Education: How to Make the World a Better Place

Want to make the world a better place than when you found it? Make the people around you better than they were when you found them.

We can spend years discussing the merits of gun laws, higher taxes for certain people, lower taxes for certain people, term limits, universal healthcare, equality, everyone gets a million dollars, etc. Actually, we have spent years discussing and debating these things, and the world is improving, but I’d like to take a moment to bring a new idea to the table so it can improve even more: education.

This isn’t exactly a new idea – we’ve known the education system has needed help for awhile, we just keep putting it on the back burner so we can argue about what someone shared in an email. As the world changes and continues to get faster and faster, we have a need to become people who can live and thrive in a fast-paced, ever-changing world. Meanwhile, our education system is stuck debating whether it’s okay to say a three-letter g-word in classrooms, and its ultimate end product is employees who adhere to this antiquated system.

This has nothing to do with building better schools, free college, or school choice.

This is about making our kids better people than we were. Because they have to make the world better than it was when they got here, they can’t do it with the same ideas we had. We have a responsibility to teach people how to make our ideas better, how to make other people better, and as a result, how to make our world better. Can we say with honesty that our curriculum inspires this attitude? How we contribute to the world hinges on what we learn as children and, now that we’re adults, how we teach our children. How are we teaching our children to treat others? To treat themselves? Is it making the world a better place?

What if you had learned in preschool that other people are different than you, and that these differences are what bring us together? Conflict originates from the belief that it is our differences that separate us when, in fact, they are what make us better. As kids, we didn’t understand why other people had their own motives and were never taught how. To learn how to navigate this world, we absorbed the beliefs of our parents, friends, and teachers, but we never learn how to improve upon them.

What if this class existed? Something called, I don’t know, “World Betterment 101” (I’m open to new names) where kids learn to:

  • accept and appreciate the points of view and beliefs of others
  • work together as a team to complete projects (sharing and being open to ideas, communicating through listening, and supporting one another)
  • use their strengths to better their weaknesses
  • understand the importance of failure, rejection, and mistakes and how to use them as opportunities to grow
  • focus on the gratitude for what they have and for what they have the potential to create
  • forgive
  • treat, not only others, but their surroundings and possessions as if we are them
  • have faith in possibilities, even when solutions seem impossible
  • get excited to expand your mind to new ideas

Learning the alphabet, colors, numbers, and shapes may be kind of a big deal, but learning to work together and make the world better is even more important. Think about how different your life would be if you had this educational backbone?

I just had another idea: change how we see teachers.

Any time we have a thought about someone or something, certain pictures come into our conscious minds that elicit feelings. What are the first thoughts and feelings that enter your mind when I say the word “hangover?” “Congratulations?” “Relationship?”

According to Miriam Webster, the definition of “teacher” is “one that teaches,” but a teacher does so much more than just teach, they’re tasked with being a dynamic influence on the futures of many people. When you hear the word “teacher,” what do you think? For me: authority figure, disciplinarian, tutor, school, homework, educator, and “Listen to me, David!!!” come to mind. For many students, especially those who can’t stand school, the word “teacher” carries a negative connotation. To my teacher friends, “teacher” means: underpaid, under appreciated, overworked, patience, work, school, sacrifice, stressful, and rigid, but also inspiration, understanding, leader, and mentor.

Speaking of the word “mentor,” according to Miriam Webster, the definition of “mentor” is “an experienced and trusted adviser.”

When I hear the word “mentor,” I think of someone who guides, inspires, and pushes me to be a better me. When it came to my teacher friends, they thought of guide, wants to make a difference, wisdom, teacher, role model, leader friend, confidant,

Though changing the title of “teacher” to “mentor,” may not overhaul people’s perceptions of education, it will help. The term “teacher” also serves as an abstraction that de-humanizes them and serves as a barrier in building relationships. Who do you think you would have a stronger relationship with, a teacher or a mentor? When I think of the dozens of people who have had a huge influence on my life, only five of them are teachers.

What if students saw their teachers as experienced and trusted advisers? How would they treat them? What if teachers saw themselves in the same way? If you were a mentor to your students, how would you approach your work differently? What if the government saw teachers as mentors instead, would, say, standardized tests be as important as they are now, does individual growth become more important?

Keep in mind, these are just ideas from one perspective. I’m no expert by any means, but I did stay in a- Nope! Not going to say it. I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, and am therefore not an expert on staying in Holiday Inn Expresses!

Sorry about that. Sometimes I think on my keyboard… Back to what I was saying.

I’m no expert on education by any means, but I think it’s time to start thinking of ideas for solutions that move us forward from getting mired in the problem. For change to occur, new perspectives are needed. That’s all I want to provide here. The world needs new ideas, and ideas are created by people like me and you. As they say, “Ideas are what built IKEAs, but ideas can also build better futures.”

(How many times can I write the word “idea” in one blog post?)

How do you think the ideas I presented would improve people? (People = the end product of our education system) What long-term problems can be solved if we learned concepts like empathy, appreciation, and creativity at a young age? What else do you think children could learn so they live a life that revolves around making the world better? If I were to call you a mentor, what do you picture yourself doing to earn that title? What ideas do you have that create a better world for yourself and those around you?

TED is a rabbit hole of useful information. Feel free to get lost in the ideas of these dynamic thinkers, working to make the educational system a better place. Trust me, it’s much more illuminating than falling into the Infinite Facebook Abyss:

“Never stop asking questions because the world is going to keep needing answers.” – Someone who answered the question “When do I stop asking questions?”

“Because without questions, there are no answers.” – The person who asked “When do I stop asking questions?” to his Motivational Quotes 101 professor following his response.

Okay, how many times did I use the word “ideas?”

5 Simple Steps to Show Your Team You’re on Their Side

Have you ever watched an episode of a soap opera, then, a few years later, tune into the same soap opera to find former friends as bitter enemies, former enemies as close allies, and former actors replaced with someone bolder and more beautiful? So goes the way of the soap opera. I suppose if you were to write an hour-long TV show that airs five days a week, you’d need to have your characters stab each other in the back, break alliances, and form new ones in order to keep things fresh. In the real world, however, if you want to be productive and keep your company on the air for over twenty years, backstabbing, withholding vital information, and working solely for personal gain isn’t going to do the trick. It doesn’t matter if you work at General Hospital or you’re located in Dallas, Knot’s Landing, or your zip code is 90210, a toxic culture will ensure turnover, decreased productivity, and a lack of passion. Whether you’re the CEO, HR director, or an accountant, if you consistently demonstrate that you’re willing to go out of your way to support your team, it will build their confidence, eagerness to produce, and inspire them to support those around them as well. If your workplace has developed a culture of support, your team can focus on what’s important, rather than be distracted by the ill intentions of others, and you increase your chances of success. Since we only have one life to live, we might as well live it to the fullest and transform work into something that excites us, so here are five simple ways to to demonstrate to your team that you’re there for them:

1. Create connections

You should probably see other people…
If there’s someone you work with who you aren’t very familiar with, make it a goal to learn five things about that person. Even better, take the time to learn about those who you don’t exactly see eye-to-eye with. Do they have kids? Pets? What are their names? What kind of things do they do together? What sort of hobbies do they have? What’s the coolest thing they’ve ever done? Learning about your coworkers will transform them from just another colleague to a real human with needs, desires, and passions. When you build a rapport with another person, it will be easier for you to take a step back and see yourself in them (but with different kids, experiences, and needs) through their humanity the next time you disagree on something. It also gives you a repertoire of conversation topics if you happen to get stuck on an elevator together.

2. Get excited about going the extra mile

You’re slogging through a looooong stressful day and the clock seems to be going backwards when suddenly, Janet from accounting knocks at your door and hands you a cup of coffee without you even asking. Even if you don’t drink coffee, this small action offers you a split second opportunity to reframe and refresh your situation because it communicates that someone cares about you. If you’re going out to pick up lunch, ask people if they would like anything. When you’re walking across the office to make copies, see if those around you need anything copied too. Distribute foot massages without expectation of reciprocation. Okay, maybe check with people before you crawl under their desks and start to remove their shoes, but the spirit of caring remains the same and can build goodwill between team members.

3. Smile

If someone had a rough morning with kids who don’t want to go to school, an argumentative spouse, or a coworker who doesn’t understand that “I don’t want a foot massage” means they actually don’t want a foot massage, a smile can go a long way. Simply making eye contact and sharing a genuine smile as you pass someone in the hallway can break up the snowball effect of a bad morning. Make it a habit to be happy to see everyone and others will be happy to see you.

4. Celebrate successes

Sure, it’s great to recognize the professional accomplishments of a team member, but to get the whole team invested in and excited for the successes of someone outside of work demonstrates that you care for their personal well-being too. Anyone can give a pat on the back for a job well done at the office, but to be interested in the success of someone outside of work bridges the gap between professional and personal relationships. It also gives them the internal inspiration to continue bettering themselves and to celebrate your personal successes too

5. Root for the home team

The people around us are the most important tool we have at our disposal. The beautiful thing about life is that we all have goals and, though some may be the same, we all have different reasons why we want to achieve these goals. A common misconception is that “there isn’t enough to go around,” however, this is blatantly false. We are wired to compete for resources so that we can survive to produce offspring and keep our species strong. The resource-abundant world in which we live has made this wiring obsolete, yet it still can rear its head and dominate our thinking: “He didn’t deserve that promotion, I did!” If, instead of competing for superiority, we worked together to make each other better, we would tap into a resource we don’t have at our disposal if we decide to fly solo: a supportive teammate. Focus on achieving your goal, but if the opportunity arises to share information, resources, or connections with others, don’t hesitate to do so. This has the potential to establish a supportive relationship that can flourish even more in the spirit of mutual growth. Disclaimer: be sure you aren’t working against yourself; the goal is to be constantly working to better yourself and those around you. In addition to being wired to compete, human beings are also wired to reciprocate; an evolutionary trait that won’t become outdated anytime soon. By shifting the focus away from being better than those around you, you can use that energy to focus on bettering yourself and those around you, a focus that can pay exponential dividends in the long run.