I don’t know what started it but I found myself launching into manifesto mode! And this is what it led to – a kind of 9 Pillars of Education. I know I’ve left so much out. out. Feel free to critique these and add what’s missing.
- Change is inevitable. We need to help children to lean into the unknown with courage and optimism and help build their independence and resilience. We need to be responsive to the challenges of the changing world. And responsive to the needs of the whole child growing in a changing world. We need to know and appreciate the past and where we have come from but know that the way things have always been done in (most) schools (most of the time) is not enough. When the world’s knowledge back is googleable we need no longer be in the information transmission business.
- The whole child matters. The developmental needs of children must be at the forefront. Thinking “college ready” as a way to push inappropriate work on young children is counterproductive. Understanding how children learn and grow intellectually, socially and emotionally is essential. Children’s whole lives – including their physical well being, their social and emotional needs, their dreams aspirations and all the external factors – matter. Children are not data points or test scores to be rendered college and career ready but unique people on an individual journey who need to be life ready. Passion, play and purpose provide pathways to progress.
- We live in a networked world and within webs of relationships both in the face-face and in the virtual world. Understanding and taking advantages of those opportunities for collaboration, sharing and connection is a key component of modern teaching and learning. Breaking out of the isolation of the bunkers of the past is essential. Parcels and pizza get delivered curriculum emerges and evolves. We need to help children navigate a new world of opportunity helping them seek connections, find relevance and real world applications. We need our students to be way more than consumers of knowledge. They need to be problem finders and solution seekers and creators – people with the capacity to make a creative contribution and who add value to the world and to the storehouse of knowledge.
- School must be a place of engagement, excitement and activity. It is not where students learn about academic subjects but where they learn by being artists, athletes, historians, makers, mathematicians, poets, researchers, scientists, writers – in other words active thinkers and doers across the realm of human endeavor. School is where children begin to exercise their responsibilities to themselves, to each other and to the world. And why is that not engaging and fun?
- Relationships matter and covering content is not the purpose of school. We all know looking back on our own education what mattered. (What positive learning experiences do you remember from high school?) Students develop ethical values including empathy and respect for, and understanding of, others by example and experience. We lean respect by being respected and being able to talk about it what it means and having the opportunity to practice those values within community. We learn to love and care by being loved and cared about. School is where young people learn to function not perform.
- We live in a digitally rich and interconnected world. Our classrooms need to leverage the power of technology to help students become the responsible users and creators of knowledge. Integrating appropriate tools when available is not an option; it is a necessity if students are to have the power and agency to effect positive change. This is the world that our children are growing into and we cannot deprive them of the access they need to do the creative and collaborative and connected work of which they are capable.
- Learning is for everyone and learning is for life. All children can learn and a growth mindset about human capabilities – theirs – and ours is essential. Kids come to us curious about the world. Our task is to fuel that curiosity and keep the flame of wonder alive. Learning is not for school, for tests, for the GPA – it is what makes us human. Students are not to be tracked, graded and sorted, elevated and sidelined into predetermined bins We need to recognize and respect that learning is not confined to the classroom and does not stop at the end of the school day or when the final homework assignment is completed.
- Educators are learners too. Modern educators need to leverage the extraordinary power of social media to create personal learning networks, to connect with educators globally. There’s a wonderful world of brilliant teachers, thinkers and practitioners out there just waiting to share what they know and learn from others. Being a modern educator means modeling for students what it means to learn in a networked world. That means being a part of the conversation – learning from others, collaborating on common problems and projects, and sharing knowledge and insights.
- A good education is the birthright of every child. Our future depends on the young and an educated citizenry is the foundation of democracy. We all have an obligation to work to the best of our ability to ensure that every child gets the opportunity to thrive.