This is the third post in a three-part blog series, written by Lucien Vattel, founder and co-director of the PlayMaker School and CEO of nonprofit GameDesk. In this post, we are challenged to consider a new paradigm for education — one that emphasizes social and emotional development as the foundation of learning.
In life and learning, sometimes it isn’t what we know, but knowing that we have it that makes the difference. The self-assurance that within us exists unlimited potential is key to how we frame our learning experiences. In many cases, our ability to learn and our ability to achieve has less to do with our perceived intelligence and much more to do with our ability to believe in ourselves. Our belief system and the matrix of ideas around them form the foundations of who we are and inform the percentages of success for who we become.
As we develop, mistakes happen. Nevertheless, we succeed through our failures. In order to see ourselves in our own experiences, we must develop mindfulness and self-awareness skills so that we may see ourselves in our choices and correct them going forward. When I see students opening up to an experience of learning and feeling confident in exploring and taking risks, I see a state of mind that is altogether natural and infectious to others. When I see students feeling heard and supported, I see a psychological environment that enriches their development. When I see students who are instructed in such a way as to become mindful and aware, I see them being empowered to dive deeper into the content of their learning, happy to support others around them, and the ability to feel centered within themselves.
The truth is, we are unique and limitless creations. We have the ability to achieve our aspirations; this is our birthright. Everyday is an opportunity to further discover who we are, further realize our dreams, and love ourselves no matter what. In essence: TO BECOME MORE. I affirm that this should be public education’s NUMBER 1 PRIORITY — above all else.
I invite you to imagine, for a moment, if you will, what every school in the US would be like if these were the defining requirements. If these were the most important metrics by which schools were assessed and supported. How would our leadership respond? How would our teachers teach? Most importantly, how would our children learn? What if every teacher and parent in America instituted a practice of reform on the following; failure, guilt, shame, disappointment, criticism, abandonment and hate?
How can we cultivate an education system that values both how we feel and behave, as much as what we “know?” Imagine if you went into school every day and learned, along side your core studies, how to listen, communicate, and collaborate; how to honor each other; how to see the best in each other. The possibilities are endless.
The norms of our schools today are products of our history. We live in a time where in many schools, learning is still seen as work; it is something that children must be situated to do, not something that will happen naturally through facilitated natural exploration. We also hold true as a culture that education is designed primary for the mind. It exists to provide a sound education for essential knowledge, skills and abilities surrounding core domains of knowledge. But are we our minds? Is that what we truly are? If you look at how we are tested, what we are asked, and what we are taught, the evidence points toward a society that grossly overvalues the mind above the heart. In such an environment it is not the norm to look at the whole person. As a result, how many hours of intellectual development in our schools are counteracted by traumas to the heart? When we shut down our hearts, we become handicapped toward our true potential and our true happiness. As a collective our adult society mirrors that reality. Take for example the various difficulties that we perpetuate: the strains to the planet, to each other, to ourselves.
The question becomes how do we instill a new generation with a more mature, highly active, creative yet kinder sensibility to the world? The fundamental design of education must be reshaped to create a society that supports its people, cares for its planetary home, thinks forward as a norm, and is filled with individuals who both think and feel beyond themselves. The mind is a powerful biological technology. I believe that we must learn to wield this power by mastering the mind through the wisdom of heart. In order to do that, we need a more full-spectrum educational design.
I propose that we rebuild the educational system; let’s move from “Learn, Do, and Become” to a “Be, Do, and Learn“ model of development. By placing the social-emotional spectrum of our abilities first, as the foundation to all that we learn, we move from “what we learn” to “who we are.” From “what we learn” to “how we engage in our learning”. By placing ‘doing’ second, we move into a design-thinking paradigm whereby facilitated learning experiences drive the next ‘learning’ step. Envision how that positions the student differently. In this framework, the central guiding focus moves from Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities to how we perceive and support ourselves through the learning of such K.S.A’s. In doing so, we create opportunity’s to illuminate the workings, habits, and patterns of our minds so that we may be the master of it. This is not an adult study. It’s human study, a core study.
In this new paradigm, we work to develop in every child, long-standing patterns of behavior that support consistent perseverance through new challenges, unforeseen obstacles and apparent weaknesses. How we communicate, how we remain mindful, how we manage our stress and anger are not left to chance or adult therapy. They are inherent to educational processes.
Emotional intelligence, persistence and grit, mindfulness, forward and long-term thinking, compassionate communication and listening, self-awareness, self-determination, self-love: These are the core, foundational skills at the heart the educational paradigm I’d like to see in our future. Imagine how many would cease to be overcome by weakened belief systems and a lack of self-support when presented with the challenges of life and learning with such a paradigm in place.
We have within us all the full ability to achieve the skills we aspire to possess, the knowledge we seek to understand, and the happiness, prosperity and peace we all deserve.
Heart-core learning. Believe it. Develop it. Implement it. Be a part of the change.
Lucien Vattel is CEO of nonprofit GameDesk. He also is the founder and co-director of thePlayMaker School, which takes a new approach to the way we teach and learn. Previously, Vattel was the associate director for Game Research at the University of Southern California for its CS Program in Games. While at USC he was the co-founder and designer of the master’s and undergraduate Game Degree programs. He can be reached via email at [email protected]
If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s email list for more stories about education. We offer newsletters covering educational leadership, special education and more.