Principal’s Perspective: Ready or Not, Here Comes Life
Over the course of several books, pediatrician and learning expert Dr. Mel Levine has argued that for most people, adulthood is easier than “student hood”. Adults have the opportunity to specialize in what they are truly good at or, as Levine would say, what best suits their neurocognitive strengths. (For example, someone with strong spatial but weak verbal skills might become an engineer.) A high schooler, on the other hand, is expected to do everything well, making intellectual shifts several times a day from one unrelated subject to the next.
In his book, Ready or not, Here Life Comes, Levine strives to answer the question, “If adulthood is easier, then why do increasing numbers of youngsters have such a hard time making the transition to productive adult life?” Levine argues, “Parents, especially affluent ones, tend to overprotect their children from adversity- witness those who call the principal to complain about teachers who’ve given low grades to their kids or disciplined their misbehavior. These children are almost certain, as young adults to have a difficult time with demanding bosses. The nonstop culture of entertainment and consumerism, in which the parents themselves are often steeped, further contributes to later disillusionment with life. Levine writes, “Adolescents having been saturated with the pleasures of life cannot accept the banality of the workplace.”
Furthermore, success in school is often a poor predictor of career success. Levine tells many stories of high school “golden girls and boys”- well-liked kids who were both good students and athletes-who were clueless after the glow of adolescence faded. In school, these kids were often lauded for being well-rounded but they now have difficulty committing to the “deep and narrow grooves of adult work life.” They have a hard time adapting to the indifference of employers and coworkers.
Top students, of course, tend to be those who do the best job of conforming to the demands of their school. But Levine points out, those striving to succeed in life must be industrious self-starters, generating original ideas rather than merely implementing the agendas of others.
Levine suggests several strategies to prepare young people for real life.
- Teach children social skills to prepare them to effectively interact with other children and different expectations of teachers. Children who are allowed to blame other kids or teachers for their misery, fail to become adults who succeed in marriage or employment.
- Develop problem solving skills by empowering students to resolve differences themselves and accept the responsibility for their actions. Youth who learn to respectfully resolve problems begin to perceive themselves as competent and capable. (This year, an alumnus, whose parents always excused his misbehavior, told me failed to get a specific job because the employer felt he did not have the problem solving skills necessary to succeed.)
- Allow failures to teach kids life long lessons. Do not rescue.
- Research shows genuine religious faith provides hope, purpose and love that equip young people to be confident and resilient.
- Instead of forcing students to be good at everything, adults should allow kids to immerse themselves in areas of individual strengths. He envisions high school curriculum designed to allow students to major in areas of interest, like the European model, so graduates possess marketable skills. (Many NCS alumni who struggled in school are enjoying good paying positions in the skill trades.)
The vision of Northville Christian School is to prepare our students for life’s opportunities by daily following clear biblical principles and strategies. The suggestions listed by Dr. Levine are a part of the school’s philosophy, prayerfully put in place to ensure that we “touch every child’s life for eternity.”