact their actions have on their community and society as a whole is much more important than they are as individuals.
However, this is not to say that civically responsible students don’t see themselves as important members of the community. But they do understand that the world does not revolve around them, and that they have to prove their worth in order to be celebrated.
By constantly giving of themselves and putting their all into everything they do, students with a strong sense of responsibility show they understand just how important they are, and how much value they can bring to the world – as long as they work hard to do so.
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