Preparing Students for an Unknown Future

I hope everyone had a chance to rest, relax and sharpen the saw a bit over the holiday.  We’re back for the final stretch of the year, it’s going to fly by!

During the holiday Amy and I traveled to Shanghai to visit friends and see how the city has changed since we left there almost three years ago.  Shanghai has been a land of opportunity for a long time now, especially over the last 15-20 years. As such, new restaurants, stores and other entrepreneurial opportunities have popped up quickly.  While we were visiting I had the chance to talk to a few of my friends who’ve been able to take advantage of this hotbed of opportunity and it got me thinking about our school mission and how we’re preparing our students for a booming world economy.

I don’t know the secret combination of all the ingredients but I think I’ve figured out the recipe for success that so many of these young entrepreneurs have followed.  It starts with an idea, or many ideas, targeted on an identified problem or void in a community. From there it takes time, effort (lots of effort), planning, organization, and what many of the people I‘ve spoken with called ‘good luck’.  I, however, believe that the ‘good luck’ factor isn’t truly named at all, we should be calling this last bit ‘preparedness’. And here is where I believe that we, as a school, come into the equation.

See, we’re the ones preparing these students.  We’re preparing them for the unknown, for the future that is still (at best) a foggy and murky idea of what their lives could possibly hold.  So how do we do that? Are good lesson plans, homework and final exams the answer? What about service learning, interdisciplinary units and Education Outside The Classroom?  What happens if we integrate ATLs, technology and TOK links into all of these things? Do any of the combinations from above prepare our students for the future?

Therein lies the biggest question – what future are we trying to prepare our students to meet successfully?  Are we content with preparing them for university? Should we be preparing them for life beyond university? What if our students don’t attend university, will they be successful?

My nudge to you this week, as we prepare for the final quarter of the year, is to start considering some of these questions.  As part of the three year Strategic Plan currently under development we are thinking about a lot of these questions and what the implications of their answers could mean for how we prepare students.  Take some time to contemplate these questions and debate them with your colleagues. I’d love to hear from you or be a part of any of these conversations, it’s fascinating stuff and there are certainly no ‘right’ answers!



We Are All Role Models For Others

Last week I mentioned the work we did as grade level teams to prepare for upcoming advisory sessions.  While those discussions were happening I overheard some great conversations about the best ways to get our kids to demonstrate those behaviors that we value the most.  I bit my tongue and let the discussions proceed but over the last couple weeks this has been knocking around in my mind over and over again.

There is a quote (often credited to Gandhi but in reality not his) that says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  It makes a great bumper sticker, and probably means more if Gandhi said it, but I digress.  Either way, it’s a brilliant idea.  If we want something to be true we can’t just sit around talking about it, we need to live it!  The beautiful (sometimes scary) thing about our position as educators is that we have tremendous influence over the next generation of leaders!

When we choose our lessons and map our curriculums we consider all of the most important and relevant information for our subject areas.  In advisory we’re trying to teach the pastoral care elements that are often missing from ‘academic’ classes.  What about, however, the other stuff?  How do we teach kids to be kind, gentle, polite, respectful, and caring people?  How do we get them invested in their community, motivated to succeed, or excited to take risks?  Well, we can stand in front of a room all day long talking about it…or we can live it and show them!

Prior to Shanghai I worked in a charter school in Houston, Texas called YES Prep.  We had something called our “Thinks and Acts”.  Essentially this was a list of cliches and catch phrases about things, that as adults, we all know.  However, they hung in the hallways from the ceiling where they served as constant inspiration and reminders for our students (and everyone else!)

I was thinking about these “Thinks and Acts” as you were talking in your grade level teams; one in particular.  “We are all role models for others.”  It jumped to my mind almost immediately because I believe so strongly in the fact that we need to, as Ghandi didn’t say, “Be the change we wish to see in the world.”  I think you get where I am going with this; our students watch us, they listen, and they emulate.

I came across this video earlier this week, I love the message in this video.  You’ll notice that this is more than just “Pay it forward”.  The people in this video aren’t experiencing the helpful acts directly, they are watching them happen and then being inspired to act themselves.  This is how we need to live our lives, as though our students are constantly watching, analyzing, and emulating…we need to be the inspiration for our students!  We need to lead by example and set the tone, “We are all role models for others!”

Here is the video, I don’t think you’ll need a VPN because it’s hosted on our school’s server as part of the next Dragon Time.