In my quest to find the 7 essential things to teach, I give myself lots of latitude so that I can encompass everything that is important to me. It still helps me to focus my instruction and helps students to direct their learning, but most of all, it makes what I teach purposeful.
Make things better.
This could be the most important item on my list which is why I put it first. Isn't it the point of education? (Of living?) This item actually began on my draft as "Solve problems." It wasn't enough and sounded too reactive. I want my students to go into any situation with the mindset that they can improve things or learn from them (in turn, improving themselves).
The Japanese have this idea of Kaizen, continuous improvement. Everything we do in life is to move us forward, to enrich our lives, and build upon what we've already done. I really like that idea. (I like it so much I was thinking of getting a tattoo with the Japanese symbols for kaizen, but the characters are too busy and too intricate. I thought that it was a whole lot of strokes that would really hurt. That would not be life enriching to me. Perhaps a nice wallet photo?)
When it comes down to it, it's why we teach everything:
Improve your mind, improve your self, improve your world.
Making things better is both simple and complex. On the complex side, it is why green initiatives have become so important. We want to improve our planet, but the factors that are working toward destroying our planet are so numerous and complicated that it can be overwhelming. This is why the mantra: "Think globally. Act locally," is so helpful. It pares down something complex into something manageable. On the simple side of making things better, it is why we tell jokes to friends. For even a small moment, we improve the spirits of someone else and in turn feel good as well. I think that is something kids could manage and get their heads around: "Improve the world one smile at a time."