What do you want for your kids? Think about that for a minute… We’ll come back to that question.
Here is another question posed by one of my high school parents: “[Do] you have any thoughts on helping and not hindering our kids with struggle? … I’m a believer that the struggle is where we all grow and that allowing our kids to fail and struggle is essential.” We’ll come back to that one in a just minute too…
As noted last time I updated my blog, I wasn’t entirely sure if I would agree with the authors of this new text I started reading. Part of my concern was whether or not the ideas set forth in the text would reinforce or contradict the work we do as a college prep high school. But as I started to read chapter 1 of the text this past week, I came across some very encouraging thoughts. What Wagner and Dintersmith suggest not only addresses both of the previous questions but also suggests that we are doing something very right here at SkyView.
When Wagner and Dintersmith asked parents what they wanted most for their children, the answer was nearly unanimous: “I just want my child to be happy.” But then Wagner and Dintersmith note that much of what we do in schools is actually “counterproductive” to achieving that. We “fail to provide them with relevant or engaging challenges during their four years in high school. We ingrain in kids that the key to success in life is getting into a great college, but then parents are amazed when their child feels completely inadequate after a few rejection letters. … in today’s world, there is no longer a competitive advantage in knowing more than the person next to you because knowledge has become a commodity available to all with the swipe of a finger” (p. 20).
As I reflect on that, I think that what I am hearing is this: many schools have become too obsessed with basic knowledge and facts, lacking focus on creating meaningful challenges (dare I say, meaningful struggle) that might actually help students to become successful (and by extension, happy). But that then just creates another question: what should schools be doing to help challenge students? …and how do we help students to embrace that struggle?
Fortunately, the text provides an answer to both of these questions suggesting that schools must be teaching students how to “ask great questions, critically analyze information, form independent opinions, collaborate, and communicate effectively” (p. 20). None of this is easily achieved by way of a multiple choice test–it takes hard work, patience, dedication, and struggle.
This intrigues and encourages me. First, I believe that this text will likely explore the implications of this for this schools (especially high schools)–and that should be a very interesting journey. Second, we are already doing this at SkyView! We are already working diligently to teach our students how to “ask great questions, critically analyze information, form independent opinions, collaborate, and communicate effectively.”
As educators, parents, or students at SkyView, we should be delighted to know that we are already preparing our kids for the innovation era. We are helping them learn to think critically and collaboratively about the world around them, seeking solutions to new and previously-unknown problems. This is teaching them how to battle through struggle–perhaps even embrace it–and to utilize failure as a launching pad to new learning.
I can’t say for sure where the authors are going to go from here. But I do hope to learn a new thing or two about how we might continue to improve the formula for success that we are currently using at SkyView.
Wagner, T. and Dintersmith, T. (2015). Most likely to succeed, preparing our kids for the innovation era. New York: New York.