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Coaching Teenagers - the power of curiosity and creative thinking

March 1st 2021

Coaching happy-teens-768x534

So I was recently chatting with a teenager from an educational perspective with the following remark made. "I flunked badly in economics, in fact the entire class failed." Sensing her anguish I began to probe about the circumstances that led to this situation, and specifically why she had failed.

Describing her high school class experience to be a mixture of online learning and in class education, she conveyed that economics was a difficult subject to memorize which resulted in her poor grade. Well hit me with a feather, and following several moments I put the following question to this lass.

What is your purpose in attending high school? Following a period of silence I asked the question one more time. Following further silence she replied rather nervously "to get good grades enabling me to gain admission to my preferred college." So where does learning fit in? More silence.

I have long thought about the effectiveness of present teaching methodologies for a significant % of teenagers that I come into contact with convey similar sentiments, only to be reinforced with the following commentary. The teacher sucks, online learning is stressful, my parents just don't understand etc; frankly more excuses. 

Taking a moment to reflect on my own high school experience, I vividly recall the first day of year 12 in Perth Western Australia, when our form teacher upon welcoming us to this most challenging of years stated that we needed to focus on our education from day one and throughout the year for before you know examination time will be with us. Here we were presented with a situation where the final exams were our top priority, and not the glorious adventure of learning that we were to experience.

Again and with a sense of positive reflection I think back to my teenage years when I discovered a passion for football, Aussie rules style. During my formative years I was regularly playing in a midfield role, to be re-positioned in defence following an injury sustained by our key defender. Sensing my frustration our coach (bless you Wally Dow) pulled me to one side and clearly explained the critical importance of this position and to embrace the associated responsibilities. With such sage advice my mind was transformed and I learned to enjoy the new challenges ahead of me.

Turning back to our future leaders, almost every teenager that I have the pleasure of interacting with states in clear terms that they hate a specific subject (generally mathematics) for some reason. Firmly believing that all subjects are to be embraced we adults need to enable students to discover those elements that are indeed interesting, and how to apply them in later life. Only when this is accomplished will students derive greater satisfaction from the learning process, and not commit their time to memorizing subject matter.  

With great care my masterful coach guided me to enjoy my new role, and to all those coaches, mentors, teachers and parents I encourage you to create an environment that enables your students/children that struggle to identify with the demands of them to dig deep and get to really understand their own key motivators and passions. I firmly believe that once this process of self-discovery is achieved they will be better positioned to appreciate the learning process before them.

Let's turn to curiosity and its impact on creativity. My frequent interaction with the teenagers that I coach and indeed their parents, has revealed that their teachers are too busy to be taking on the responsibility of one-to-one tuition, as they are snowed under with paperwork. When asked if they are being taught the benefits of curiosity I am presented with blank stares or a shake of the head. Why is this so? My research indicates that our education system which was conceived during the industrial period, has not progressed sufficiently well to cater for the individual. Yet tomorrow's leaders face such a different array of work related challenges than their grandparents and parents, and I feel many will be ill equipped to effectively deal with these challenges. 

Jobs of the future call for a more unique set of skills than before. As a professional Headhunter I am regularly asked to assess and screen for the level of creative thinking that executives bring to the selection table. Consider the emergence of technology and the disruptive impact being felt in many industry sectors. Jobs of the future that include roles in technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, engineering, healthcare and data science, call for graduates to be blessed with creative and critical thinking skills. One's level of curiosity is closely linked with creativity and when you consider the challenges being faced by employers when hiring new talent, remarkably I am yet to meet a teenager whose education mix includes provision for these important interrelated subjects.    

So where to from here? Our teenagers deserve to be provided with the knowledge and tools enabling them to make a positive impact in the workplace and throughout their lives in general. Curiosity involves asking questions, finding answers and creating solutions and not being afraid of failure. Research has found that curiosity has a positive impact on academic performance and is a strong predictor of potential. 

In closing we as a highly sophisticated community have a duty of care to assist and coach today's youth to embrace continued learning. As a coach I am driven by this pursuit so let's teach the next generation and our coming leaders the power of curiosity and the value of creative thinking, for desirable jobs of the future will be filled by those that master these skills. 






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