Today, 60 million students are out of school in the U.S. due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Having them at home has stimulated a lot of questions. How far behind will they get? Will this pandemic cause more failures and drop-outs? How will colleges make it fair for admitting students? Will students experience toxic stress from being out of school? Will our students continue to fall behind the other countries? One article went as far as to say that we are in an educational emergency1. The fear and questions are mounting. Students and parents are scared and worried.
I can understand why there is worry. It would be normal to have these concerns based on the beliefs that our current education system has maintained and instilled in us for over 100 years. As a part of my applied trauma research in the schools over the past 12 years, I have been coaching administrators, teachers and students to support them in dealing with the challenges of the current system.
One of the biggest problems they deal with is the instilled belief from the system that the more productive the students are, the more successful they will be. i.e. the more difficult classes, the more homework, the more A’s, the better the college, the more success in life. The students have become an educational system of DOER’s, believing that what someone else is telling them to DO, is what they need to DO to be successful. Students are “do-doing” all over themselves and putting their own intrinsic motivation to learn on the back burner. Maybe during the Industrial Revolution this was effective, but it’s not anymore.
When I was a college professor, I created a high-level wellness course that was designed to shift students away from the “doing” and into the flow of intrinsic learning from their body-mind and heart, and most of my students got angry. They demanded how to explicitly get the grade. They didn’t care about learning a new way of “being” that lowered stress and made life easier and feel more successful. I was forced by my Dean to shift my class back to the old way and add all the tests and projects.
For many years, these students had already been a part of an education system that had reinforced productivity, extrinsic rewards, and outcome-focus, over learning, intrinsic motivation, and process-focus. Unfortunately, these types of experiences actually create a brain and nervous system filled with anxiety and stress, which is more likely to lead to decreases in self-worth, confidence, creativity and effective decision-making.
I have come to know many of the Millennial and Gen Z’s school struggles by coaching them around their anxiety, depression, low self-worth, confusion about their purpose, and even more seriously addictions, through thoughts of suicide, violent impulses and chronic disease. Our current archaic, disconnected, one-size-fits-all education system is not working. To say it bluntly, it is actually unintentionally causing primary and secondary trauma in our students and in many cases our teachers*.
From this perspective, the pandemic could be one of the best things that has ever happened to our current education system and to its students and teachers.** But as of now, many educational writers are putting what I believe to be, unnecessary fear and worry on our students (especially our high school juniors and seniors) about the negative effects of their lost days of school. “They will fall behind; it will take years to catch back up.” “They won’t get into a good college.”They may be traumatized from being out of school, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc .
Our Beliefs are Powerful
We must understand that our beliefs (conscious or unconscious) help dictate how we feel and how we show up in the world. The fear-based beliefs that we are instilling in our students about what is going to happen to them because of the pandemic are not true or necessary.
It reminds me of the powerful statement that I heard in the schools a few years ago; “Our prison systems must obtain a prison bed for every student who can’t read by 3rd grade”. I was mortified when I heard this. I was in a school where I was working with some students who were struggling with reading. As this rumour spread throughout the school, these kids started showing up to “extra reading practice” already with their “lids flipped”, their brains being in a fight, flight and freeze response which causes their thinking brain to go off-line. These children might be running around the room, or acting very fidgety. They might be in shut down mode, looking unmotivated and not wanting to even look at the book or the reading activities being offered. Bottom-line, they can’t learn well in that moment. Experiencing poor achievement in reading then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy with a disempowering belief. “See, I can’t read by 3rd grade, so I am going to prison (I am bad; I’m not good enough.)”, and many of them act out even more negatively. My job then becomes to help them shift their disempowering beliefs to an empowering beliefs; “I can learn to read and it doesn’t matter how long it takes for me to learn no matter what they say! This doesn’t mean I am bad or stupid!”
I heard someone say once that “WE ARE IN A BELIEFS GAP, not an ACHIEVEMENT GAP.” I totally agree and neuroscience and psychology back this up!
It is so important that we are mindful that we are not repeating this belief’s gap during the pandemic. We need to stay positive and talk in ways that are not fear-based to support our students and parents to stay out of fear so they can tap into their creative brains. Fear increases readership. But enough already.
You can’t LOSE LEARNING
Students can’t actually fall behind, unless what you are basing this belief on comes from an education system philosophy where learning is measured through the number of classes you finish, tests you pass, grades you make, honors you receive, and what college you get into. During this pandemic, it does not surprise me that high school students aren’t actually showing up for their online schooling. Some teachers report that fewer than half of their student are regularly participating.2
I can feel that the current Get Zs are beginning to get tired of being robots in an outcome-based, “DOING” system that does not focus on the human-being at all. This pandemic is actually giving the students and teachers a break from a disempowering, unhealthy routine that has been dictated to them by a bunch of people in Washington from the 1900’s that thought factory-style herding would make their factory workers more productive.
Today this system is doing our students and their teachers and parents harm psychologically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The students can feel this, but since they (and their teachers and parents) have been so conditioned to believe that the current system is their magic ticket that they can’t even trust their instincts nor imagine schooling being any other way. Even when school is a place where many children feel more safe and connected with than at home because of the amazing teachers and administrators in their schools, most of them will still experience the trauma of the education system.
If we can set up educational environments where intrinsic motivation (person-centered), collaborative learning, critical thinking, connection, personal purpose and the process of learning are emphasized, we will see a huge change. If we help them embody that purposeful learning is the goal, they will naturally find a way to expand themselves way beyond what they are DOING within the walls of the prison of our current education system. Gen Z’s have creative ideas and passions in them that if allowed to stir and come out would blow us all away. Their passions, ideas and creative energies will form new ways of learning that feel really good and will make our world more safe, peaceful and sustainable.
RIGHT NOW, let’s quit putting all young people in the same box by making them believe that there is only one way to learn and it is the way of the current system. They all have their own amazing shapes. Let’s quit telling them that if they don’t do well on the ACT and SAT and don’t get A’s, and don’t go to the best college, that they won’t be successful in life. It’s just not true. Every young person has a beautiful and amazing life journey in them if we give them a truly healthy and empowering environment where they have the freedom, confidence and skills to recognize their unique brilliance, then learn to trust it, cultivate the courage to step into it, and then allow them to unleash it!
IT IS TIME for the education system to break down and be built back up in a new healthy and empowering way. If we all can see this, something amazing can begin to happen. Colleges, high schools and parents can all work together to harness the intrinsic power of this Gen Z generation and the next generation of students who are the 3-year-olds right now!
The powers that be who are calling the educational shots will begin to use the empowering new-paradigm thriving research in a multitude of domains that has always been there as a foundation for change, with the students as the main voices and catalysts for the shift. New ideas in evaluation, courses, textbooks, online resources, technology, learning methodologies and ways to collaborate will powerfully come to life, like a flower blooming for the first time. College admittance guidelines will shift into something we can’t even imagine yet that supports our students in being intrinsically motivated to learn and grow and contribute to our society (not forced).
Our one-size fits all practices will go away and a new way of education will come through that truly sees, hears and values every student as a unique, brilliant individual with everything they need to be successful in their lives already inside themselves.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
I believe that the pandemic will be a catalyst in the unfolding of a truly healthy and empowering system of education where everyone thrives.3 Is it any coincidence that the pandemic is happening towards the end of the Gen Z’s schooling and the beginning of a new generation? The pandemic is giving the Gen Z’s a chance to go inward and say, “What do I really want? What is important to me? What do I need?”
It is giving them a chance to connect to their dreams and reevaluate.
They are beginning to realize…something is wrong with the current system.
They are beginning to be done with the old way.
Feeling successful because you passed 4 math classes and have an A average is a thing of the past.
So what is the new definition of success? [box] [/box]
WAKE UP YOUR DREAM!
We are offering a powerful online workshop for current high school juniors and seniors to delve into their brilliance and to understand and practice a new way of experiencing success using a new way of goal setting called Vision Mapping which is based on the innovative research on thriving and being W.E.L.L.
Our Live Your Legacy Vision Mapping workshop takes the most current research in neurobiology, quantum physics, wellness, leadership, and psychology and applies it to the development of the student’s new definition of success so they can feel confident and more sure about their path to college, career and the rest of their life.
Be Safe and W.E.L.L.
Meg Hanshaw PhD
*According to the Adverse Childhood Study (ACE Study) and other research, there are many things that can happen to us growing up that can become a traumatic experience. Meg Hanshaw PhD’s research is uncovering the significance of the role that the current education system unintentionally plays on creating new or further trauma in our young people.
**We are in the midst of a serious flu pandemic. Our hearts go out to the families who have lost their loved ones and whose lives have been drastically altered. In no way, because we believe that the pandemic could be a catalyst for change for our education system that we want to minimize the hurt, stress and sadness that many are experiencing during this time.
***Our mission is to support our students find the freedom, confidence and skills to know, love, trust and be themselves so they can live their highest and healthiest vision for themselves, their relationships, their community and their world. Our Vision Mapping program is designed to support students to do this no matter what is going on in their outer environment.
i.b.mee. will begin to roll out the Empowerment Education Revolution for W.E.L.L. Kids NOW® Movement Vision, starting in 2021 continuing through 2025 with the goal of supporting the shift of the current education system. We will be offering trainings, coaching, and consulting using our inside-out, top-down W.E.L.L. Kids NOW® system of change, which is providing a new healthy and empowering framework of learning and living to use in the shift. This information hopefully will set the stage for the people in our education system, especially the students, to create anew, from within, from their intrinsic values that they bring to the world. We will be hosting a podcast and World Cafe’s called Listening from the Heart to share, learn and grow together in the new paradigm of education where ALL of our young people truly thrive.