I went on to explain that our school system has inadvertently only concentrated on a few skills to rate whether or not you can succeed at school. But I believe there are many, many ways to be successful in life. Is it important to learn to read well even if it doesn’t come easily to you? Shoot yes it is and like I told these boys, they do have to work harder at these skills than some of their peers and they are going to have to have the grit and resiliency to do so, but if they are basing their self-worth only on whether or not reading, writing, and math come easily to them, well then, I needed to let them know they can and will be successful in many other ways that do come naturally to them. And I went on to explain the different skills that are always nurtured in the traditional school setting, but how you can use them to be successful in life and to not judge your intelligence on a small subset of skills. And geez, look at me…a Blackbird, OK, mom….a Robin who is now a literacy consultant. Who would’ve thought it?
It’s time to have a new vision for education, one that meets the needs of the twenty-first century student. Let’s be honest, knowledge is now readily available to all of us with the swipe of a finger and it’s free. It can no longer be about imparting loads of facts and information on our students or using what I call the spray and pray method. We spray them with information and pray that it sticks. Guess what? It doesn’t. We need our students to be able to ask great questions, critically analyze information, form opinions, collaborate and communicate effectively. We need them to be creative problem solvers, innovative thinkers, and seek multiple solutions.
These are the skills that our next generation needs to succeed in society. Yes, back when we were in the Industrial Revolution, our education system needed to train students to perform repetitive tasks quickly and retain modest amounts of content. Because of this education system, our industrial economy rose and we gained economic dominance. But, as the twentieth century emerged so did the fundamentals of our economy. And now it’s time to re-invent our education system.
School should not be a predetermined set of hoops kids has to jump through to feel successful. Let’s be real. Student and teacher engagement has plummeted with the steady diet of test prep that only measures a small number of skills and we have kids leaving our schools who feel like their self worth is determined by one test. You know…after I finished having this conversation with my son and his three buddies last week, the two who I knew struggled through school looked right at me and said, “Kim, what you just described is exactly how we feel. We just feel like we aren’t smart and we feel less than other students because of this.” I was so sad to hear them speak the truth, but I knew it was how they truly felt and we have loads of kids going through our system who feel the same way. I want more for our kids and I know our teachers do, too. We want our students to know we believe in them and that they are more than a test grade to us. We want them to have multiple outlets for exploring their passions and their purpose and we want the freedom to begin giving them ample opportunity to develop into great contributors of our society. Our teachers want to bring creativity back into their classrooms. They want the freedom to let students explore a wide variety of skills and to develop them and they are rooting for them all the way. And guess what? I think we are on the verge of re-imaging what education can really look like for our students. I hold a large, powerful, positive vision for how we can re-invent education.