Do you promote entrepreneurial spirit in your students?
| October 06, 2016
The education system is designed to prepare students for the real world, but with more students than ever before entering the "real world" as entrepreneurs, is our education system still doing its job?
Preparing students to become entrepreneurs isn't a one-size-fits-all plan. An entrepreneur can do practically anything — from creating a new technology to opening a yoga studio — so the preparation will vary for each student. However, you can help students get into the right mindset and encourage them to pursue their interests and talents by creating an environment designed to promote exploration, creativity and individual thought.
Margot Machol Bisnow's new book, "Raising an Entrepreneur: 10 Rules for Nurturing Risk Takers, Problem Solvers, and Change Makers," offers insight on parenting techniques used by the mothers of more than 50 of today's most successful innovators. While Bisnow wrote this book for parents, there are many concepts that could be beneficial to educators.
I sat down with Bisnow to talk about her "rules" and how they can apply to educators. Let’s take a look at some "rules" you can implement to ensure you are not smothering a student's entrepreneurial spirit:
Rule No. 1: Stop giving out participation awards.
Participation awards do not motivate students to excel, and that's the purpose of events that hand out awards — to do the best to get the "prize." However, other awards should be considered, according to Bisnow.
"Studies are showing that it's not a good thing as you get to be older and need to learn to excel and not just aim to participate," Bisnow said. "Studies also show that it's important to teach a growth mindset and teach kids to work hard, so instead of just trophies for participation, perhaps trophies could be for hardest-working and most-improved, not just the best."
Rule. No. 2: There isn't always a "right way" to do things.
The idea that a student must complete a math problem the exact way the teacher showed or else get it wrong is creating a standardized student. Students need to think and learn for themselves. Let them discover how to solve a problem on their own.
If possible, give students options for assignments. The goal of an assignment, project or test is to determine whether the student has mastered the concept. So why not let them express themselves by allowing them to prove they've mastered it through their own style — this promotes students' creativity.
In addition, you as the educator need to be creative as well. If a student is having a hard time grasping a concept, consider his passions and use those passions to help him learn. Don't be monotonous in your lesson plans either; use different mediums for delivering information. The more variety you offer students, the more they will learn about themselves, and their strengths and weaknesses.
Rule No. 3: Promote exploration with mentorship programs, entrepreneur speakers, etc.
Mentorship programs can be implemented as early as elementary school. These programs will be different than those for high school juniors and seniors, but the earlier children realize they have options, the more likely they are to try finding out who they are and what passions them — instead of doing what passions their parents.
"Kids are unaware of most career options," Bisnow said. "Most parents don't know about or talk about most fields. It would be fantastic if school-sponsored third-party programs could be implemented to give kids knowledge and insight about what the world of possibilities can be."
For the younger age groups, general presentations about career options are a great way to introduce our youth to the many options they have. For the high school students, partner with local entrepreneurs to create a mentorship program for those who still show interest in entrepreneurship.
There are many options for helping students explore their options, so find what works for your school and make it happen. You never know who the next Mark Zuckerberg could be.
Rule No. 4: Believe in your students.
All of the moms interviewed for the book had one thing in common: They all believed in their children.
"Although the entrepreneurs I spoke to all had parents who believed in them, not every child is so lucky," Bisnow said. "In these cases, it's so important to have an adult whom they respect to give them that guidance and support."
Don't single out these students, but pay attention to and encourage them to explore their interests throughout the day.
Throughout the interviews Bisnow conducted, she discovered a commonality among the entrepreneurs from their childhoods that might surprise you. The two childhood "passions" she heard over and over again were sports and Legos. So, no matter how useless or childish you might see a student's passion, don't ignore it.
Rule No. 5: College isn't the only path to success.
Educators should encourage all students to do well in school. However, a student who struggles in school needs to know there are other options now, according to Bisnow. The path from school to corporate career is not the only path anymore. Find the path that utilizes your talents and interests.
"Every child should be encouraged to pursue education to the limit of their interest and abilities," Bisnow said. "But at some point, if it looks like that standard is not met, and you have confidence that they'll find something else constructive to do, parents should not push education for its own sake. You have to assess a child's specific interests and abilities."
Promoting higher education should be the first step, but realize this isn't the path for all. Don't force college on students; they will lose their passion and drive if they are forced down a path they don't want to go.
In addition, students should not be expected to excel in all parts of school.
"Certain rudimentary knowledge is necessary, but I think it's important for kids with a gift or an interest in one area to pursue it," Bisnow said. "We don't need a country filled with well-rounded individuals, many of whom feel bad about themselves because they're not good in every subject."
Teachers don’t have to completely redo their teaching methods and curriculum to foster entrepreneurship, instead they need to incorporate concepts and ideas into their daily routine that encourage the entrepreneurial mindset. Create a wide-open path for students to walk through the course of their education. Allow them to decide where they want to go and (somewhat) how they want to get there.
Just because the student's mother, grandmother and great grandmother were nurses doesn't mean the student has to be a nurse. That is all the student knows, so letting that student explore other options will be completely mind-opening.
In our interview, Bisnow offered her best single piece of advice: "Try to teach the kids to think, teach the kids to analyze, teach the kids to write, and encourage kids to pursue passions. And accommodate them if you think they are real."
The more you do for the students, the less they will do for themselves. Don't tell them what to do; ask them what they want to do. Empower them to make their own decisions instead of waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Believe in your students.
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