“The Important Stuff”

This last couple of weeks I’ve been at loads of events, my life has been a veritable social whirl…! (Jealous? No, didn't think so! In fact, my life has actually been that of someone who works for themselves and has a million things, events and jobs to cram into each week, for the love of what I do).

So, what do I do?

That’s the networking introduction that everyone has their oneliner set up to answer.

In my case “I work with children and schools, to help them understand more about business, work and lifeskills.”

That’s my answer.

And the response, from the lucky soul I’m speaking to.

“Oh, The Important Stuff.”

OK, not EVERYONE says that. But a lot of people do, which has led me to write this, to find out more, to see what others think too.

Children & adults enjoying creative projects together

Why are they saying that the lessons about business, about life, about attitude and confidence are the important stuff?

Because they usually follow up that statement with, “I wish I’d had lessons like that when I was at school”.

Why, I ask again? They join companies, or start companies, or get jobs and they are not sure of how to do things, either to fit in, or to shake things up. They wanted a base of knowledge about the things that they need to know, even just a little bit of, to help join the world of work all together. They explain, it would have been really good to know a bit more. The aim of understanding can be manyfold: they can want to be successful, they can want to feel more confident dealing with others.

And in writing this, just because I’ve had this conversation so many times in the last couple of weeks, I wanted to ask if this stuff is really MORE important than the other things you learn at school?

Maybe for those people I’m speaking to: business owners, business people, these skills are more important to them than other more academic subjects. Perhaps it is just the attitude of that group.

In academic settings, there is massive importance set on knowledge gain and freedom to intelligently explore ideas. At least that’s what we want academia to offer us, the place to grow our skills, our breadth of reference, our experience, our subject knowledge, our enquiry, our experiments. To me, I love to read, find new ideas, query them and connect them together — I also love having problems to solve and challenges to answer.

I’m not totally sure that education today is giving young people this range of skills, however. Some of the schools I work in do amazing work growing this approach in their children and young adults. Using exploring, challenging lessons to find ways to make knowledge gain exciting and dynamic, and above all desirable for the students.

However, some schools seem, due to the measures of success deemed important, to be more aligned to the delivery of metrics, student data and performance. We can also see that success through these measures seems instrumental in driving limited teaching practice, which is often far from the intent or desire of the teacher delivering it.

“I want to be a teacher!”

“Oh, why’s that?”

“Because I love reporting and analysing metrics, arbitrarily fitting children into groupings, and providing attainment evidence for everything I do.”

Said no aspiring teacher, ever.

Indeed, one of the most common questions apparently asked by older students is (according to anecdotal feedback from University lecturers), “Will we be tested on this?” In younger students it can be seen often as saying, “I don’t need to know that…” when looking at the wider implications of the study they are doing at home, they are already self limiting dependent on the test they need to pass, losing the love of exploration.

Of course you know from your own experience of exams, you can learn the answers to the test, but then what about the application of the knowledge gained? It is very different to utilise knowledge in a beneficial way beyond the exam: that’s what we ask doctors, lawyers, accountants and countless others in other companies and roles to do every day.

So — for you, and I am genuinely interested, what do you think is the important stuff?

Or is it all important and we need to give it all equal attention? Do let me know, below.

And is it Ok to do skills and knowledge together — is school the right place?

Please like and share too, if you think someone else you know might have an opinion! By sharing our views we may find some useful thoughts on how we can do things better!

Thanks for reading!

Dinah is a director at Stepping into Business, a Social Enterprise based in UK helping connect schools with business.