The month of June ended with a lot of changes for me personally. I concluded my year as a mentor for the North Carolina Digital Leaders Coaching Network in Asheville. I have spent this year as a mentor to three outstanding digital educators who are working tirelessly to provide opportunities for their staff to learn the latest and best possible ways to become innovators in their classroom. We work specifically on how to become better coaches through sharing various best practices and access to innovative ideas. I highly encourage anyone who works in an instructional coach capacity to apply to this dynamic program. It will truly help to grow your professional learning network and become a strong coach better suited to serve the needs of your colleagues. I also received an email inviting to learn about an exciting opportunity at a high school undergoing a renewal. I met with the principal and she shared her vision and strategy to redesign the high school. I recall several years ago a speaker who mentioned that the most innovative thing that most schools have done in the past thirty years was to adopt block scheduling. I remember chuckling then and even do now. Sadly, many of our current practices in schools are reminiscent of the education that my grandparents would have received. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the education that they received, their education was geared toward creating citizens who would most likely work in an industrial setting and possibly some higher level management positions. They were prepared for jobs that currently existed and I doubt that there was very little attention directed to the evolution of jobs in the future. Currently, technology has expanded and has changed the trajectory of the factory model work. We can no longer forecast what types of jobs or career jobs will be available for the students of today as these jobs do not even exist today. Further, many jobs are often crisscrossed mashup blends of distinctly different areas that are increasing merging together. Couple with these changes is the proliferation of digital information. While I still see value in knowing information and even specific facts (gasp), it is actually more important for our students to develop skills in learning how to find information that they need and determine its validity. Increasingly, we must also focus on teaching various others skills. As an adjunct chemistry instructor at a nearby college, I have observed over the past years that students are increasingly challenged in working collaboratively with each other. Some groups are productively working together in lab; however, there are usually connecting factors such as they play on the same athletic team or know each other from the past. The groups who struggle are those who have no previous connection or familiarity with each other. I have learned that I, as the lab instructor, need to work on these groups to help them learn how to collaborate effectively with each other so they are prepared for the future. In doing so, I have also noted that the importance of the group learning to communicate effectively with each other while critically thinking about the data and information they are collecting in lab. Increasingly, I see some of the college students struggle with questions that require them to apply what they learned in a new way. A lot of them struggle with seeing connections between what they have learned and how they can apply that to a different situation. This usually requires creativity. I think that we, in schools, have done a great job of reducing creativity and making students focus on more tangible things such as memorizing facts or being able to recite a repetitive process of solving a math problem over and over. As I reflect on this, I am increasing seeing the importance of stressing the 4Cs (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity) in the learning the process. In my discussions with the principal about this new opportunity, she shared that the staff chose to develop a framework for their curriculum that revolved around the 4Cs. I find this incredible. I love that the focus will be shifted into a commonly agreed upon framework that was developed by teachers as a way to improve the learning outcomes of their students. This truly could be a game changer. As I considered this opportunity, I am truly inspired by the vision of the principal and her willingness to empower her staff to work collectively to create something that is so out of the ordinary. In many ways, I can see this as extraordinary actually. I applaud the school's willingness to step out of the proverbial box and, instead, erase the walls and barriers that keep us from fully serving students. Much like I experienced with the NCDLCN, I love that they are working to maximize each student's potential for success by equipping them with the skills needed for a future that we cannot yet forecast.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.