As the first days of 2018 arrive, any reflections on last year seem to contain an uncomfortable rawness because of the events continuously populating our devices – the immediacy, brutality and complexity of a world fueled by- “FakeNews?”, each one of us trying to construct a context in the “Filter Bubble” choreographed by algorithms from which we build a sense of the world we live in.
As International School educators, we straddle between the walled garden of “school” and the outside “world”. The reality is that we are surrounded by constant change and ambiguity. But there is a gap between the accelerated rate of change and our capacity to adapt to it. For some, the gap is wide. For others, the gap stays the same, and for a few, the gap is narrowing. How we interpret and engage with the gap and our own capacity to keep up influences many of our feelings and emotions. These in turn fuel the perceptions, opinions and behaviors with which we express ourselves.
International Schools have to juggle the fine line between ensuring students and parents are pleased and ensuring that they feel safe, challenged and cared for. In the unique world of International Schools, a percentage of parents come from a comfortable socio- economic environment. Often times, their education is a contributing factor to their current positions. This education provided the opportunities for their successes and their economic prosperity. Living with this becomes a strong marker in what International School parents believe their children should get from an education and an International School. This pedagogic reference point in many cases 25+ years old. The world was avery very different place then. However we try as schools to innovate, change and adapt, we do this with a level of caution and reservation. At the end of the day, the invisible mandate between parents and international schools, is “provide my child with stability, continuity, what I remember from my school days and more certainty then I have in my life today“.
As educators, we fall into a similar narrative. We have a desire for of stability, continuity, and more certainty than in the outside world we interact with. We do innovate and change in our schools, but the presence of the invisible mandate between our parents and schools influences the level by which we break the status quo.
Today the level of stability, continuity, and certainty that we were once used to has eroded. Uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility are an unavoidable part of the day. The complexity of this change permeates into everyone’s lives, and often not by choice.
2018, is an opportunity to embrace the world’s uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility, not as something eroding our past and challenging our present, but as an opportunity to re-frame the possibilities in front of us as a unique and rich learning journey. We have a responsibility to take this on in our roles as mentors, facilitators and educators. We bring a wisdom, resilience and care that has served us well and can continue to serve us today. Many of our students will one day be International School parents or educators who look back at their education as a point of reference for their own success. The measures will be different. We live in a world where uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility are part of our lives. We should not depend on reference points from our past to give us stability, continuity and certainty. The gap for many will still get bigger and more uncomfortable. But hopefully, in 2018, we can work to bridge that gap as well.
In one of my finer moments as an educational leader, I stood in front of an assembly of 400 students and stuck a microphone in front of a 10th grader, asking him to tell us what the mission statement meant to him (cue the mic squeaking). His eyes widened as his friends leaned back away from him as though something terrible was about to happen (which it was).
“Please don’t” he mumbled into the mic. The entire assembly cracked up. I think I recall offering to pay for the boy’s therapy later. Or at least a few rounds of medication. It was pretty bad. But as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
It has been fun to witness the sea change taking place in education, particularly around innovation and designs around learning rather than testing. But one thing is starting to really scare me.
I saw my first “creativity rubric.” Now, ever since I saw Sir Ken’s famous talk about schools killing creativity back in 2007, I have been somewhat obsessed with learning environments that are relevant to what students need to know and be able to do in the next generation. I’ve seen the concept of ‘design’ turned into a curriculum, coding and STEAM, robotics, maker spaces and some pretty good attempts at personalized learning. It’s all good-intentioned stuff and seems to tinker (pun intended) around the edges of the type of skills students need.
Then I went to a workshop on innovation and saw a creativity ‘rubric’ and thought. Oh….My….God. There are so many things that schools take responsibility for in the lives of people, everything from socio-emotional development to music to math to ways of thinking, etc. etc. and for the most part they do a pretty good job. But teaching creativity is the one domain that is going to possibly destroy the very thing it is trying to….create.
I can see it now; Creative Academy. Creative Tutoring. Creative Communities. Creative Commons. Creative Classes. Creativity Labs. Creative Conferences. Creative Rubrics.
I consider myself to be fairly creative. None of it I learned in school. I learned it from hiking in the mountains, praying in Buddhist temples, snorkeling in crystal lakes, lying under majestic palm trees, reading magical pieces of literature, and talking to cab drivers, lots and lots of cab drivers. My life has been open to opportunities that have made me feel very lucky to have had such opportunities to nurture my creativity. I am filled with “what ifs” and “why nots” (which often get me in trouble). I really don’t know if we can teach this.
A creativity rubric is going to formulize the process of being creative. It may even end up with a grade. Can you imagine getting a grade in creativity? (I have no idea how art teachers manage).
What I do know about creativity is that it is deeply rooted in being curious. It is rooted in that ability to transcend your present experience, put yourself into something new, and have all of your senses absorb everything that it can. One of the most creative days I ever had in my life was after climbing the ancient rickety steps of a crumbling castle in Ireland that was traced back to my ancestors. I wrote a story non-stop for six hours after that day and I’ll never forget it.
You cannot teach that.
If you can teach a child to be curious about the world around him or her, then so be it. If you can teach a young person how to strike up a conversation in another language with a man fixing shoes on a side street in Bangkok then so be it. If you can develop in young people the mindset to write a poem in the pew of an ancient church in Lisbon on a rainy day, then all the more power to you.
But whatever you do, please, please don’t turn creativity into a rubric.
“The most important thing is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” ~ Olympic Creed
During this recent school break, I had the good fortune to spend time in Barcelona and made a point to visit the city’s track and field stadium, the site that hosted one of the most remarkable moments in Olympic history. During the 1992 summer Olympics, British athlete Derek Redmond was heavily favored to win the 400-meter event. While Redmond did not win a medal, it was his determination and courage that made his performance such an inspiration.
It was halfway through the 400 semifinal race when Redmond’s hamstring snapped and he fell to his knees in excruciating pain. After the other runners completed the race, the TV camera and the crowd return their attention to Redmond who somehow finds the strength to return to his feet and begin hopping down the track, determined to finish the race. It was at this moment that his father runs onto the track and tells Redmond that he does not need to finish the race. Redmond replies to his father, “Yes, I do.” His father replies stating that if Derrick was going to finish the race, then they were going to finish it together. The 65,000 spectators were on their feet cheering Derek and his father on with a deafening roar of support as they walked and hobbled forward and finally crossed the finish line.
Derek’s story embodies the spirit of the Olympic Creed and how the struggle in life is more important than the triumph. In this context, Yogi Berra’s words are apropos: Losing is a learning experience. It teaches you humility. It teaches to you to work harder. It’s also a powerful motivator.” Michael Jordan has also famously spoken about how his failures have led to his success: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” It is through adversity, failure, and challenge that we grow the most and realize a deeper sense of the human spirit. While Derek Redmond did not win the 400-meter gold medal, his performance in Barcelona is considered to be one of the greatest moments in Olympic history.
The lesson is that there is as much triumph in defeat as in victory, particularly when triumph is in the effort and effort is everything. Redmond also reminds us that no takes an odyssey alone. Whether it is a family member, coach, mentor, friend, or teacher, we have all had someone who has supported us in terms of our growth, development, and achievements. It is through these lenses that we can view the start of another school year and our work as a community of learners.
All of us at EAB, in our roles ranging from that of a teacher, student, and family member, are on an odyssey of growth and development. EAB’s mission statement – Learners inspiring learners to be inquisitive in life, principled in character, and bold in vision – highlights this belief. And, like Derek Redmond, no one is on this journey alone. It is our focus on relationships, the deep care for each other’s wellbeing, and a belief community, that contribute to making EAB such as special school and learning environment for our students.
The opening of the 27th modern summer Olympic games will be officially celebrated in Rio de Janeiro tonight and will represent an exciting focus during the coming weeks. The performance of the athletes will no doubt provide us with inspiration as we reflect on the relevance of the Olympic Creed in relation to our own context: “The most important thing is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
Esforço e Triunfo
“A coisa mais importante não é vencer, mas participar, assim como a coisa mais importante na vida não é o triunfo, mas o esforço. O essencial não é ter conquistado, mas ter lutado bem”. ~ Olympic Creed
Durante as últimas férias, eu tive a sorte de passar algum tempo em Barcelona e fiz questão de visitar o campo e a pista de atletismo no estádio da cidade, local que foi palco de um dos momentos mais marcantes da história olímpica. Durante os Jogos Olímpicos de Verão de 1992, o atleta britânico Derek Redmond era o favorito para ganhar a prova de 400m. Apesar de Redmond não ter ganhado a medalha, foi a sua determinação e coragem que tornaram seu desempenho uma inspiração.
Foi no meio da semifinal de 400m que o tendão de Redmond rompeu e ele caiu de joelhos com uma dor excruciante. Depois que os demais atletas completaram a prova, as câmeras de televisão e o público voltaram sua atenção para Redmond, que de algulma forma encontrou forças para ficar em pé e começou a pular, determinado a terminar corrida. Foi nesse momento que seu pai entrou na pista e disse que ele não precisaria terminar a prova. Redmond respondeu: “Sim, eu preciso.” O seu pai respondeu que já que Derrick iria terminar a prova, eles iriam terminar juntos. Os 65.000 expectadores ficaram de pé torcendo por ele e seu pai com um rugido ensurdecedor, enquanto eles caminhavam e ele mancava até eles cruzarem a linha de chegada.
A história de Derek incorpora o espírito do credo olímpico e mostra como lutar torna-se mais importante do que o triufo. Neste contexto, as palavras de Yogi Berra são oportunas: “Perder é uma experiência de aprendizagem. Ela ensina a humildade. Ensina a dar duro. E é também uma motivação muito poderosa”. Michael Jordan também ficou famoso em falar sobre como os seus fracassos levaram ao seu sucesso: “Eu perdi mais de 9000 lances em minha carreira. Eu perdi quase 300 jogos. Por 26 vezes contaram comigo para o lance final e eu perdi. Eu falhei várias vezes na minha vida. E é por isso que eu consegui.” É através da adversidade, fracasso e dos desafios que nós crescemos mais e percebemos o sentido do espírito humano. Apesar de Derek Redmond não ter ganhado a medalha de ouro nos 400 metros, o seu desempenho em Barcelona foi considerado um dos melhores momentos na história das Olimpíadas.
A lição aqui é que há triunfo tanto na derrota quanto na vitória, particularmente quando o triunfo está no esforço e o esforço é tudo. Redmond também nos lembra que ninguém atravessa uma jornada sozinho. Quer seja um membro da família, um treinador, mentor, amigo ou professor, nós sempre tivemos alguém nos apoiando em nosso crescimento, desenvolvimento e realizações. É através dessas lentes que podemos ver o início de mais um ano escolar e nosso trabalho como uma comunidade de aprendizes.
Todos nós da EAB, em nossos papéis, que vão desde professor, aluno e membro da família, passamos por uma jornada de crescimento e desenvolvimento. A missão da EAB – Aprendizes inspirando aprendizes a serem questionadores na vida, firmes em seu caráter e com uma visão audaciosa – destaca essa crença. Como Derek Redmond, ninguém está sozinho nessa jornada. É o nosso foco em relacionamentos, o cuidado profundo com o bem-estar do outro e uma comunidade com um ideal, que contribuem para tornar a EAB uma escola e ambiente de aprendizagem especial para os nossos alunos.
A abertura do 27º Jogos Olímpicos será comemorada oficialmente, hoje, no Rio de Janeiro e vai representar algo emocionante durante as próximas semanas. O desempenho dos atletas, sem dúvida, nos inspira em como refletir sobre a relevância da crença olímpica em relação ao nosso próprio contexto: “A coisa mais importante não é vencer, mas participar, assim como a coisa mais importante na vida não é o triunfo, mas a luta. O essencial não é ter vencido, mas lutado bem”.
We recently hosted an evening event with parents and teachers entitled, “The Future of Education.” The workshop was more of a discussion about the factors that are currently disrupting and redefining education rather than an articulation of what education will look like in the future.
To begin the discussion, each participant was asked to describe the most effective learning experience in his or her life. While there was a wide range of responses, there was one common theme: All but one of the learning experiences occurred outside of a K-12 school setting. The one parent whose experience took place in school shared that his Grade 2 teacher allowed him to extend his learning in an area of personal interest that developed well beyond the level required in the syllabus.
The participants were then asked to explain why they believed the learning experiences they described were so effective and meaningful. What emerged from the ensuing discussion was the concept of relevance – when the learning represented a high level of relevance to the learner, the result was usually an effective and deeply meaningful learning experience.
So, is the concept of relevance as a basis for our educational programs the panacea we have been seeking to significantly improve K-12 educational programs and, in turn, student learning and development? While we know there is no simple “one solution fits all” solution to improving schools, we are seeing an increased focus on relevance and personalized learning. If forced to use one word to describe the future of education, many would agree that the word would be relevance.
The research of Lee Jenkins (2013) highlights why this discussion is important. Jenkins worked with 3,000 teachers from Kindergarten to Grade 12 to determine how enthusiastic students are about school. The result of the study was that 95% of kindergarten students are enthusiastic about school. However, this percentage drops significant each year until Grade 9 when the percentage of students enthusiastic about school drops to a low of 37%. The small increase between Grades 10 to 12 is attributed to the focus of some students on graduation and beyond (see graph below). It seems that we should all be concerned with the results of this study.
Source: The New Meaning of Educational Change, Fifth Edition, by Michael Fullan
It is believed that a greater focus on relevance in education will contribute to ensuring a higher level of student enthusiasm for school. To that end, relevance can be defined in many ways, including the framework of preparing students for life beyond school.
Future of Jobs
In Future of Jobs, published by the World Economic Forum, the report lists the top ten skills needed to thrive in a 2015 work environment. Looking ahead five years, it is believed that over 35% of the skills considered important for work today will have changed, resulting in a different list of top ten skills in 2020.
Top 10 Skills in 2015:
Complex Problem Solving
Coordinating with Others
Judgment and Decision Making
Top 10 Skills in 2020:
Complete Problem Solving
Coordinating with Others
Judgment and Decision Making
In comparing the two tables, it is interesting to note that five of the skills in 2020 are relationship based: People Management, Coordinating with Others, Emotional Intelligence, Service Orientation, and Negotiation. It is also interesting to note that Creativity moved up the list from tenth place in 2015 to third place in 2020.
George Land was responsible for developing a creativity test for NASA to determine how innovative potential scientists and astronauts were as part of the candidate assessment process. In 1968, Land used the same test to evaluate children over a ten-year period. The results were astonishing, as displayed in the chart below.
Source: Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era, by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith
The test was given to 1,600 students with a resulting score of 98% for five-year-olds. The same students were tested five and ten years later, scoring 30% and 12% respectively. The same test was given to 280,000 adults, who scored an average of 2%. The conclusion of the study was that non-creative behavior is learned.
The significant drop in levels of creativity has been attributed, in large part, to, an educational system that was developed on a premise established 200 years ago during the Industrial Revolution to train students to follow instructions and be good workers. Education has of course evolved since that time, though it can be argued that the framework associated with the original premise continues to limit reform in education.
Returning to the title of this post and the Future of Education, some of the questions that will guide future educational reforms will need to include issues relating to creativity, future work skills, enthusiasm for school, and, perhaps most importantly, the concept of relevance and the learning process.
“A mathematic theory that deals with complex systems whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences.”
This is also called the ‘butterfly effect’ where if you can imagine a puff of air from a butterfly’s wings causing a hurricane on the other side of the world.
What I love about this theory is that is starts off as a small, almost unnoticeable shift and ends up being astronomical. It’s not throwing everything up in the air and starting from scratch. But it gets there, eventually.
Innovation doesn’t work in schools because as a rule they are extremely risk averse and break out in hives when you even mention the word chaos. Not with my kids you don’t! Take the cafeteria, for instance. (I know, I’m on duty every day). It’s the one place where things are allowed (sort of) to be chaotic. And the adults cannot handle it. They cringe at the noise, the kids cutting line, the ones who don’t clean up after themselves, and the hats. The hats, the hats the hats.
It’s chaos. I have a theory.
I have a theory that a child has an idea in the chaos of the cafeteria. He puts his sandwich down and stares into space, reaching underneath the table to text a friend (because cell phones are not allowed) to meet him in the library.
The friend meets him in the library, wondering what’s going on. There’s still some time for lunch but it’s going to spill into the next period. “I gotta go,” the friend says, wondering what it’s all about. “I’ve got math.”
“Not yet,” the boy says. “Math can wait.”
“You remember that thing we were reading about Singapore having to import most of its water? I have an idea about what to do.”
“Really?” the friend asked. “Is that really what you called me up here for?”
“Sort of. I was at the design expo at Nanyang School of Art this weekend and they were talking about sustainability. I thought it was really cool and it gave me some ideas about the water thing.”
“Right,” the friend says. “Well, I gotta go before I’m late.”
The boy watches his friend walk away.
A teacher (on his prep period) comes by and observes the boy in the library, by himself. Rather than ask where he should be, he looks over his shoulder, noticing several tabs open on water sustainability projects, environment, and three universities.
“What are you working on?” the teacher asked. “Oh, sorry,” the boy says, shutting his laptop case. “No, it’s okay,” the teacher answers. “I’m not going to get you in trouble. You’re a sixth grader, right? My diploma class is doing some things on the environment and maybe you could join the conversation. We’re supposed to Skype with this scientist from Alaska who’s working on some water sustainability theories. You might find it interesting.”
The boy goes to the class and misses math, then English, then Spanish. He makes his way to art at the end of the day because it’s the one place where he liked to rejuvinate his brain when it got overloaded. Something about working with pottery.
Even though the time zones didn’t line up exactly, he managed to find a few water projects in Kuwait and Texas that shared his ideas about what to do in Singapore, and he found a way to connect with them. He also texts his older sister in the 10th grade to see if any of her classes are talking about anything to do with water and the environment. “Dunno,” she replies. “Leave me alone, I’m in the middle of a test.”
At the end of the day, he finds himself back in the science teacher’s class. “Oh, there you are,” the teacher says. “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t tell anyone, but the office has been looking for you all afternoon. I think you’re in trouble. Do you want me to write them a note? Did you miss classes the rest of the day?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry, the boy says. But can I show you what I was doing?” When the boy is finished, the teacher looks at his watch and takes out his cell phone.
“What are you doing?” the boy asks. “I’m calling Alaska,” the teacher says. “They need to talk to you.”
“Okay, everyone, sit down and take out your books and go to page 37 and do the exercise B now. Why aren’t you listening? Richard, please sit down. You don’t have your book? Why are you late?”
And so on. And so on.
Why is it that we educators insist that our students tune into what we want our students to do at the exact time or moment that they need them to? How many of us can do that? How many of us switch between various tasks (and usually end up on email) when we just can’t do that thing at that specific time?
So, what are you saying? Just let students not pay attention to what you are doing?
Well, kind of. I know this is difficult to understand, but learning is becoming less and less about YOU. By the end of this blog, I think you’ll be thanking me, although it is still a scary thing to comprehend. From DuFour to Marzano, the research tells us over and over and over the importance of the learning climate and learner engagement.
I am a Principal who also teaches a class called digital literacy. No, the seniors don’t care that I am the Principal. They still come late, usually holding a coffee, at times out of uniform, and often texting while I am talking. Yes, I get annoyed and tell them to close their devices, but since the class is called DL, I have a love/hate relationship with allowing them to keep said devices.
So, I had a class meeting one day. Ever have one of those? They can be quite liberating. “I know this is hard for you,” I started. “But I need you to listen to me for a minute. This is what is not working for me today.” (And I listed a bunch of stuff). Then it was their turn. What came out of it was startling.
“You don’t trust us to do our work. You think we’re always slacking where you just need to tell us what to do and we will get it done. Maybe we just have something else we need to do at that time.”
“Why do we always have to do what you want at the exact moment? We will get to it, we just have so many other things we need to do right now, like a big project next class I am worried about.”
Now, I know where some of you will go with this, allowing a bunch of seniors to turn my class into a study hall where they can do what they want with no accountability. I couldn’t help but think of the reaction to Khan Academy when it first started.
Today we had our final projects. The girl with whom I have had quite a few challenges with texting during class, you tube videos, online shopping, and goodness knows what other distractions during class, had done exactly as I had asked. In fact, her digital portfolio was one of the best. She gave me a “told you so” smile at the end of her presentation. I was astonished.
I don’t know all of the implications for classroom management or control. What I do know is that we have to accept the humbling reality that the teacher cannot be the center of attention in the 21st century. Maybe you’re not the most important thing at that particular moment. And God forbid, maybe what you’re insisting is the most important thing at that particular time, just isn’t. When you are mixing dangerous chemicals, it is probably a good idea that you are the center of attention. Otherwise, start changing your skill set or you’re going to keep handing out a lot of detentions and completely missing a lot of learning opportunities.
Sharing stories, expertise, and experiences from international educators around the world. In the spirit of amplifying diverse voices. TIE's blog space is not subject to editorial oversight. TIE bloggers have a long history in various aspects of international education and share their thoughts and insights based on personal experiences.