Can you think of a time in school when you were taught "how" to think and not "what to think"? Teaching standardized information to upload that guide problem solving has been increasingly important for primary and secondary educators to ensure students are well equipped for the next grade level. Structure does effectively transmit knowledge, but it does not provide a space in mind to be inventive or come up with original solutions. As a result of memorizing answers and narratives to problem solve, it does narrow our interactions with the world and ways that we solve problems.
When thinking back on my experiences in K-12 grade, I cannot recall any teachers that instructed the class to solve a problem without instruction. This type of think tank activity is critical to learn to trust ourselves to come up with innovative solutions and ideas. The college experience is where I learned how to be innovative and bring those ideas to fruition.
There is no skill more valuable or harder to come by than to think through problems critically. Our mind gets stuck in habit loops, which allows us to work as little as possible to conserve energy. When we begin to think critically, we spend less time correcting mistakes. Our world moves rapidly, as a consequence, we become stagnant in survival mode with little time to complete tasks. However, when we concentrate, ask questions, and allow our mind to connect, original ideas happen! Real learning is achieved through this investigative process.
As a parent, I instill in my children that there are multiple routes to navigate towards answering a problem. We take time out during the end of our day to sit together and think about inventions, how the world works, and how we can make it better. I want them to think outside of what they have been taught and understand that all ideas help contribute to the problem-solving process. We have a safe space to spit out ideas that come to our minds, without any judgment. Children come up with fabulous, unique, and exciting ideas. I can learn just as much from them by trusting in my mind's ability to think outside the lines like they do. To make generational differences, it is up to us to teach them that they are limitless, and no dream is too large to accomplish. Historically, I taught them that "the sky is the limit," however they told me "Don't tell us the sky is the limit when we have people going to Mars, mom." After a few months of thinking about some of our world problems, my 9- and 12-year-old daughters wrote a book titled "Black Unicorns Matter" to teach children about institutional racism to play a role in making a positive difference in society. They even illustrated it and published it on Amazon!
Adults who change the world do not stop believing in the mantra of if you think you, you can. For instance, Elon Musk coded and sold his first video game at twelve and tried to open an arcade at 16. Jeff Bezos was a garage inventor of solar ovens as a child. For the New Year, we should all consider resolutions that can make generational differences.