Preparing Our Students for their Future

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Today my family was out taking a bike ride around our neighborhood. We live on a big, three-mile loop, so there are always people exercising. I mentioned to my husband that, while we were both working the other day (we share an office that overlooks the street), a pair of women went by on their bikes about 5 times. Kudos to them, for sure.

My husband made the comment that our road is flat without a lot of undulation.

I have a master’s degree but had absolutely never come across the word undulation before.

I asked him what it meant and he said it basically meant hills.

Then he got a checkmark under the argument about which one of us is smarter (to clarify, it’s a play argument we have that is ongoing because we both have common sense about entirely different things).

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He laughed and said honestly, he only knew the term because of golf.

Without skipping a beat, I replied, “It doesn’t matter how you learn it, just as long as you learn it.”

That right there summarizes both student-centered learning and the struggle many in education have with switching to that model.

Let me explain:

The future of the job market

When public education first became common, we were very much an industrial society. Putting children in rows and allowing them to complete the same tasks, in the same way, was what prepared them for the world that awaited them.

It is how so many of us were taught to teach because it’s what education was.

However, our entire world view has changed since then.

We have become a tech-savvy, entrepreneurial society.

Do you know what the top companies were going into 2019?

  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Palantir
  • Pinterest
  • Slack
  • Airbnb
  • Postmates
  • InstaCart

Most of these companies didn’t even exist 10 years ago, let alone were household names.

How can we expect to teach students going into the world of Uber and Airbnb the same things that we taught students who were planning to find a job at a local company where they would work until retirement?

Don’t think that sounds reasonable? According to LinkedIn in 2015, the average worker had 10 different jobs before they retired and that number was expected to grow.

It’s simply not sustainable to teach our students the way previous generations learned.

It’s not.

Children assembling plastic blocks in the classroom

Teaching Our Future Generations

This is where I come back to the point that I made on my bike ride:

“It doesn’t matter how you learn it, just as long as you learn it.”

I am not sure why there’s such resistance to this in education.

Lately, I’ve been chatting with a lot of teachers on social media about burnout, their schools, and their administration. I’ve noticed one thing that stands out in all my conversations:

Schools (in a direct reflection of their administration) are either on point and rockstars or hot pits of stressed-out mess.

The ones that fall into the latter? They’re holding on to methods that are outdated and are not working for our students.

Again, they’re not 👏🏼 working 👏🏼 for 👏🏼 our 👏🏼 students.

Take a look at this video and let it soak in for a minute:

This article from Best Colleges lays it out better than I’ve seen before (even with my own article about Generation Z).

I think this quote is especially telling:

Today’s young professionals also value diversity. Sparvell noted that “diversity, inclusion, and belonging are core values for Generation Z, and how businesses represent these values will impact their ability to attract and retain an entire generation of talent.” This is especially important given that approximately half of Gen Z in the United States is nonwhite, according to the Pew Research Center, making it the most diverse generation in American history.

If businesses are making a switch to be sure that they’re appealing to the next generation who will be working for them, then as teachers, shouldn’t we be doing everything we possibly can to be preparing each and every one of them to rise up and be prepared to excel in the field of their choice??

I especially love this infographic they use:

Gen Z Career Guide: The Best Jobs for the Future
Published on July 01, 2019

Appealing to Generation Z in our classroom

I go over this in detail in our course “A Passion for Progress: Becoming a 100% Student-Centered Educator“, but the first thing you absolutely must do with this generation is finding out their learning style.

Once you have this information, your classroom is literally at your fingertips.

When you know how your students are learning, you have the ability to tweak assignments or activities to appeal to the way they will understand the information the best.

You can have multiple versions of the same assignment with minimal effort on your part and each student in your class will be able to work on it in a way that benefits them the most.

Differentiated education at its finest.

Once your students are used to it? Your classroom begins to run itself and is quite impressive to your administrator during observations.

So again, it doesn’t matter how you learn it, just as long as you learn it.

Should be the mantra in all of our schools, shouldn’t it?

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