I LOVE doing interesting work in education!  It makes me want to twirl and sing!  Few things energize me more than creating vibrant learning environments keen on championing the extraordinary potential that lives within every child!

Education is so artful!

A Thought Leader

Recently, I’ve been reading Linchpin – Are You Indispensible by Seth Godin and participating in his altMBA, an intensive, 4-week online workshop designed by Godin for “high-performing individuals who want to level up and lead.”

Godin is critical of education and its ineffectiveness in preparing students for the future in his TedTalk, “Stop Stealing Dreams.”  So, I’m listening keenly for creative ideas on what needs to change.

Being Told Exactly What To Do

One compelling provocation Godin mentions in his manifesto of the same name (Stop Stealing Dreams) is the declining number of jobs where one is “being told exactly what to do.”  Furthermore, employers are always on the hunt for someone who will do those jobs more cheaply.

Consider, what happens when year-after-year in school, we tell students exactly what to do?  What if I am left telling teachers exactly what to do?  Well, the obvious answer is, we create a system graduating students who don’t think independently or creatively.  They are overly reliant on others to think for them.  These students will only be successful in jobs or roles where they’re told exactly what to do.

In Learn Forward schools, we don’t want to tell students exactly what to do all of the time.  We want them to work independently towards their learning goals, tolerate ambiguity, and learn to delight in the messy process.

As an example, at Willowstone Academy, we have chosen Daily 5  as our structure for literacy instruction.  In this framework, students learn literacy strategies and how language works, then work independently on their reading, writing, and spelling in rotation each day of the week.  The five activities are:

  • Read to self
  • Listen to reading
  • Read to someone
  • Work on Writing, and
  • Word Work.

Most importantly, we foster highly engaged learners who independently advance their own literacy skills.  While students are working independently, as young as Kindergarten, teachers are free to work individually or with small groups to conference and review skills and literacy strategies.

So, even in this fundamental building block of literacy learning, we are creating students who pursue their own learning.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash

Let’s Be Clear

Pursuing one’s own learning and creativity does not mean our 8 or 12-year-olds don’t need boundaries.  Parents must continue to be warmly demanding and take the lead role in providing and protecting for their children.

We definitely believe in the primary role of the parent or guardian to guide, provide, and emotionally support children of all ages, even adolescents.  This is essential!  In fact, a generous invitation from the parent into an ongoing relationship is essential for the required emergent energy to be creative, chase learning, and drive individual pursuits rather than merely following peers.

Check out this post from Dr. Gordon Neufeld on maturity and this one from Dr. Deborah MacNamara on resistance and opposition from kids, particularly young adolescents.

The challenge is to anticipate resistance and not to take it personally. The challenge is to remain in the caretaker position and lead through the counterwill storm. Some of the strategies below require maturity in the parent and the capacity to see the big picture. It is relationship that opens a child’s heart to being influenced by us and serves to create the ideal conditions for development.

The Formula

In conclusion, what is the perfect recipe in all of the conflicting ideas?

Well, I’m not one for formulas and I certainly wouldn’t begin to think I know what’s best in your context.

Then, our Learn Forward Village asks, “What matters most?”

What matters most for parents is that we continue to prioritize relationships with our children OVER their behaviours.  Also, we must continue to take up the role of provider and protector, the warmly demanding alpha in the pack called “family.”

Additionally, what matters most for teachers, is leading the pack called “classroom.”  We’ll cultivate trust with parents and link arms with them…

We’ll all leave technology-free white spaces, ask interesting questions, and hold curiosity about life and the world around us…

We’ll all ask, “When should we set a boundary as a warmly demanding alpha?” and “When should we allow the child’s interests, desires, and curiosities drive the learning?”

Along the way, we’ll see children…

  • pressing forward in creative or generative pursuits,
  • begin to explore personal interests or passions,
  • take up learning for the enjoyment of it.

Then, we’ll breathe into that extraordinary potential and smile…

For the sake of the children,