In the last month, I traveled with two classes (6th and 7th graders) to their school camps. I chaperoned the groups and also had the opportunity to teach them a module on collaboration and communication using fun and interactive games in the woods. For example, one of the games is a human knot where they have to untangle themselves without using words to communicate It was during the general chaperoning where the kids were asked to do a simple task or activity, that I noticed the following.
Kids fear making mistakes, and therefore ask multiple and defining questions before starting a task. As adults, we are, directly and indirectly, rewarding them NOT to take risks.
During each week of my experience, the kids were involved in all sorts of activities and tasks, such as scaling a tower, learning about botany, marine biology labs, horseback riding, kayaking, and snorkeling. For each activity, there are numerous rules and safety briefings to make sure the kids can have fun and learn safely. Usually, the briefing before the activity lasts a relatively long time (about the same amount of time as the allotted activity). One would think that by the end of the briefing, the kids would be READY to GO! Instead, what I noticed was fascinating:
The only risks I see kids taking are when adults are NOT watching and sometimes that leads to unsafe environments for others resulting in harsher punishments.
Let’s allow kids to take risks, feel vulnerable, and get the answer WRONG once in a while. Reward them for taking a risk emotionally or with an insight. Innovation doesn’t come from having ONE right answer – it comes from people being creative and taking risks to find the truth. Confidence, self-awareness, public speaking, and other leadership qualities come from taking risks, not conforming to everyone else.
Now it’s YOUR turn:
What do you think? Are kids in Coronado, or elsewhere, trained to regurgitate the answers we WANT them to hear? Are they encouraged to take risks?
Akshay observes and writes a weekly blog on everyday human behaviors. He facilitates workshops on leadership, communication, and team work for adults and children with Ziksana Consulting.
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