[This article by Robin Booth was published in Fast Company Oct 2017)
"Have you just wasted the last 12 years of your life at school?”
This was the question I asked over 2000 of South Africa’s top school graduates as their key note speaker at the Gibs business school annual career expo 2017.
They quickly quietened down when I shared the reality of their future:
1) If you think you can choose a career, the trouble is that the top jobs in demand today, were not even in existence 5 years ago.
2) If you study a technical degree today, and at the rate technology is evolving, the information you learn today will already be outdated in 3 years’ time leaving you with useless information.
3) By the age of 34, you will have had more than 15 different jobs.
4) In 5 years’ time less than 9% of you will have jobs relating to your degrees and studies.
5) By the age of 35 over half of you with all these fancy degrees will most likely be working for a company owned and run by a someone less smart than you who just made it through school.
6) The studies across the last 20 years show there is no correlation between success in school and success in business.
By Robin Booth
I believe that a posisble answer to our education challenges stares us in the face everyday. It is people who MAKE education, and not education that makes people. What would it be like for us to create the results we are so wishing for in our education system becuase of who we ARE? That is my wish and is the premise that the Synergy Schooling Approach proved.
Here is a short video clip where I share some of my thoughts on this.
I got a phone call from a mother who was nearly in tears. She said, "An 11 year old boy had a fight with my son and strangled him leaving bruise marks on his neck. My son is a nervous wreck now. And I want revenge! I feel like a tigress whose cub has been hurt."
This is the question we received: My daughter is very clingy when I drop her off at school. She doesn't want me to leave her and when I do, often cries and begs me not to go. I end up sitting in the car crying myself. This has been going on for a long time now and nothing seems to be changing.
When her dad drops her off she doesn't play up. Am I doing something wrong here?
Robin answers in the following video clip:
I was invited to attend a pre-school groups’ ‘camp fire evening’. The 6 year old group came together on a Friday evening to eat boerewors rolls around a fire and sing songs at school. Each child also needed to bring a torch as the school lights would be turned off later in the evening.
It was a beautiful evening and the children were very excited and ran around the garden exploring the darkness with their torches. Soon enough a young boy came over holding out his torch which had fallen and had stopped working. He was crying.
“Well you’ll have to share with someone else then, Gary.”
“But I don’t want to!” Gary managed to sob out.
“Well, Gary, it’s broken and there’s nothing we can do about it. Crying won’t do you any good, but smiling sometimes does.”
“My mom will be really angry. Its my new torch.”
“Come now Gary, we are going to light the sparklers soon.”
More sobbing while trying to shake the torch into operation.
“Gary, your tears will put the lights out. Don’t ruin our evening. Look, Liam’s torch doesn’t work either and he isn’t crying.”
By now I was about to take the torch and smash it over the teacher’s head hoping to shake her into decent operation.
Later on in the evening, they lit the sparklers. As the children ran around waving the sparklers in the air, one child’s jersey caught alight. She came running over and it was soon put on with no injury.
“Who did this?” shouted the teacher. “Who lit the jersey? Anthony was it you? I saw you were playing close by.”
“No, it wasn’t me. I swear it wasn’t me.”
“Come on everyone. Who was it?”
I don’t know what the teacher had expected to gain by asking that question. The children had been playing around, waving their sparklers and occasionally they bumped into each other. I noticed Anthony looking very uncomfortable. I went over to him and said,
“It looks like it was an accident. Sometimes accidents like this happen easily. I don’t think anyone really meant to burn the jersey.”
Anthony looked at me. He looked a bit surprised but I could see he was sizing me up. He was wondering if I could be trusted.
“It was me, but it was an accident. I didn’t mean it.”
I nodded my head. “Accidents happen, Anthony. It’s okay.”
As your awareness sharpens, and as you find respectful ways to resolve these kinds of issues, it can become unsettling to listen to the communication patterns of our spouses, friends and your child’s teachers. In every workshop the concern comes up of how to convey this awareness to spouses and other relevant people. It brings up dynamics of power, and perhaps new conflict. In the case above, the teacher was the principle of a well-known Cape Town school. Did I feel comfortable in pointing out to her another way of communicating that conveys respect? The thought of it was too uncomfortable.
During ‘quiet play’ all the children (aged 4 & 5years) sit on the mat and play educational games or puzzles. Throughout the year I have been nurturing the life skills of negotiation and conflict resolution with the children. It was all summed up in the following incident.
I was building a puzzle with two children with my back turned to a group of four playing a card game. As their game progressed, tension surfaced and accusations of cheating were thrown around.
Pretty soon they called me to intervene. I turned around and said, “Guys, it sounds like that some children are not playing fairly. If you don’t like what is happening you need to speak to each other.” I turned my back again.
I listened carefully as the group of children struggled to communicate their feelings and ideas about who was cheating and how they didn’t like it. I soon realised that the two children who I was building with were as interested in the process as I was because the one soon whispered, “They are negotiating now. They must talk about their problem.”
he other joined in and said, “They are solving their conflict.” The three of us carried on building, aware that the group of four needed to grapple with the issue on their own.
The social skill of taking turns is one that takes time, patience and many long faces to develop. On this day, we had our play-dough table nestled up against the wall and only two seats for the children to sit at.
After about ½ an hour, some children came up to me complaining that they wanted a turn at the table. I asked them if they had spoken to the other two at the table and they said that they had. I thought that it was that time again to start developing sharing skills.
“Okay guys, we have two children playing dough and another two who would like to play. What shall we do?”
Both parties voiced that they each wanted to play. We were heading towards a system of time allocation when another child (5yrs old) who was standing nearby piped up and said.
“I have a good idea. Why don’t they move the table away from the wall and put another two chairs on the other side, then all four children can sit at the table?”
My mouth hung open for a while till I said, “That sounds like a good idea. What do you all think?” The children agreed and they organised themselves.
As I was walking away from the table I mentioned to the idea-giver, “Ashwyn, that was a good idea. You thought a lot about how they could solve their problem. Now they can all play together.”
He responded, “I know, I have lots of good ideas. And I have lots more at home.”
In my pre-school class I constantly get children coming to ask me to do things for them. I have found the skill of respecting their struggle really helpful and it seems to give them courage to continue finding an alternate way. Take for example….
Megan: “Robin, I can’t make this heart.”
Robin: “Mmm, it can be quite tricky cutting out along those lines. It looks like those lines are really small. Maybe we can make a plan. What can we do to make those lines easier to see?”
Megan: “Maybe we can draw them again, with a big crayon.”
After having completed the heart and having regained self-confidence and pride, Ryan comes to complain about the same problem.
Robin: “It looks like these hearts are difficult to cut out. Megan came up with a good plan. Perhaps you can ask her to show you her plan.”
With that Ryan asks Megan for her idea and Megan beams with pride as she shows Ryan her idea and how it worked. Through this situation Megan has learnt that she has good ideas and that the children can help each other in solving problems. As the teacher I shifted the responsibility back to the children and they grow from the experience.
A teacher gets a wake up call when she has pre-judged a child to be naughty.
Teachers need to be more open to seeing the world from a child's perspective. Schooling is not just about reading and writting but also about friendships, care, love, and happiness.