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7 Non-Academic Skills 21st Century Children Need to Succeed

7 Non-Academic Skills 21st Century Children Need to Succeed

The face of education is changing more in current times than perhaps it ever has before. Children need not only to learn information and academics, but also need to learn the skills that will help them grow into successful adults in the 21st century.According to Martin West from the Harvard Graduate School for Education there is a certain type of skill that all future employees need, “Basically we’re trying to explain student success educationally or in the labor market with skills not directly measured by standardized tests.”

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, you need to ensure that the children you’re charged with are fostering each of these non-academic skills in their daily lives if you want to see them succeed.

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1. Character

Building character is definitely nothing new to the 21st century. However, it’s still an incredibly important non-academic skill to focus on as children grow up in modern day society. They must be taught self-control, especially in an age in which so many stimuli are at their fingertips. We also must foster in our children a sense of curiosity about the world around them; and not in a superficial, “Let’s Google it” manner. Children must yearn to explore the world, and find answers for themselves rather than relying on a machine to give them everything. We should also build up our children’s confidence, so they are optimistic about their lives as they grow into young adults, so they can face the world knowing they can improve it in some way.

2. Social and Emotional Skills

In a world in which we’re increasingly isolated by computers, cell phones, and television, children need to learn how to interact with one another. They need to know how to treat each other, and how to address each other’s needs. Really, the only way they can do this is by being placed into social situations and monitored by a knowing and caring adult to help guide them when situations turn ugly. If a child’s social behavior is left unchecked, it could lead to multiple problems down the road.

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3. Growth Mindset

Children should know they are constantly growing and learning. Yes, it  is okay for kids to be kids, but they also should be constantly conscious of the fact that each experience they go through is a chance to learn something even in a non-academic setting. This will help them make the most out of bad situations, because they’ll always be looking at what they learned, rather than the fact that they messed up. They’ll also learn to be okay with messing up, as they’ll understand that life is a process of learning from one’s mistakes. When we stop learning, that’s when trouble starts to pile up. As Noah Webster (of Webster’s dictionary) once said, “The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities…for this reason, the heart should be cultivated.”

4. Non-cognitive Traits and Habits

Researchers are on the fence about the name of this characteristic, but in essence they are describing metacognitive skills. In other words, these are the non-academic skills that we use in order to know which other skills to use. For example, a child may know the multiplication tables by heart, but after reading a word problem, he might not know that he should be using multiplication to solve the problem. It’s important to focus not just on what skills to learn, but how to use them as well. Sometimes the development of these traits occurs in the typical problem-solving that goes along in regular life.

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5. Grit

Life isn’t easy. The sooner children figure that out, the better off they’ll be. They need to learn that it’s totally okay to fail, as long as they pick themselves up and keep pushing until they succeed. They also need to understand the difference between passing by the skin of their teeth and passing with flying colors. One will earn them just enough to get by in life, but the other will allow them to truly get ahead. Being rigorous in all activities, and putting their all into everything they set out to do, is of utmost importance if children want to live their life to the fullest. Even something simple like asking your child, “What did you fail at today?” shows them that failure happens everyday but can be overcome with persistence or through another avenue.

6. 21st Century Skills

The Information Age has brought about a time in which we must become specialized in one area, while also exhibiting a variety of other skills as well. From an early age, children now learn how to collaborate and communicate with others, both physically and through the use of technology. They also need to think critically and be creative in finding solutions to problems that didn’t even exist twenty years ago. In doing so, the children of today will ensure that society continues to move forward tomorrow.

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7. Soft Skills

This last set of non-academic skills is a bit of a misnomer. Any skill you can learn is important, so calling these skills “soft” makes them seem less so. However, now more than ever it is important that children learn the basics of professionalism. They need to know it’s important to be punctual, and to dress properly. They need to exhibit good manners and obey social conventions, not just during their working hours, but at all times. It’s increasingly important that children understand that their online persona will allow others to judge their real-life personality, so it’s important to be prudent both on and offline. If they don’t pay attention to these social conventions, all other skills they learn will ultimately be null and void.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm5.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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