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Preparing kids to change the rules

News Herald – Juliann Talkington


U.S. children are less creative than they were 30 years ago. Many people attribute this decline in inventiveness to over-scheduling of organized activities and emphasis on high-stakes testing and rote learning. These factors may be part of the reason children are unimaginative, but minimal exposure to “failure” and limited life experiences also keep U.S. kids from reaching their full creative potential.

To create, a person must be comfortable “failing” because “trial and error” is part of the innovative process. Many U.S. children are uncomfortable with “failure” because they have little exposure to it. In many cases, well-intentioned parents shield their kids from life’s tough lessons, because it is easier to solve problems for their children than to spend the time and energy necessary to help their children learn how to solve problems on their own.

Among other things, parents negotiate with coaches to get their children places on the best teams rather than encouraging their kids to work hard and talk with the coaches themselves. Parents talk with principals to negotiate grades rather than forcing their children to take responsibility for their performance. Too frequently, parents complain about “bullying” when another kid says something unkind on the playground rather than teaching their children how to overcome negativity.

As a result, the first thing parents need to do is set expectations and let their children learn by doing. This requires letting go and being available to coach as their children work to recover from life’s setbacks. Through this process children learn that there are consequences to actions, “failure” is a part of life, and success requires perseverance. Specifically, when things don’t work perfectly the first time, one can make adjustments until “failure” becomes “success”.

Another problem is parents are so worried about safety, that kids are isolated. This means children often lack the exposure required to come up with innovative solutions to a problem. Parents can easily address this issue by encouraging their children to take on activities outside of their peer group. Simple undertakings like participating in discussions with adults, welcoming a foreign exchange student, attending a history lecture, teaching a class, volunteering at the hospital, or working on a special project for a politician, all help broaden exposure.

Once children know how to recover from “failure” and have a broad understanding of how the world works, they should have the skills and the self-confidence to innovate.

The Essential Underpinnings Of Shifting to ‘Modern Learning’

KQED News Mind/Shift – Katrina Schwartz

“Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon are two longtime education activists and reformers who have become increasingly convinced that the current education model is not preparing students for a world in which computers can do much of what humans used to do and in which creative thinking is highly prized. They consult with school leaders around the world for their company Educating Modern Learners. After many conversations they believe education as a system is ripe for a radical shift away from reform efforts that tinker at the edges and towards learning that puts students at the center with agency over what and how they learn.”(more)

How Districts Are Joining the Fight to Close a Troubling Training Gap Among America’s School Leaders

The 74 Million – Emmeline Zhao

“In the months after 9/11, news exploded about patriotic Americans who rushed to join the armed forces to serve their country. But that fateful day in 2001 inspired other kinds of patriots as well, civilians who decided to serve the country in less obvious ways. Christina Grant, for instance, then a recent college graduate, left her cushy, high-paying job at a New York City law firm to become a teacher. “I had this huge crisis of conscience,” she said. “I realized I couldn’t spend my life just making rich people richer.” Grant is now an assistant superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia. At just 38 years old, the former public school student has already taught in charters, opened and closed charter and public schools, worked in big-city education departments, and led a charter management organization.”(more)

Why A School’s Master Schedule Is A Powerful Enabler of Change

KQED News Mind/Shift – Katrina Schwartz

“When Jerry Smith became a principal six years ago he had been teaching for 22 years, so his administrative style is firmly rooted in the belief that the important stuff goes on in classrooms. When he took over Luella High School outside Atlanta, he began thinking about how he could propel fundamental change in what was then a traditional comprehensive high school. When a third of the students and a big chunk of the staff relocated to a new high school the district opened to ease crowding at Luella, Smith knew the moment was ripe for even bigger shifts. “We said we’re going to put anything and everything on the table and try to do this differently,” Smith said. He was appalled that the current system prioritized churning out graduates, many of whom weren’t actually “college and career ready — life ready,” as the school’s mission statement boldly pronounces. And, the school certainly wasn’t doing a good job by its gifted students or those who were struggling, Smith said.”(more)

14 classroom management strategies to increase student learning

E-School News – Laura Devaney

“When the right classroom management tools are in place, students are able to learn more as their engagement increases. Focusing on physical classroom management, behavioral management, resources for effective instruction, attendance and gradebook tools, and tools for a school-home connection can help students master classroom lessons.”(more)

The Global Search for Education: What Does It Mean To Be a Great Principal?

The Huffington Post – C.M. Rubin

“Launched today, the OECD’s new report, School Leadership for Learning: Insights from Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2013, specifically looks at different approaches to school leadership and its impact on professional learning communities and on the learning environment in schools. The findings are representative of 5 million teachers in 34 countries. The ingredients that make up an excellent learning environment often vary from school to school, country to country, and culture to culture. But what every great school has in common is great leadership. So what does it mean to be a great principal? Should principals be dictators of their schools? Should they lead by example? Should they be visionaries or merely implementers of a policy they have no part in shaping? Instructional leadership (practices that involve the planning, evaluation and improvement of teaching and learning) and distributed leadership (a reflection of leadership being shown by the principal, but also of others acting as leaders in school) are seen as conducive to student learning.”(more)