Two of my favorite TED Talks on this topic are from Sir Ken Robinson and Seth Godin. Both are below.
And if you want Seth’s free e-book on the topic, you can download Stop Stealing Dreams, for free.
The pandemic disrupted the school model and forced it to change.
Some of the changes that we should keep:
- Using technology in meaningful ways to support analog approaches.
- Teachers have stretched and taken risks they previously would not have tried.
- Some students have thrived in this setting because they don’t face bullying and other negative social interactions that go undetected in the classroom.
- Classes that incorporated the students’ realities saw an improvement in engagement.
- School staff have grown in empathy. The pandemic forced them to recognize and wrestle with how the students’ physical surroundings impact their learning.
- We found that school doesn’t have to be an 8 period day from 8am to 3:30pm. Classes also don’t have to meet every single day.
What I would change about the school model after decades in the industry
- We don’t need standardized tests. Colleges are moving away from using them as a Hogwarts-sorting-hat because they are inherently biased and a poor indicator of college success.
- Refrain from asking questions that can be answered on Google. Focus on project-based and problem-based learning. If schools solved interesting problems in the community, engagement would increase, achievement would soar, discipline issues would disappear.
- Offer more cross-departmental classes. Instead of thinking of separate subjects, how do we look at an idea, an event, a challenge from the perspective of every discipline?
- Invest in critical thinking. Far too many people believe that the 2020 election was stolen and subscribe to conspiracy theories like QAnon. Also on this point, teach kids how to use social media as a tool, rather than being a tool for social media.
- Increase the cultural relevance of the curriculum.
- Teach courses like emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, empathy, financial literacy, and other real-life skills.
- Incorporate more job-embedded opportunities within the school day: internships, mentorships, and the ability to earn college credit.
- Teacher unions, stop protecting the worst teachers. School districts, take care of their people with better salaries, benefits, and working conditions.
How would you build your dream school? What some of my podcast guests have said.
I host a podcast that discusses education and leadership. The Better Leaders Better Schools’ podcast launched in 2015. Today there are 100s of episodes and millions of downloads.
At the end of nearly every podcast I ask the guest the same final question:
You’re building a school from the ground up. You’re not limited by any resources. Your only limitation is your imagination. How would you build your dream school and what would be your top 3 priorities?
I love this question as a thought experiment. The constraint of resources exists in building any school, but by removing it, my guests are challenged to dream.
It is my hope that the listeners of the show are inspired by the answers and can find ways to take action on the bold ideas, even if it is in a tiny way.
I believe small steps can lead to big improvements.
In a blog post I wrote, “10 ways to build better schools,” I share more ideas on how schools could change and improve.
I also offer a free download: how the guests of my top 25 downloaded episodes answer the question of building their dream school.