Solving the Problems of the World
I have thought a lot about the content for my first post of 2014. I think being in holiday mode impacted my thoughts a lot. Over the past few weeks, I’ve put away my thinking about school and my blog. But, there is one idea that has rattled around since I went on holidays. Actually, it’s an idea that has stuck with me for quite a while. If we (educators, administrators, politicians, parents, students) agree that our system of education is in need of repair, how do we fix it. I understand this is a complex problem and there is no magic bullet that will solve all of the problems which exist in the North American school system. But, I would argue, no matter what the issue or the location of the school, there are three themes that we all could address which would help move our systems forward.
If I read through the blogs I follow or scroll through my digital PLN, I will invariably come across topics about 21st Century Learning. Articles, Tweets, and blog posts about this topic abound. However, I believe it is time to drop the 21st Century part and just call it learning. It seems to me that adding the descriptor “21st Century” we are looking at ideas which are futuristic and cannot be attained. But this is not the case. The idea that we need to help students become critical and creative thinkers, foster problem solving and inquiry skills and provide multiple opportunities to develop networks so as to collaborate and share learning is not something that we need to achieve in some future school. It is what we need to do now. Students must be encouraged to use inquiry in an interdisciplinary approach to solve problems now. These skills are more important than learning to use specific technologies as the technology will change over time. So, let’s stop talking about 21st Century Learning and start talking about learning.
I have come to believe the most important component in successful schools are effective relationships. Without effective relationships, educators are unable to provide students with meaningful learning opportunities. Teachers must have an understanding of the needs of their students. This is achieved by developing trust and acting with integrity. Similarly, the administrative team must establish systems and procedures that foster effective relationships between teachers, students and families in order to make effective pedagogical choices. Without these relationships, schools can be the most forward thinking, technologically advanced, inquiry based environments and still not find success. Relationships are key.
The axiom “it takes a village to raise a child” continues to hold true today. I do not understand why there is an “us vs. them” mentality in schools. We are all in this together. The task of educating students is not the sole responsibility of the school and the teachers. The task falls to all members of the community. All of us must operate in concert with each other to provide all students opportunities to learn and to explore. We have to move away from adversarial relationships and move toward a community of learners.
It is very easy for me to sit here on a Sunday morning and hypothesize about what is needed to change the education system in North America. Am I naive to believe that it is this simple? All we need is to focus on effective learning, effective relationships, and community building? I don’t think it is so far fetched. But, what are the steps? How do we proceed. As I can only speak for myself, I can tell you that these three concepts form the core elements of my professional growth plan. This is what I am going to try and achieve in my classroom in the coming months. I am going to be overt about it with my students, my colleagues, administration and parents. Maybe if we all commit to this and make it really simple, we will see a groundswell of positive change. But, that’s up to you.
Have a great day and thank you for reading.