An Updated Version of Now
July 23, 2018
Changing what students experience at school can be a formidable challenge. There are numerous reasons for this of course - change means understanding and having the courage to objectively evaluate your current reality of practice and what that means for kids. It also means having a change process that can get you to a new place. It means having a vision of what you want to create and a direction for where you want to go. But more importantly, it means realizing that there are different possibilities for what school could mean for kids, and the sooner those possibilities become reality, the better off the kids will be.
My question for you if you are considering rethinking what kids experience at school is this: Do you want an updated version of now?
That means keep doing what you are doing, only better. Maybe even slightly better. Maybe your focus is on incremental change and improvement. There's nothing wrong with that - it's good to improve, right?
I have to ask. But what's beyond that? How do you step over the line and go all in on a bigger vision and a new reality for the student experience, that takes kids to a place altogether new? How do you add innovation into what you want to improve to get to that place?
If you are a school that is challenged for whatever reason and you need to improve what you do, and improve now, the answer is easy. Updating now won't work because "now" currently doesn't work.
But maybe you're really successful as a school. Maybe your community is comfortable with what you do. Maybe you're really good at it. Maybe incremental improvement is your goal. If so, then stop reading. But if you want to read more, here is a bigger and more critical question:
What are you successful at and is it what kids really need for their future?
As a result of the school experience, what are the endpoints that you help kids create? Take high school. When students leave high school, what do they leave prepared to do? A different and more important question is: what are they prepared to be?
I hear it all the time: "We are preparing students for jobs that don't even exist yet." If you think about it, that's always been true of school at any point in time. If that is a focus, then I would suggest your focus is on workplace readiness. And how is that different than the industrial age focus on preparing kids for jobs with them lined up in rows in classrooms, passively learning content, and taking multiple choice tests - something that most would agree is no longer a relevant or even desirable model of school?
What are the different endpoints that could be imagined, developed and realized that would change the trajectory of what occurs in schools and the pathway of a student's life? Maybe they're not endpoints at all but launch points toward something bigger than just a job or even a career. Maybe it's about the development of the dispositions of a citizen prepared to contribute to a democracy. Maybe it's a hundred different things...
But in the end, perhaps it means: "How might we prepare students for lives that don't yet exist?" Certainly that's a goal worthy of thinking beyond simply updating your now.