Updated: Apr 6, 2019
The best way to predict the future is to create it. ~Peter Drucker
As we look to 2019 and consider new goals for the coming year, let’s think BIG - really BIG. Addressing a crowd in Houston, Texas in 1962, President John F. Kennedy stated, “We choose to go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” The speech was intended to motivate America to support the Apollo mission to land a man on the moon. He invoked a sense of urgency to explore new frontiers, embrace innovation and for the U.S. to create our own destiny. The audacious goal that was eventually realized in July 1969 with the Apollo 11 mission.
As educators, we need to be bold and take our shot at going to the moon. A moonshot is firmly focused on the future and drives your organization to realize what is possible. It addresses a problem, proposes a solution and leverages resources and best thinking to achieve the goal. The sense of urgency to innovate and create new opportunities where all students can succeed is NOW. And while there are barriers and challenges, innovating our current practices is where we should invest our time and energy. We are creating the future, one child at a time.
I have defined three areas that I encourage us to embrace for 2019 and beyond. In many cases, achievement of these goals will require out of the box thinking and exploration into new ways to educate students for the future. However, based on their impact for student learning, engagement and growth, I believe we cannot wait any longer.
Deeper Learning for ALL
In order to prepare students to be future ready we need to focus on the competencies and skills that will be required for success in college, career, and life. The Future of Jobs Report, published by the World Economic Forum, outlines the top 10 skills needed for 2020 graduates. Top of the list is Complex Problem Solving.
We must move beyond the rush to cover content for a standardized test and design deeper learning experiences where ALL students are provided opportunities to grapple with BIG ideas, challenges, and issues. These experiences must not be reserved for the gifted students or those that are taking higher level coursework. Learning experiences that are authentic, relevant, and involve real-world problem solving should be the foundation of our curriculum. The design is first and foremost standards-based and leverages eight design principles to create a learner-centered instructional model. We must reimagine the learning experience, environment, and culture to focus on higher expectations for all students to become, not just ready to thrive in the future, but to be truly ready for anything!
Social Emotional Learning
It is hard to consider social emotional learning a moonshot as it is more a moral imperative. I list it as a moonshot because it is a long-term goal that requires us to reconsider our role as educators. We have always been focused on academics, but we must now balance, more intentionally, addressing the well-being of our students. Weaving social and emotional learning into the fabric of our schools is just the beginning and addresses, in large part, the foundation of relationships and connecting with each student. We must educate the heart and the mind to help students navigate the world more effectively.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) provides a framework for addressing five core competencies needed to be successful in school and beyond. Explicitly teaching, modeling, and providing opportunities for guided practice develop skills into competencies that students can use in any given situation. These are not simply once a week advisement lessons. These must be integrated into lessons throughout the day / week / year and impact the overall school culture, for both students and staff.
Our students are facing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation. We must consider social emotional learning on a continuum. The five competencies above address the needs of all students, similar to Tier I core instruction, but we need to equip our faculties to address more pressing needs. Students who have experienced trauma or those who are not mentally well need a different level of support. This is not a skillset taught in colleges of education and it cannot be solved in schools alone. This is an all hands-on-deck issue and requires communities to conduct a resource round-up to determine where students can receive a services such as evaluations, residential care, crisis counseling and more. It requires that educators know and recognize signs that students are in need and have a plan to swiftly respond. We must focus on why we became educators. For most of us it was for our love of children. Our love of content and teaching came second. Let’s put those back in the right order once again – Maslow before Bloom’s. Placing the basic needs of our students first will only accelerate the learning.
Teaching has never been as challenging as it is today. While we are learner-centered organizations, we need to invest in the work of our educators. The research is clear, the more teachers believe that their collective work has impact, the better the results for our learners. This assertion is supported by a 1.57 effect size for collective teacher efficacy (CTE) that is 3 x more powerful that social-economic status and 2 x more powerful that prior achievement. (Hattie, J., 2015).
There are three areas that I believe need our continued focus:
1) Instructional Coaching: Professional athletes have coaches, why not professional educators? The benefit of coaching is providing feedback and modeling needed to improve our craft. All teachers and leaders need and deserve a coach that focuses on their personal growth and development. The return on investment is improved high quality teachers and leaders. Need I say more?
2) Professional Learning Design: It’s not just about the time for learning. It’s about the learning experience. Just as the student learning experience must be designed for impact, so too should the adult learning experience. We need to create collaborative environments where innovation and risk-taking are valued. Where teachers can design, deliver, and reflect on what works and what needs revision.
3) Educator Self-Care: As stated previously, teaching and leading is hard work. Often, our staff are dealing with the same hardships as our students. We must create balance and promote the well-being of the adults in our organizations. We can’t serve students when our own cup is empty. Help staff create a self-care plan and offer strategies for balancing life and work such a creating staff check-ins, promoting mindfulness, and offering wellness PD.
So, what will be your moonshot in education?
How will you embrace 2019 and beyond?
Your impact, as an educator, knows no measure.
Go forth and be BOLD, be BRAVE, and be AWESOME!