Something in the Air

So here we are at the very beginning of a brand new year, and even more exciting than that for me, the start of a brand new decade. I’m a little bit more inspired than usual honestly because there seems to be something in the air, a significant shift or tipping point that has finally begun to take hold in the world of education. It’s not necessarily new this paradigm shift, but certainly more widespread and ubiquitous these days I feel, and it’s resonating profoundly everywhere I look…in schools and conversations, and in research articles and conference themes across the globe. 

I’m talking about a shift in what gets top billing and top priority when we look to prepare our children for the future of our world…a shift to an approach to teaching and learning that is delivered through a different lens, or under a different umbrella, which better emphasizes the skills that our children really need to go out into the world having mastered. The essential teachings that our world desperately craves right now. Themes like kindness, empathy, diversity, inclusion, environmental stewardship, creativity, and resilience…and a formative education and taught curriculum that is truly a little closer to the heart.

This year, when I ask my own kids each morning what their school schedule looks like for the day, the conversation goes something like this. Hey Gabby and Max (my 6th and 9th graders), what classes do you have today?. I hear back things like Math and Science and Social Studies and English and French, with some cool electives thrown in there as well, which are typically the classes that they tend to get really excited about. We’re so used to this structure of school, and this traditional approach to how we prepare our kids for the world when they graduate. You know how I’d really love that morning conversation to go? Something like this…Hey, what do you guys have in school today? Gabby will say, Oh, my first block is empathy, and then I have creativity, inclusion and diversity. What about you Max? Well Dad, I have environmental stewardship, kindness, and this afternoon I have a double block of resilience, which is a really tough class but it’s helping me become a better learner. Great, I’d say, see you at school and I can’t wait to hear all about it at dinner tonight. 

It’s not that we have to give up teaching the important math and science concepts, or go away from languages and literacy, it’s just reframing and delivering the classes through a new lens. Teaching science and math with a focus on the environment and service learning for example, and teaching literacy skills through a lens of kindness and empathy, and even social studies through a lens of diversity. Of course we will need to change what we call the classes because language truly has power, and it would signify a purposeful shift in curriculum thinking, writing and delivery. Anyway, without going on too long I think you get what I’m saying, and honestly, these essential shifts are already happening in leading international and independent schools around the world, like ours, through strategic planning and curriculum review and implementation, and through non traditional course offerings and student opportunities that are more aligned to these essential needs, themes and skills. 

Take a look at the upcoming AAIE conference for example, and see the themes that are being championed…panel discussions and conversations around cultures of dignity and inclusion and what’s really paramount for the future of education. Things like positive social change and health and well being and diversity and resiliency. These ideas and this narrative is being championed everywhere you look and to me it feels good. It feels like it’s finally time, which is why this year, and this decade feels different. There is something in the air and it smells sweet and it feels like real, transformative change is happening…it feels like the future of education is upon us. I’d like to end with some song lyrics taken from one of my favorite songs, “Closer to the Heart” by a Canadain band called, RUSH. These lyrics seem appropriate to this change in the air that I’m feeling, and even more poignant considering the Band’s drummer and lyricist, one of the greatest of all-time, Neil Peart passed away just the other day. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. Happy 2020 everyone…it’s going to be a great year!

Closer to the Heart – Rush

And the men who hold high places

Must be the ones who start

To mold a new reality

Closer to the heart

The blacksmith and the artist

Reflect it in their art

They forge their creativity

Closer to the heart

Yes, closer to the heart

Philosophers and ploughmen

Each must know his part

To sow a new mentality

Closer to the heart

Yes, closer to the heart

You can be the captain

And I will draw the chart

Sailing into destiny

Closer to the heart


Inspiring Videos – 

On the Road – A Year in Review

A Surprise Thank You

Related Articles – 

Social-Emotional Learning

8 Critical Skills

Essential for Students

Getting Smart

Important Skills

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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