I graduated from McCoy High School in 1979. Although I may have had a slight inkling of where I was going, there was no way I had an understanding of how much the world around me was going to change. Imagine that the kindergarten children entering school in September 2012 will begin retiring (assuming an age of 65) in the year 2072. Even if the rate of change remained constant over the next 60 years, this will be a very different world.
Even with all the changes in my own world, education has always been the saving grace. The ability to be a learner, to problem solve, to articulate a critical response and to adapt has been instrumental in navigating this ever changing world. Education from early learning to post secondary, informal and formal, and inside and outside of the school building must continue to be our saving grace. In order for education to lead us through future generations, schools must continue to evolve and teaching quality must always be a priority.
Few of us could have imagined the world we currently exist in when we were in high school. In terms of technology itself, we are miles ahead of any of our dreams from those years. I would venture to suggest that even our current high school students have only the faintest glimpse of how much the world will change throughout their life to retirement. Yet, our role in education is to prepare students for that unknown and unexpected world.
Dylan Wiliam in his article, “Teacher quality: why it matters, and how to get more of it” articulates that schools in the past have been talent identifiers. We sorted students in a factory model based on students’ current talent without any acknowledgement of future growth or potential. Today’s world requires extensive talent and skill and therefore we must work with all students to create potential and that can only be accomplished with high teacher quality.
In essence, teachers need to see the magnificent diamond within each child. They must be able to seek the inner talents hidden within every child and let them grow and prosper. They must be able to recognize that what you see may not be what you get! While we may not be able to bring every child’s dreams to reality, we must never take the potential of dreaming away from any child. The potential that exists in our children must not remain untapped!
The unknown world of tomorrow will not require students who can simply regurgitate knowledge. They will need to be able to create knowledge. In order to problem solve effectively, they will need to be precise in the identification of the problem. We will need divergent thinkers who challenge the status quo, creative minds who think outside the box and innovative risk takers. These kinds of students will only be developed under the tutelage of high quality teachers and transformed systems.
Even an unknown future can be prepared for through education. Classrooms that engage prepare for that future. Teachers, who question and stretch the box, prepare for that future. Environments that support risk taking and growth mindsets develop potential in our students, a critical competency for the 21st century. Understanding that “if you can’t be wrong, you can’t learn” prepares students to recognize that failure is an essential part of the learning process. Committed learners, who understand hard work and are willing to explore multiple pathways to that learning, not just compliant students will be successful in tomorrow’s uncertain world. We may not know what the future holds in store for us or our children. But we know that our educational system with high quality teaching will be our best strategy and our saving grace to prepare our students for that future.