Moving Forward or Running in Place?

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There is much talk about how to get this generation of students college and career ready. I have had the pleasure of raising two boys as they navigated their way through a K-12 public education and now university life. Both boys are very different and view learning differently. One views learning as an intellectual challenge and necessity in order to escape the routine of life. The other views learning as a means to an end- future stability and chooses to keep learning very focused and specialized. You might say that our oldest son needs learning that is centered around ideas and creative solutions. However, our youngest son needs learning to be centered around mentoring and experts in his field of study. When I ask them how their K-12 education prepared them for college my oldest will tell you that the high school AP courses were invaluable. He wishes that his K-12 education fostered more entrepreneurial skills. My youngest cannot point to anything in particular. His K-12 education was a job, as is college, and that’s just the way it goes. He doesn’t complain about it except during finals week!

So, how do we keep all of our youth moving forward in a world that needs solution seekers and specialized experts? The answer isn’t crystal clear, but we do know a few things about learners entering our classrooms. In order to learn they need:

More and more children are entering school without experiences that build executive functioning and social skills. The need to teach these skills comes at a time when the academic standards have risen and youth are less tolerant of waiting to be stimulated. As a parent and educator, the concern then becomes: How much time does my child’s teacher have to spend on learner readiness when my child is bored to death waiting for learning to happen? This is why academic choice is so crucial.

Most educators understand that learning doesn’t only happen within the confines of a school day. However, we need to be mindful that our future depends on our ability to create inspiring, thought-provoking, and curiosity driven spaces for our children whether it’s for the purpose of career or college readiness or simply readiness for life.

In order to create this learning environment, educators need to ask themselves:

Am I moving forward or running in place?

My strategy:

I set a weekly goal for myself. At the end of the week I give myself two minutes to jot down ten things that I remember accomplishing that week- without censoring my thoughts. What did I spend my time on? Then I categorize the ten tasks and see how they align or not with my weekly goal. Reflect and repeat. This would be a great activity to do with students as well. What stuck with them is great data for teachers while also building student agency to see if they actually worked on their goal.

As Albert Einstein said,

“Learning is an experience. Everything else is just information.”

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