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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Building A Better Student Series : The Textured Life

A good friend of mine is all about texture. Where my eye is blind to the subtle shades within designs, she’s able to spot an interesting layer or pattern that adds depth and fullness. It’s a talent that I envy.

But it occurs to me that texture shouldn’t be confined to clothes or wall furnishings. We’re all guilty of falling into routines that essentially sand down our lives, eliminating the textural surfaces. We take shortcuts and remove the odd things that stand out at weird angles; the weird angles, I suppose, create delays and detours.

But the detours bring us discoveries.

Have you ever driven to work - for the thousandth time - and realized along the way that you’d zoned out and couldn't recall anything about the last few minutes of your drive? I've had this strange experience and wondered if I’d maybe even run a red light without being aware.

Take a different route, though, and you’re fully alert to your surroundings. You notice everything: the various buildings and businesses, the other cars, the interesting people along the way. A change of routine adds texture to your commute, and opens your eyes to things you never knew existed.

In our personal lives we gradually phase out the ‘new’ and settle into a routine. We create perfect butt-shaped indentations on the couch where we watch the same shows on television, while we eat basically the same foods again and again. We stick with a favorite genre of books and rarely stray. An entire world of texture goes unnoticed.

So what does this have to do with students? Well, we pass along more than genes to our children. Perhaps it’s unintentional, but through example we teach our kids to fall into predictable, untextured lives. The same schedule every weekday, every weekend, the same sports activities, the same vacation spot, the same experiences.

There’s a world bursting with texture that does more than simply expose young people to new things. It stimulates their minds - physically, emotionally, and creatively. It allows them to explore, which eliminates the popular ‘comfort zone’ that we seem to embrace with a bit too much zeal, and forces an elastic young mind to stretch in ways that opens new pathways for discovery and growth.

I’m convinced that one positive side-effect of this textured life is an increased emphasis on curiosity - and a curious student is often a successful one in all phases of life, not only in school, but for years to come.

The world of schedules and shortcuts obviously provides convenience and ease, and it usually takes more than simple encouragement to shove us out of a rut. But we can do better; we can help our kids avoid a slick, polished, marble-smooth life that’s devoid of rough edges. It’s those rough edges, after all, that provide layers and shading.

And those, in turn, add texture and discovery to life.

Dom Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty-three years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit student-development foundation. His latest book, Smart Is Cool, will be published in August, 2014. More info at

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