REAL Priorities or Surface Concerns?
I read this article from Education Week this morning, confirming the need for what my LFL mission can deliver to students and their parents (who don’t have to get the wisdom curriculum IN school necessarily– they can access my book and online workshops!) to help them be wise and well, not merely to become well-educated in an academic sense/setting. I am trying to sell the idea that a quality life as a healthy and ethical and compassionate human being is the foundational education that underlies all other kinds of success. In fact, I would love to redefine success entirely. I don’t care about “performing well academically in college” as much as I care about nurturing healthy, whole, and fully-integrated human BEINGS (not just human DOERS). I left education to focus on teaching people HOW TO BE IN LIFE rather than only focusing on WHAT TO DO with their lives.
The article below is a classic example of how we talk about wholeness and wellness related to young people only as it relates to our current over-valuation of college success. Can we reverse this article’s priorities? Can we educate our kids for wisdom and wellness FIRST and then talk about college success as one of the many results of a healthy and meaningful human experience?
Colleges place significant weight on a student’s grade point average, class rank, and standardized test scores in the admissions process. For decades, these measures have informed how K-12 schools design curricula and counsel students on college readiness.
Yet grades and SAT results alone are ineffective predictors of students’ college success. Other factors come into play when understanding why some students positively transition to college and persist, while others drop out. In fact, more than a quarter of first-year students who started college in the fall of 2016 failed to return to college the following year.
A wealth of additional skills is needed to thrive—not just survive—in college, including conscientiousness and effective study habits. A 2012 study on college success by Larry A. Sparkman, Wanda S. Maulding, Jalynn Roberts, and colleagues suggested that students who demonstrated stronger emotional intelligence were better able to handle the rigors of college.
School counselors are well-positioned to offer meaningful support that could lead to lower college dropout rates and stronger retention rates. Everything from sound mental health to social inclusion affects students’ experience on campus. Beyond just academics, school counselors and college advisers should also address the soft skills needed to flourish in college, including social skills, an appreciation for diversity, personal health care, financial literacy, time management, and organizational skills.
Conversations between counselors and students about mental health is especially vital, as evidenced by the prevalence of college students battling anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or thoughts and acts of self-harm. [Could it be that our priorities are inverted?]
It’s time to take college prep beyond grades, FAFSA applications, and test scores—the academic, financial, logistical, and competitive aspects of the process. Going forward, school counselors must consider the following steps to prepare students for all that college entails:
1. Revamp curricula. Preparing students for the academic, social, and emotional rigor of college requires a comprehensive curriculum implemented by school counselors. San Francisco State University researcher Patricia Van Velsor encourages school counselors to reimagine their curricula to include developing social-emotional learning, executive functioning, and social skills as part of college readiness. According to Van Velsor, this model of counseling students on the college-going process is just as important as academics to their mental health, adjustment, and persistence when they transition to higher education.
2. Encourage extracurricular involvement. Numerous studies conducted over the years by several researchers have demonstrated that students who physically get involved with their campus perform better academically and graduate at higher rates. Students need to be encouraged at the K-12 levels to join clubs, sports, faith-based events, volunteer groups, and other activities outside of school. These extracurriculars can help students be more outgoing, have more friends, feel a stronger sense of belonging, and demonstrate better attachment and positive adjustment to their schools and community. Students already engaged in activities in the years prior to college are better positioned to continue during college.
3. Integrate psychoeducational groups. Incorporate certain types of group therapy into school counseling and college advising curricula to help students develop the interpersonal skills needed for successful peer-to-peer interactions. In their 2007 book, Evidence-Based School Counseling, Carey Dimmitt, John C. Carey, and Trish Hatch argue that school counselors trained on group development and group facilitation are better suited to support students’ mental-health needs and offer strategies that encourage personal-emotional growth.
4. Bring soft skills into the conversation. Connect with college-bound students about the soft skills needed to persist in college, including budgeting, establishing academic and personal efficacy and resilience, maintaining mental health, and knowing where to seek support if needed. Discussions about nutrition, hygiene, and physical activity are key, too.
Living with roommates, overcoming homesickness, effectively managing one’s time, and developing self-identity are often part of the college experience, too. For instance, making friends and developing the ability to network can make a large campus feel more accessible, while a circle of friends establishes a community, all of which can help ensure students remain in school. Researcher Janice McCabe studied the formation of college friendships, concluding that the friend networks students build during college can have discernible academic benefits—and even shape social and work lives after college.
Research also suggests that individuals with a good sense of executive function, including being able to read the emotions of others and regulate one’s own emotions, are better equipped for college and a career.
5. Think differently about the right “fit.” The College Board recommends that selecting a college with the right “fit” should be based on location, size, type of college (e.g., two-year or four-year), and majors. It neglects to mention how the college represents students culturally, racially, and ethnically in its demographic makeup. College campuses lacking diversity may cause psychological and emotional distress for students of color. Counselors need to advise students to be intentional in choosing colleges based on whether the campus reflects their racial and cultural needs, offers leadership opportunities, and is located in a community that demographically reflects their personality and identity.[Do young people know who they are?]
College-bound students with high test scores but poor social skills are not necessarily well-equipped to handle the nuances of college beyond the classroom. Far more benefit would come from actively developing high school students’ emotional intelligence, mental health, and organization skills, along with racial and cultural identity.
EYES ALWAYS ON EXTERNAL PRIZES
(and the nefarious and corrupt who will do anything to achieve them!)
Ultimately what I am trying to promote HERE AT LANDSCAPES FOR LEARNING is slowing down enough to be present in one’s own life (body and mind) and to look within to learn more about who one is. Rather than predominantly focusing on achievement, I am encouraging more attention to intrinsic understanding, acceptance, and love of one self. I am encouraging and teaching about why and how to observe one’s own moment-to-moment experiences and reflect on them continually to learn more about what one’s own life teaches.
When I was teaching yoga and high school students, I could see clearly, when on the frontline with high school seniors, how much they (and their parents) would have benefitted from yoga, which I define as self-study for self-realization: this includes stillness, present-moment awareness, introspection and reflection, and it is practiced not MERELY to accomplish or achieve or reach goals on the timeline of their lives (horizontal landscape), but because of how much more fulfilled they’d be and how deeply engaged they’d be in their vertical landscape of their own being. This deeper connection, awareness, and awakening to one’s own truth and integrity is the foundation of “outward success” whatever that looks like for each unique person. This type of “success” in knowing oneself is wisdom that provides people with “enough” and a “feeling of fullness” so that chasing goals to fill one’s socially constructed, competitive and compared self becomes far less urgent, thus more balance ensues.
Of course, it is great to learn about what works for others and to gain information that could be helpful which is what self-help and standardized curriculum is typically comprised of, but what works for some does not always apply to each individual person. We are all the same to a degree, yet so unique in personality and physical, mental, intellectual, and psychological constitution.
At LFL, my aim is to encourage you to make the time to point your attention inward, at least more often or as often as you point your attention to others and the future and the external world that’s constantly demanding your attention. Read the book of you in addition to what you can read and learn from the “outside” world. Experience in education and in the world of yoga showed me how much the balance is off because the outside world has got a death grip on our attention (thus our values– where we spend most of our time and energy, thus stress) without us really being aware of it! I TRULY BELIEVE THAT EACH ONE OF US CAN BE OUR OWN BEST TEACHER, AUTHORITY, AUTHOR, AND WELLNESS EXPERT IF WE COULD SLOW DOWN ENOUGH TO PAY ATTENTION TO OUR INNER LANDSCAPES!
LFL’S MISSION IS TO INSPIRE & MOTIVATE YOUNG PEOPLE TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO THEIR INTRINSIC SENSE OF SELF RATHER THAN ONE’S SOCIAL IMAGE!
To this end, I don’t love formal education’s over-emphasis on group identity or focusing predominantly on social-interpersonal skills (how to be nice to other people etc..) because I happen to believe (and feel free to criticize me and disagree) that if people knew, accepted, loved, and attended to their inner landscapes that they’d be far more compassionate and socially adept on the external landscapes of life. It’s no coincidence that a Mindfulness Movement has erupted yet SADLY I see how schools co-opt this by USING it as a tool to serve their utilitarian values which are outcomes and results-focused—that is, for kids to “do better” in measurable ways, to be more productive, competitive, higher achievers, and…umm… “successful.”
So yes, of course college students will be more successful in their endeavors by developing persistence and other “soft skills” that are related to their integrity— that is—of knowing on a deep, intimate level who they REALLY are. This is self realization that can come from self-study. And self-actualization (unlocking one’s potential) is the result of this ongoing process! That’s BEING FULLY ALIVE AND WELL. Being a successful college student pales in comparison.
My LFL curriculum (my self-directed wisdom curriculum for modern humans or self-study for self-realization guide and workshops and resources) is not social-emotional curricula; is not character-education, is not mindfulness meditation (but includes all 3). I never wanted what I am doing to get co-opted by the institution of school, and so that’s why I left education to create my own space online where learning, real inner and personal learning can be done on one’s own, privately, quietly, intrinsically motivated, without grading, and encouraging only self-assessment– authentic, real assessment that has value for the learner and is practically applicable to one’s own unique life!