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.
When students hear the mantra “You can make a difference in the world,” there’s often an eye-roll. Students struggle to see how the actions of a few can have big consequences for the many. The fallout of this attitude is that many won’t decide to participate in that school-wide fundraiser, start that club or vote in the next election. The impulse to remain apathetic is strong but, as Mead reminds us, it just takes a different way of thinking to liberate us to act.
We experience life with other people. This is true in our families, schools and workplaces. We are taught the importance of being individuals and being responsible for our own actions, yet many of our life experiences involve others and our successes and failures are determined by how well we are able to work with other people.
Happiness is one those concepts that students talk and think about a lot, but rarely define. They are encouraged to motivate themselves to set goals to achieve happiness but the path is never laid out with any clarity. Reflecting on what happiness actually is can help students become more self-aware of what they value in life.
Anger is an emotion that all of us have to manage throughout our lives. Students get angry with their teachers, their friends and parents. It’s important for them to develop a self-awareness around their anger so that they can decide when getting angry, or remaining calm, is the right response to a situation which aggrieves them.
Every student knows what failure and success are. They pass and fail tests. They lose and win games. Students are just beginning to learn about what they are capable of, what they excel at and what they may be lacking that will always make them question whether they should persevere or quit.
Some students are dreamers who live comfortably thinking about a world not yet created. Then there are the ‘down to earth’ students who find comfort in facts. Often, these two groups clash during group projects when there’s a need for a clear vision of an end goal but then also a clear, step-by-step plan to get it done.
Mark Twain famously quipped that death and taxes are the only things certain in life. We can probably add failure to that short list. Of all themes, failure is one to which students can relate most. There’s failure at home, at school and in the workplace. It is a constant. Students are taught to develop a growth mindset and learn from failure.