We’re always telling children that it’s important not to complain about things and that it’s always better to be part of the solution, rather than the problem. If you don’t like your situation, then change it. We also tell children that it’s important to know when you can’t change things and to accept the world the way it is. In those situations it is our attitude that needs fixing. Knowing when to work towards change and knowing when to accept the status quo is a form of wisdom that can only be gained through experience.
Adults sing the praise of the importance of patience. The advice to kids usually goes something like this: if you are patient and work hard over time, you put yourself in a position to accomplish great things. Success never comes easy. Life is a grind and you should develop a growth mindset to persevere through it. Though sometimes a person’s life experiences seems to teach the opposite lesson; that sometimes going after what you want quickly and aggressively will lead to even greater accomplishments. Impatience can be a virtue as well.
Setting life goals is an activity we are always encourages young people to do. The thinkings goes like this: if you set goals for your future, then you will become happier and successful because you know what you want. That being said, though, it’s very unclear just how we should plan out our lives, whether it is better to set small, attainable goals or shoot for long-term goals which are harder to see but inspire us to do the daily work necessary. Goal-setting is an extremely important skill in school, work and relationships.
Students think and talk about happiness all of the time. Some believe happiness is something we control and that if we just do the right things we will become happy. There are others who think of happiness as a byproduct of a good environment and not something we can control. The issue of whether we control our happiness is an important one because it determines whether or not a student develops a healthy capacity for self-motivation and goal-setting.
Diversity is something many students confront for the first time in school. They are required to learn with students of different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, not to mention those who embrace different traditions, learning styles and ways of seeing the world. When students confront diversity, they confront moral choices on how to react to people who are different from them.
Students know what it feels like to be hurt. When they are hurt, they have choices to make about how to treat the people who hurt them. These choices give them opportunities to demonstrate empathy and respect for others and to preserve relationships, or break them off. Forgiveness is a moral choice which strikes at the heart of ethical decision-making.
Students learn a great deal about respect inside the classroom walls. Not only do they pay attention to how their teachers and classmates treat them, but they also carry expectations for how they should act in return. Mutual respect in the classroom is a noble goal in theory, but hard to achieve because either the student or the teacher is unable to hold up his/her end of the deal. Without mutual respect, learning is elusive and the classroom is quickly gripped by misbehavior and personal conflict.
One of the hardest skills to develop is the ability to see the world from different perspectives. This skill is especially difficult during crises like the Coronavirus where all around us we see despair, social dislocation and loneliness. Everything tells us to lose hope. It is during these hard times, however, that we have fresh opportunities to see differently in ways that can improve our mental health.
All students have run across “know-it-alls”. They might be one themselves. They walk into a room and express supreme confidence with their knowledge. Being humble is seen as a sign of weakness. Then there are those timid students who wait patiently, ask questions and only speak when they are certain of something. Confidence and humility are noble traits. The life-long challenge is striking the right balance between the two.
Ask the students what they dream about and you are sure to get a wild variety of interesting answers. Students dream all of the time and some use them to set lofty goals for their life pursuits. Others see dreams as fake pictures of reality. However they are viewed, thinking about dreams is a chance for students to become more self-aware about what they value and what they really want out of life.
Self-discipline is hard for students. It requires that they shut out distractions, develop routines and exercise impulse control. Authority figures tell students that self-discipline is worth it, that at the end of the day their work will be rewarded. But it doesn’t feel that way sometimes because the pay off is way down the road.