For many of us, the summer is a time for a little relaxation and possibly a vacation. This summer, I visited North Carolina for my cousin’s wedding. It’s an eight-hour drive that I have completed many times. I know the exact locations where I want to stop for gas and where I will grab a bite to eat. It’s almost as if I’m on autopilot as I drive; I’m always checking my GPS to provide the latest and greatest route updates for traffic. But if nothing can guarantee a faster trip, I will stay the course.
In education we follow a similar path of habit. Change is hard, and if it is working, we often wonder, why make a shift? Just like my road trip, unless we are certain that another path can lead to success, we do not want to stray. The recurring message at the 2018 Model Schools Conference was that the world is changing. It is our duty to learn how to change course to ensure that all students are ready to succeed in the future.
Below are steps that successful educational leaders and model schools suggest you follow in order to make a difference.
Teach Students to Problem Solve for an Un-Invented Future
Technology that seemed impossible yesterday is now a reality. As we learned in Dr. Bill Daggett’s keynote address, it is plausible that in less than 15 years, we will be able to wear a device that allows us to think of a question, and that thought will cause the device to search for the answer, then transmit the answer back to the brain. This artificial intelligence may seem like science fiction, but these devices are already being designed and tested.
We are no longer living in the industrial age. Students do not need to follow directions step by step to be successful. Successful leaders of today look at problems as a challenge and work diligently to solve them. Just learning content is no longer enough. Students must be able to innovate, question, and solve problems with content they already know. They must also utilize technology to further their knowledge and develop new ideas and innovations. Schools and districts that have shifted to incorporate a blended learning model with an emphasis on problem solving show proven success not only in test scores but also student engagement and excitement about learning.
Build Cultural Awareness and Acceptance
Currently in the United States, 78 percent of all those who are 65 or older are Caucasian. In contrast, only 38 percent of individuals aged one year or less in the U.S. are Caucasian. Our cultural make-up is changing, and we must accept that we have biases (even if unintentional) that were created from sources such as the media, friends, family, places of worship, and school.
To create a more tolerant society, conversations about microaggressions and their impact must be addressed. Keynote speaker Dr. Tyrone C. Howard acknowledges that these conversations are difficult; however, not having the conversation can lead to students feeling unsafe and disrespected in school. When Abraham Maslow’s foundational needs are not being met, students learning at a high level is unlikely to occur. In every innovative district and school session, relationships and trust were key factors to student success.
Teach Students to be Collaborative Critical Thinkers
Across every session at MSC, presenters said students who are career-ready must be able to think critically, connecting previous learning and content knowledge to new challenges. They must also be able to do this while collaborating with others. As teachers, we were trained to follow the “I do, we do, you do” model. Shifting instruction to allow students to learn through trial and error with their peers is difficult. Jennifer Lempp’s Math Workshop model provides a structure for teachers to begin making this shift for students through math stations. Her focus on collaboration in small groups while engaging students in learning through critical thinking is a great place for teachers to start this shift in their instruction.
MSC 2018 reminded me that we are all driving toward the same destination. We want to ensure our students are prepared for the future and can be college- and career-ready. I have also learned that we can no longer be creatures of habit. We must continuously take on the critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills we want our students to master to help us make shifts and ensure all of our students reach the final destination of success.
MSC 2018 has come and gone, but you can hear more thought leaders and speakers at our Leadership Academy 2018: Leading With Vision in Atlanta from Nov. 2–4, 2018.