Friday, August 15, 2014

What will the Future Hold for our Students?

This has been a question that has permeated my thoughts all summer long. With the Alberta curriculum changing, (in what I consider really interesting and positive ways) and with the speed of change with technology being practically immeasurable, what will it look like? I participate in several Twitter chats, and one that really gets my gears turning is #whatisschool.  I love the exchange - I leave every chat energized and proud to be in this profession.

Some of the ideas discussed amaze me. Moderators Craig Kemp and Laura Hill stretch the minds of chat participants with questions like, "What will our places and learning spaces look like?" Or this hum-dinger: "How do we prepare kids for jobs we don't know exist?" How about these ones: "What will the skill set be for the future, what are our kids going to be teaching their kids, and what on Earth will they need in their tool boxes?"  The conversation immediately spawns several opinions on the spectrum of pro, con and indifferent to tech. 

Coming from Alberta and schools that have had technology available to them, I have been somewhat spoiled, I suppose. Of course, I am all for the use of technology; but I believe deeply that it is only as useful as the plans you have for it. That is, unless you have chosen and mapped out a purpose for the tech to serve in order to guide students,  it will be about as useful as giving a dog a screwdriver. I have been guilty of this in the past, but have tried earnestly to use tech in more meaningful ways this last year.

One thing I tried with my students this year was using the Minecraft craze to my advantage in French class. My students learn their vocabulary and language, then may choose a variety of project-based assessments to demonstrate their knowledge. For my La Maison unit, kids drew, created from wood/cardboard/marshmallow (I am not even joking) and Minecrafted their homes, then explained them en français. It requires great effort up front, but is a huge hit and kids stay pretty engaged because they are doing what they learned as well as what they love.

In order to pull this off, of course, students received a very explicit rubric and knew exactly what was expected of them well beforehand. I answered every question imaginable in regard to format in that first class. I found it delightfully easy to give good marks because everyone put in a solid effort and had something they were proud of...even the "low achievers." It was all about setting students up up for success.

Now maybe it's the special educator in me, but I am a bit of an idealist. I believe that with enough effort, time and love, every child will feel the glow of success and achievement. And according to Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, that is exactly the point. Kids and adults alike get frazzled trying to grasp that unattainable brass ring of perfection. Dweck's research had shown, unequivocally, that a growth - oriented mindset, rather than a fixed - oriented, talent and luck based mindset, is the true champion in the end. What's the "magic" ingredient? Effort. That's what counts.

I can most certainly admit that I have had a fixed mindset about certain things. I was once told that perfectionism is the teacher disease. I always demanded perfection from myself, yet never expected the same of others. That is setting quite the high standard for myself, n'est-ce pas?

For example, until this summer, I truly believed that I always was and would always be a horrid cook. Was this absolute judgment upon myself substantiated? Yeah, maybe when I was much younger, a few people said things that discouraged me....but lately? No. It really boiled down (excuse the cooking pun) to effort. I was discouraged>I stopped trying>I didn't improve.

In the midst of redefining my goals for myself that put the biggest rocks first, I realized that my lack of cooking "ability" has really been doing a disservice to my family. With the help of my Big Rocks, Dweck's assertion that we all can improve, and my cheer squad of friends and family, I learned how to make twenty new dishes. I just had to suspend my fixed mindset. I had to be willing to try, fall, get up, fall again, try again and most importantly, put in the effort. Et voilà! Suddenly, I'm not so scared to try cooking new things. My family has raved about my new-found skill and confidence in the kitchen. Now I can bring this forth into other parts of my life.

Isn't that what we want our students to be able to do? To be scared that they might fail and try anyway? This, my friends, is the real reason we teach. This is why I question...  #whatisschool supposed to be? What will it be? And most importantly, if we think with an open mind, what could it be? We have the greatest reason in the world to discover the answers - our kids are totally worth it.

Merci beaucoup!
Mme Poulet


  1. Wow thank you so much - amazing read and lovely to be mentioned - it is the crowd that makes it amazing :) we are barely facilitators :) stay connected @mrkempnz and through my blog

    1. Thank you for the comments! You give yourself too little credit. You also have a fun blog that I enjoy reading. Teaching, I believe, needs to be about humility a lot more than is practiced.
      You show that, so thank you!

  2. Amazing article! Very much appreciate your support and even more the effort you put into your craft. Only with eyes, minds and hearts wide ope will we lead todays children to be tomorrows dreamer, leaders, thinkers and creators.

    1. Thank you so much, Laura! I see we are kindred spirits - teachers, bloggers, writers and believers! You have a great blog as well!