The opening keynote at the Adobe Education Summit was delivered by Dr. Byron McClure. Byron is a school psychologist, an author, and founder of Lessons for SEL. Byron shared about the importance of erasing deficit thinking in his address. He shared a personal story where he was told that he was accepted to graduate school but would need to be make at least all “B”s since he had some deficits in his academic backgrounds. He shared how this impacted him and how this deficit thinking is often the process that many students experience. He encouraged us to “shift from this deficit thinking to being innovative.” He asked us to really explore if the training and practices that we use with students is geared toward identifying the best or worse in our students. This really challenged me to think about the training that I have previously received and makes me reconsider the approach that I will take as I support students going forward. The lens with which we approach our work is important since our work is with students.
Too often in education, we are directed to accountability measures that as Byron indicated that reduce our students to numbers and statistics. But our students are much more than just a data point. I would argue that this type of thinking, deficit type thinking, often limits our students and many of our beliefs about what they are capable of achieving. We must work extraordinarily hard to counter this type of thinking so our students are not limited in their success. Byron shared “we must shift from what’s wrong to what is strong.” By shifting our thinking, we shed our beliefs about the limits of what our students can achieve; we move to a world full of potential and possibilities that is limitless to what our students can do, be, and achieve.
When we believe in our students and limitless possibilities, we empower them. Byron included four key elements to a strengths based approach to supporting students: 1) Focus on identifying and understanding strengths, 2) human-centered (needs of people first), 3) growth and goal oriented, and 4) social support, capital, and resources matter. Each of these elements provide the necessary environment in which our students are able to utilize their strengths and talents to create something far greater when properly cultivated. By attending to our students and helping them recognize and identify their strengths, we can change their trajectories in life. Many of our students often do not recognize many of their strengths. I know that when I worked in a middle school, our students were just beginning to become more aware of themselves and often needed a supportive and encouraging adult to help them realize and recognize their own strengths. I had many conversations with students where I assisted them in identifying their own strengths. For many of these students, this self awareness of their strengths brought them a sense of confidence and assurance. They realized that they were good at something (or many things).
As we return to the classroom this fall, I would encourage all educators to focus on a strengths based approach to supporting our students and ourselves. He shared several questions for reflection that I think that we, as educators, need to think deeply about and explore - “What has given you the most energy in your life?” He followed up by asking “Who were you before the world told you who to be?” Finally, he shared “When, if ever, have your strengths done dark? Why?” By considering these questions and our own responses, I think that we can begin to identify and focus on our strengths. In doing so, we can also model this process for our students. I would also maintain that in focusing on a strengths based approach in our work with students and in our own lives, we can create opportunities that bring tremendous joy and value. We can shift from living within limitations to a world full of opportunities. It is precisely these moments that can really transform life for the better.
I found Bryon’s keynote to be energizing and encouraging. His words were impactful and empowering. When we shift our paradigms, we create the conditions in which each of us can flourish. We must emulate this both with our students and ourselves. Bryon shared this quote from Socrates: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but building on the new.” Let us work towards building a new and better version of not only ourselves but of our students as well. I encourage you to use your strengths in both your professional and personal lives and to also help students recognize and use their strengths as well in the coming year.
Today, I was able to be part of the Adobe Education Summit for 2022. Due to a challenging schedule, I was only able to catch the opening and closing keynotes but they, alone, were worth the price of admission. I want to thank Adobe for creating and supporting this free virtual conference for educators around the world. I appreciate the planning and intentionality of creating an extraordinary space that is safe, accessible, and empowering of educators from around the world.
The opening session jumped immediately into points that resonated with me. Scott Belsky from Adobe shared “creativity will be the new productivity.” Scott’s point resonated so much with what I have been thinking about for the past several months and trying to articulate. For students, their creativity will be a valuable commodity for changing their life’s trajectory. In many cases, it will be an economic commodity that they will use to support themselves and others. Too often though, we are not affording enough of our students the opportunity to explore, expand, and practice their creativity. Many of our students’ classrooms are void of these opportunities due to curricular and accountability demands. However, I would argue that our classrooms, especially coming out of the covid shut down, must actively and intentionally integrate in creativity and creation opportunities for our students. If we fail to allow our students to explore, expand, and practice their creativity, then we fail to adequately prepare them for their futures. Additionally, it is precisely these practices and opportunities in creativity that will engage and connect our students to deeper levels of learning.
Ben Forta continued sharing additional insights that really connected with me personally in my crusade for creativity and creative thinking in the classroom. He shared that many individuals are concerned about screen time use by our students. However, he challenged this concern and indicated that often we fail to consider whether our students are being passive consumers or active content creators. We must delve deeper into looking at how our students are using technology and their role. Students who are simply consumers - meaning that they only watch videos, listen to music, or simply perform repetitive, mundane tasks such as clicking- often fail to be very engaged. This results in a passive and very non-engaging role for our students. I used to refer to this as watching “mindless TV.’ Ben encouraged us rather to rethink screen time and push our students to engage in content creation where they are actively engaged in creating and publishing content digitally. This may include students creating and directing their own videos about a topic such as disease transmission or gauging what issues really matter to potential voters in upcoming reactions. In content creation, our students have to learn to manage a process, create various tasks to be completed, and be accountable for completing assigned roles. Additionally, students who are creating content have to learn how to gather accurate information, work with others to communicate that information, and present it in an engaging way. All of these duties require creativity among other necessary skills. Ben shared that “there is real joy in content creation” and that research indicates that students who are encouraged to think and act “more creatively are curious about the world.” Ben reminded us that creativity “gives our students the will, skill, and thrill to learn.”
All these amazing insights occurred within just the first few minutes of the opening session, Our main speaker for the opening was Byron McClure. I share more about his incredible message in an upcoming blog post as he was on fire as well.
If you were unable to join today’s Adobe Education Summit, you can sign up for the final day here. Additionally, replays will be available starting in August and running through next April. As educators prepare to return to the classroom this fall though, we must ensure that all students have the access and ability to experience engaging lessons that promote and encourage their creativity with practice and support. Let us always remember that our higher duty as educators is to ensure that our students have the necessary skills, knowledge, and experiences to lead a productive, empowering, and incredible life.
Over 100 public school students made their way to Raleigh this past weekend for the first face to face North Carolina Teacher Cadet Conference in over three years. The North Carolina Teacher Cadet is a class that high school students in public high schools can take to learn more about teaching as a profession. Additionally, the program supports the development of leadership and citizenship as secondary components of the program. The course has a heavy focus on critical thinking, reflection, writing, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, and communication. The Teacher Cadet program has been around for several decades but with the challenges of putting a highly trained, quality teacher in every classroom, programs such as the North Carolina Teacher Cadet may be a solution to responding to the Human Capital needs in our public schools. For schools to offer the North Carolina Teacher Cadet course, the instructors must attend a two day training to learn about both the program and curriculum. In full disclosure, I also serve on the Teacher Cadet Cadre, the group responsible for creating and delivering the training.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.