Purpose of School | Steve Barkley

Purpose of School

Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing WorldI recently came across the work and thoughts of Valerie Hannon and Amelia Peterson, the authors of Thrive: The Purpose of School in a Changing World.

As is my usual approach, I’ll ponder around my initial exploration out loud in this blog.

The authors suggest that “thriving” requires us to rethink our ideas about what it means for schools to generate success for learners. To what extent are schools focused on the beliefs that:

  • Success is mastering subject-based academics.
  • Success is getting qualifications…..good grades.
  • Success is getting into college because the degree is a key qualification to get a good job.

A very quick search led me to identify that IBM, Google, QBurst, Tesla, Apple, and Penguin Random House are guided by the thought that, “A company that hires only degree-holders is limiting its hiring pool.”

James De Roche, the managing partner at Lead Comet, said his company bases salaries on potential team members’ abilities and the value they can provide for the client and organization. “Degrees do not influence this process. Can the candidate think independently? Do they take initiative? Do they care about the success of the client? Do they think outside of the box? These are the kinds of people we want on our team.

If you decide to hire an employee without a degree, pay them the same as candidates who did go to college.

“They are not less valuable, nor worth less than someone who did (graduate from college) When a candidate is the right fit for a company and its needs, they should be paid equally, not based on degree or which school they did or did not attend.”  (Vicki Salemi)

Hannon, in a blog titled How to get the schools we need? Rethink their Purpose describes the need to seek a different set of learning goals.

…..goals that honor and enable academic excellence, for sure; but which also recognize fully the need for everyone to learn in different domains. These include learning how to live sustainably and in harmony with your natural environment; learning how to contribute to creating equitable democratic societies; learning how to make and sustain great relationships; learning how to take care of yourself and your mental well-being. These need to be at the very heart of what schools are about – not in the periphery.

“Not in the periphery” Those words rang out for me. As we have identified the need for students to gain critical skills and mindsets, we tried to add them on to the existing curriculum rather than considering how the existing curriculum supports or doesn’t support the identified needs.

holding future in skyAs I read more and watched some YouTube presentations I connected with the concept of ‘future focus’ being less about trying to predict the future and more about creating the future that we need and/or want. Hannon identifies four areas of focus that need to be considered for a future of thriving in a rapidly transforming world:

  • Our planet – How do we look to create a thriving planet? What is our global impact?
  • Our communities – Our communities impact our ability to thrive; how do we impact our communities?
  • Our relationships – “Great lives depend on great relationships.” (Hannon) Interpersonal connections are critical in each of the aspects of thriving.
  • Ourselves – Knowing ourselves and how to care for ourselves is a starting point. Well-being physically and mentally are key.

As I listened to Hannon describe some of the skills and mindsets students would need for thriving ( communication, creativity, resilience, empathy, mindfulness, adaptability, etc.) I connected with my thinking about student learning production behaviors. What do students need to do and experience in order to develop these skills and mindsets? Having identified learning production behaviors, teachers are ready to engage in the challenging and rewarding tasks of being learning designers.

There is a great example that Tom Hoerr shared with me in a podcast concerning students developing empathy.

He described Daniel Goldman’s three levels of empathy. Consider what students would need to do and experience to develop at each level.

  • There is a cognitive level that is simply knowing, learning, and understanding. (What is empathy?)
  • There is an emotional empathy level where you really understand and appreciate it because you delved deeply into it. (What does empathy feel like?)
  • The third step is motivational – Empathy drives me to action, to do something, and get involved. (Think of students working with a local food bank)

So What?

I’m wondering about the value of teachers being able to spend some time identifying students’ current learning production behaviors and identifying connections to thriving futures. What if individual teachers spent an hour walking through classrooms and identifying what they saw and heard students doing. Then, generated a collective list of those observations and decided where opportunities are in place for building skills and mindsets for global, community, interpersonal and intrapersonal thriving. Lastly, examine what opportunities they want to add.

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Blog: Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Listen to Steve Barkley’s Latest Podcast

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Academy for Educators

Become an expert in instructional coaching, blended and online learning strategies, engaging 21st Century learners, and more with online PD from PLS 3rd Learning.
Learn more

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email