Last semester, an article called “Your Life in 2033” led to a lively discussion with middle-schoolers in the ‘Junto’ class. In the weeks that followed I began to imagine what Explorers will look like in 2033. Specifically, what our roles will be, and how our thinking will need to change if we are to create a co-op experience that is not just relevant, but essential to students of the future.
Central in this conversation is the idea that information will increasingly be absorbed through online resources. When kids have free, instant access to the best minds in any field, they won’t need teachers in their immediate environment to dispense information. With every fact and formula conceived or recorded by humanity already at their fingertips, parents will be drawn to an organization that focuses on empowering kids through interactive experience. In other words, lectures are out.
This means we’ll need to start thinking of ourselves as facilitators rather than teachers in a traditional sense. Subjects that tend to use lecture as a default format (history) will still be taught in classroom settings, but they will look really different. Academic content will be learned at home, and then mastered by participating in classroom activities that emphasize critical thinking, creativity, and skillful communication.
Then, as we watch these lessons unfold, there will be various opportunities to coach our students. We’ll help them understand themselves by showing them their strengths and weaknesses manifesting in real situations. We’ll point out how their words and actions are being perceived by others. We’ll protect their capacity to dream by expressing the potential we see in them. A powerful transfer of enthusiasm will take place, not just a transfer of facts.
Re-imagining our teaching responsibilities seems a bit scary at first; the time-honored tradition of teaching facts makes us feel like we’re doing something valuable. It’s safe. But when we outsource that job, we’ll find that our new roles are more engaging, better suited to us, and more instrumental to the success of our kids.
The first step in implementing these ideas is to build better awareness of what’s happening in our classrooms already. We ought to regularly ask ourselves: Is what I’m doing right now easily replaceable? If I had put a video on, would the kids in my class have learned any less? Did anyone have an empowering experience in my class today? Did anyone learn anything about themselves? Sometimes, we won’t like the answers, but that’s okay. Just asking the questions will put us ahead of the game.
When we see better ways forward, we should put our trademark homeschooling fearlessness to work by adopting them immediately. While schools are bogged down by inertia, we are free to adapt quickly to changing times and create all kinds of advantages for our kids. Let’s set the pace!