If history is simply the story that survives, I wonder what the story of the United States educational system will be in 25…50…100 years.
Will it be a tragic story about a country that had so much promise and years of global success, but lost it all because we were unable to adapt to economic changes and a technology explosion? Will other countries remember the U.S. educational system as one that became ineffective and irrelevant because it was unable to prepare students for jobs that no longer came with a clear set of instructions?
Or will it be a story of success characterized by innovation and creative adaptation? A story that depicts educators shifting what it means to be a student and teacher to prepare graduates for heuristic jobs that require motivated, creative problem solvers.
I believe this story will be written by teachers, like me. The education system is a behemoth. Waiting for it to change can feel like standing on the Titanic plunging into the dark night headed for the iceberg. Changes are excruciatingly slow, bureaucracy pollutes priorities and the people making the big decisions do not spend their days inside classrooms. They decide which programs to cut and how many students need to be in each class based on money, not what is best for the students or our educational system.
As Adam Bellow so eloquently stated in his keynote at ISTE, we need to cultivate creativity, encourage students to make things that matter and individualize the classroom experience. I could not agree more. Yet, what I see happening around me is in stark contrast to this vision.
On the flight home from ISTE, I was remembering all of the excited educators roaming the convention center and realized we have to write our story. We are not “just” teachers as Bellow reminded us. We have the power to influence the future with our work. If we want to write a story of success and triumph, we can.
It will require that we also be creative in our approach to teaching and adapt our methodology to cultivate the skills needed for success beyond school. We will need to focus on challenges and tasks that matter, not on exams that are forgotten as soon as our students walk out our door. And, most important of all, we will need to continue learning and taking advantage of every opportunity to grow as individuals and as educators. We will need to take risks, sometimes we will fail, but, ultimately, we need to continue learning.