Adora Svitak: What Adults Can Learn from Kids


Adora Svitak is a young teenager (teen, tween?). To watch her give a speech to a TED audience gives any parent a moment of wonderment. In her speech she talks about what kids bring to the world and how adults can learn a few things that, perhaps, we’ve forgotten. It is a great speech, great presentation, very polished. Well done Adora!

Now for the most interesting part. Read the comments that are coming in (watch the video at the link above first, the comments are listed below the video). If you are an adult, teacher or parent, some of the comments are extremely positive, perhaps even helpful toward Adora’s points, others not so much, even making Adora’s points even more valid. For example, Dani wrote “Adora, thank you. I’m an educator and as the school year nears it’s end you have reminded me to trust my students, to allow them to express themselves and to provide them with an environment where they can thrive.”  A very positive statement. Very helpful in reminding us that children are “diamonds in the rough” and that, if given the opportunity, children can be brilliant. Of course the key here is “given the opportunity”.

Most kids do not grow up in a perfect environment (home, school, social). This imperfection in the environment takes its toll on the “self view” of “potential” that each person has as they grow. For most, once the self view is tarnished, motivation decreases. A negative bias on one’s self view does not have to be cause for decreased individual motivation.

Based on data coming from an extremely valid and reliable assessment, a negative bias for self view is found in 85% of the population. It turns out that a negative bias for self view is what gives most of us a “continuous learning” attitude. Otherwise, we become so egotistical in our own abilities that we would be intolerable in relationships (personal, work, etc.). So a negative bias for self view is important to understand and put to use.

Many students develop the negative self bias and fail to see themselves as worthwhile, deserving of a great future and “high potential”. Some teachers, with their own imperfect self, make the situation worse. We see these students in high school acting out in many different ways but they all seem to have one common theme – under achievement academically and a preference to play to an extreme that results in avoidance of intellectual development).  

Now fast-forward to high school. I recall having “moments” of brilliance but not getting much recognition. Those moments of brilliance were camouflaged with an abundance of mediocrity. Knowing what I now know, mediocrity is the air that everyone breaths. There are two components or “ingredients” that, when added to our air, change things dramatically. The first is something called life skills. The second is career exploration.

These two components, specific life skills and clear career match to talents, were consistently found in highly successful people. To see what life skills were identified in highly successful people go here. To see what a real student career coaching program looks like go here.

So, based on the 12 key life skills identified in highly successful people, which of those does Adora display as she takes her audience on the journey to “learn from kids”?

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