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Out with Grades, In with Soft Skills

 

If It’s Not About the Grades, then what kind of Learning Beyond Schooling?

Modern schooling still subscribes to the notion that “If it [skills/learning] isn’t measurable, it doesn’t matter,” but this is totally outdated!  According to Seth Godin, real work that matters, that is purposeful and fulfilling, relies more on “soft skills” than “hard skills.”

I believe that knowing oneself deeply by practicing tools for self awareness (introspection, writing, yoga, meditation, et al) and developing more soft skills is what parents and educators should be focusing on instead of the achievement and quest for grades for (overpriced/over-valued) college that merely shows the ability to play the game of traditional schooling well (temporary ingestion and synthesis of information and limited hard skills).

Educators need to let go of the content-coverage-curriculum mindset and make education about authentic learning: problem-solving, cooperation (rather than competition), an open exchange of ideas (crazy ones especially), character-building practices (honesty, integrity, patience, resilience, determination, self-control), mistakes, more mistakes, and play, as well as healthy dialogue.

Valuing balance, adapting to rapid change, and building our sense of security in a foundational sense of authentic humanity (our own and others’) is the education necessary for the future.  AI and robots will take care of the “hard skills,” so perhaps we humans should spend more time “being human.” Each of us will be healthier, better prepared, and empowered for an unpredictable future in both measurable and immeasurable ways.

 

 

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It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling

The heart of my story, “It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling” is about living with integrity, authentically, as the true me who I was born to be. It’s about how my essential nature was co-opted by society’s values of competition and comparison. It’s about my long journey of loss and recovery. It’s about living from my soul, from love, from the inside-out, not from the outside-in in order to please the world and its egocentric values (Plotkin). It’s about my story being common, maybe a little too familiar.

“Doing You” is the best and most efficient and effective way to truly serve others. When you know who you are, you can understand how to take care of yourself. It’s an ongoing process of awakening and awareness. You are your own best teacher for life across the landscapes that are here for your trials and errors, transformation, and transcendence– your learning.

If we look at our life experiences as opportunities for learning, we are empowered rather than victims.  Ironically, by exposing ourselves and being vulnerable and afraid we become courageous, strong, and flexible. We learn and change and grow. And that is who we are– constant change, growth, becoming, like a flower-petal blooming (Choudhury). Beneath that gorgeous blossom is all of the hard work of waking up–the mud: the practice of brutal honesty required, the struggle, the doubt, the resistance, and the failure that is intrinsic to the beautiful reality of being human and being truly alive,flourishing. What is flourishing? It’s meaning, purpose, passion, and vitality. No mud, no lotus (Hahn).

My story is unique, but not unusual. I see lots of others traveling the same path I was on– unaware, disconnected from their core self, and not knowing how or where they might find the tools to awaken and live truthfully, despite appearing “normal” and “successful.”  The details differ but the journey is the same. I see that we are educating and raising kids the same way I was raised–to the detriment of the true self and the unnecessary suffering that results from such disconnection.

Teachers (including parents), by explicitly promoting approaching life as a learner, not just an academic achieverwill provide kids with a more complete education–one of character not just career, wisdom not just knowledge and information, in order to live, love, and appreciate (gratefully) each moment– the present moment, instead of focusing so much on what kids are going to be “when they grow up”. Kids need to be here, now (Ram Dass). We all do.

I wish I had such an education earlier in my life, awoken to this truth about building the courage to stay connected to my essential self and gaining the tools to practice living my truth.

I wish someone told me there was this thing–” truth,” that existed within my inner landscape waiting as potential to be actualized and that it was my responsibility to “do the real me” instead of merely copying models or crafting myself into something valid and legitimate in the estimation and judgement of others.

I wish I had a warning that I would suffer because I am human, and then also be taught that to lean into, explore, and learn from that suffering would be the exact antidote to the type of worse suffering that would persist if I ran away– which I did and so many of us do without even realizing it.

Is learning by direct experience about one’s own human nature and character too spiritual? Is becoming authentic, truthful, and true the humanities education for the 21st century we need to quell the postmodern relativism that prevails?

We should encourage students to trust teachers less and trust themselves more.

We should guide them to go inward to travel their inner landscape, beyond the eyes and judgment of schooling, to see clearly their pure essence which is love, allow it to unfold as their witness, and then stay out of the way of such unfolding. Instead, we interfere with narrow expectations and an obsession with grades, measurement, comparison, and competition. We co-opt authentic learning with too much schooling.

We should not steal their suffering, but rather show them how suffering is done better so they can suffer less or at least not unnecessarily.

We should educate them such that unconditional love of oneself is the norm rather than the exception.

We should teach them more yoga.

References

Dass, Ram. Be Here Now. (1971).

Choudhury, Bikram. Bikram Yoga Teacher Dialogue. (2002).

Hahn, Thich Naht. No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering. (2014).

Plotkin, Bill. Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World. (2007).

Definitions

Self-realization (Wikipedia, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary)

Self-realization is an expression used in Western psychologyphilosophy, and spirituality; and in Indian religions. In the Western, psychological understanding it may be defined as the “fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality.” In the Indian understanding, Self-realization is liberating knowledge of the true Self, either as the permanent undying Atman, or as the absence (sunyata) of such a permanent Self.

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines self-realization as: Fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality.In the Western world “self-realization” has gained great popularity. Influential in this popularity were psycho-analysis, humanistic psychology, the growing acquaintance with Eastern religions, and the growing popularity of Western esotericism.

In Hinduism, self-realization (atma-jnana or atmabodha) is knowledge of the true self beyond both delusion and identification with material phenomena. It refers to self-identification and not mere ego identification

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About LFL Podcast

In this first podcast, I introduce myself and my purpose for the Landscapes for Learning podcast.

I was motivated to create the Landscapes for Learning project to counter students’ and parents’ and schools’ over-valuation of grades and competition for college acceptance as the key to “the good life.” As a long-time educator, I saw this value and its related goals derail kids from exploring their inner lives and cause major anxiety and negative attitudes and mindsets about real learning. Students who failed to achieve hated learning because they defined learning and schooling as the same thing, which they are not. We have to teach our children by living out values each and every day that are more informed and healthy based on the true purpose of a whole and complete education for a human being in the 21st century.

I would like to create a new narrative about schooling– that it ought to be in service to the more important and broader umbrella of authentic learning, which includes real risk-taking, and the important trial and error process that fosters self-awareness, self-love, confidence, grit, patience, entrepreneurial spirit, and the conscious and deliberate self-actualization of each individual.

Every kid has potential that deserves to be actualized so they can become the truest and best version of the person they were born to be!

A wisdom curriculum and promotion of a love of learning beyond schooling must be an essential part of the curriculum in secondary education (grades 8-12) especially if the system continues in its current (nearly outdated) form.

I hope the stories of ordinary people traveling the landscapes both inner and outer inspire and support a love of authentic learning among all listeners.

 

 

 

 

 

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Podcast: A Parent-Teacher Conference

Solo Podcast: A Parent-Teacher Conference

“A Parent-Teacher Conference about Values” is a solo episode about my book-in-progress It’s Not About The Grades: Love for Learning Beyond Schooling which I hope to revise and publish in the coming months.

I provide a brief, yet incomplete, overview of the book in progress and read an excerpt from a chapter that is about the parent-teacher conference I wanted to have while a high school teacher but never really could. Now that I have resigned from my position, I am able to discuss what I see as the critical piece missing from a complete education for high school students and how it is severely overshadowed and almost drowned out completely by the over-valuing of grades.

I invite parents (and schools) into a conversation about a serious reflection on their values and our culture’s values and the mental health of teens, not merely to help kids to be successful students and achievers but rather to be whole, healthy, individual human beings who are able to self-actualize and blossom throughout their lives. This is the process of yoga, an exploration of the inner landscape!

I welcome your comments on the podcast in iTunes or feel free to share your thoughts by emailing me at landscapesforlearning27@gmail.com or leave a comment on this post.

Thanks!

Image credit: https://www.geeksaresexy.net/2011/02/12/bad-grades-1960-vs-2010-cartoon/