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Published:August 20th, 2013 13:44 EST
How Can Parents and Schools Get Our Kids Ready For Life

How Can Parents and Schools Get Our Kids Ready For Life

By Jay Forte

Depending on where you live in the country, students of all ages are beginning the new school year. Frantic shopping for school clothes, supplies and dorm rooms have parents filling the stores, malls and highways in my area this past week. Though we are preparing them to be ready for school, how is school preparing them to be ready for life?

We live in period of significant and fast change. Things become obsolete in so little time that many of us are just getting comfortable with something when it has been replaced by an updated version. How can we prepare our kids to be successful in fast-moving, competitive and thinking world? And how are schools included in this preparation process?

As I moved through elementary, middle and high schools, and even in my time in college and graduate school, I followed whatever direction the schools guided me. All students were herded together to learn the same things in art, music, math, English, etc. One-size-fits all education. Though I had some input into the courses I had in my later school years, the courses were dictated by the school. And depending on the school, the materials taught were decades old, not updated for today, and not connected to how and what to know to find our way in today`s world.

So as the students start back to schools after a summer recess, how do they have to prepare to get the most out of school, and what must schools do to help students understand their world and find their place in it to be ready for life?

How do students prepare to get the most out of school?

To excel in today`s world and workplace, we all must know our talents, strengths and passions, and align ourselves to places in work and life that need what we do best. This is the result of our migration from an industrial (hidden-from-customers and make-things) economy to today`s service or intellectual (be face-to-face with customers and provide loyalty-building service) economy. Work has changed. And because most of our jobs now have us in front of customers, it is critical that we work in jobs that we are both good at and interested it. This affects customer loyalty. To be able to choose the right roles, we must know our unique abilities and interests. Otherwise we choose roles in work and life that don`t align to who we are. Performance, satisfaction, and happiness all suffer. This is the backdrop to the world we and our kids now live in.

 To be prepared for this world and for the schools in it, we must teach our kids/students how to discover and develop their unique abilities " their talents, strengths and passions " because these create their competitive advantage in life. In a world of 7 billion people, our unique talents, strengths and passions are the key to us finding our particular success road.

Self-discovery is a lifetime process that is started at home and continued in school. As we help our kids learn how to notice their unique abilities and life preferences, we help them see the world in a larger and more opportunity-focused way. We then partner with our schools to continue to expose students to a larger and more significant view of the world " to help them continue to learn about the world and themselves " to be able to help them find their best place in it.

We help our kids get the most out of school when we help them discover what makes them different and unique, and how this creates opportunities to succeed in life. This sends self-aware kids to schools to then expand what they know through the environments presented in the classrooms.

 How can schools help students understand their world and find their place in it?

Schools are the doorway to the world for most students. Schools can pull events and information from around the globe to expose students to an expanded view of the world and the opportunities presented in it. If we teach from outdated materials, and do not connect learning and lessons to today`s world, we limit students` abilities to be ready for life. Connecting our world to all education provides the context for students to seeing opportunities.

What many schools offer is a limited and conventional view of the world. In a world that changes as quickly as ours, curricula needs to be responsive, adaptive and practical. There is much to be said about education for education`s sake, yet it must it also be practical to bring the outside world in to students, to better prepare them to be successful in that world.

A college business dean friend of mine shared that one of the institutions he was affiliated with had as much as a five-year lead-time to add new courses or make significant changes to existing courses. The result, he said, that students are given information that is disconnected from today`s world on their first day. Connecting applications in today`s world for all things learned empowers and engages students to start to consider their focus or road in life.

Our culture is built on the premise that a smart society leads to a healthy, strong and sustainable society " so we mandate all to attend school. However, in our country, not all educational resources are allocated equally. And few schools help students discover and develop their unique abilities to be able to be more successful in our intellectual and conceptual workplace. Though well intending, we don`t consistently deliver on creating smart, capable and trained citizens, ready to show up large to work and life.

It is the student`s responsibility to know themselves, though schools and parents can play a great role in this by expanding a component of self-awareness education. Couple this with a more significant connection of education to today`s world and students become more aware of how to find their place in today`s world. They identify the areas that align to their best and unique abilities and connect with needs, challenges and opportunities in their world. In short, they learn how to find their fit, add to society and make their mark.

We want greatness for our kids and students. This requires that we understand our world and revise our approach to parenting and schooling to better connect to the real world. It is indeed critical to have education just for the sake of education. It is also possible to augment that education with a practical approach to learning things that will engage, empower and prepare students to be ready for life.