For years, I have been teaching and writing that students today are from an EPIC generation. Dr. Leonard Sweet is the first person I heard suggest this, and it isn’t merely because students today love the word “epic.” It’s because the letters of that word aptly describe who they are and how they best learn. Let me illustrate.
E – Experiential
Students today love to learn from experiences. They are not looking for a sage on the stage…with a lecture. They’re looking for a guide on the side with an experience. The more we can create environments and experiences from which we can pass on life lessons, the more we’ll engage them. My friend, Tom, had two teenage sons, who weren’t showing the people skills he wanted them to display. When one announced he wanted to start dating a girl, Tom came up with a brilliant idea. Before they could take a girl out on a date, his sons had to practice with their mother. They had to take mom out, open the car door for her, treat her to dinner, offer flowers, the whole nine years. While they rolled their eyes at first, they competed for a good grade from mom, so they could reach their goal. Mission accomplished. The teenage girls they later took out were the beneficiaries of this experiential lesson.
P – Participatory
By this I mean, they’ve been conditioned to participate in the outcomes of almost everything in their life. What they eat, where the family goes on vacation, who stays on that reality TV show, you name it. So, adults who find ways to let them “vote” or participate in outcomes and direction, see those students take ownership of the task. Students support what they help create. I have a friend who noticed her kids acting entitled and ungrateful for the lifestyle they enjoyed. So, she had her kids (one at a time) sit down with her and help her pay the bills each month. They watched her at the computer, and helped her prioritize them if they didn’t quite have enough for all of them. It was a vivid illustration for them on how fast money slips away. They are now more grateful and realistic about income.
I – Image rich
Young people today have grown up in a world filled with images. Think for a minute. I grew up with TV. They grew up with MTV. Videos. Websites. Digital cameras. DVDs. Images really are the language of the 21st century, not words. This is a right-brain generation. So, in our home, one evening a week, our family made sure to eat dinner together and talk over a Habitude.Ò. (Habitudes are images that form leadership habits and attitudes). Each image represents a timeless truth about life and leadership. We discovered over a meal that pictures really are worth a thousand words. It was fun to see my kids “get it” when we attached lessons to visuals.
C – Connected
Finally, students today are connected—both technologically and socially. So, the more we can provide opportunities to “stop the lecture” and let them connect with each other and talk, the better chance we have of reaching them. In hour home and also in the homes of countless friends of mine, we initiated a little exercise from time to time. We would have our kids watch the news at night, and choose one story about a problem. (Most news broadcasts are filled with problem stories). Then, together the kids would determine what plan of action they would take if they were in charge of solving that problem. It was invigorating…and transformed attitudes from complaining to solution-finding.
Question. How EPIC is your teaching? Your parenting? Your management and training of this next generation?