Sunday, June 24, 2012

What Year Are You Teaching For?

Dr. Joyce Juntune, professor at Texas A&M University, shared a wonderful story during her TEDxWoodlands presentation last year.  The message of her story was simple and to the point:  What year are you teaching for?

As teachers we often get trapped in the endless cycle of "making it through the day." We have to get to duty, we have to get to the parent conference, we have to get to the next endless staff meeting.  Around and around we go, the students get lost in the never ending show.

Dr. Juntune reminds us that we do not teach for today, we do not teach for next year, we teach for the future.  What we have to ask ourselves, like Dr. Juntune's principal asked her so many years ago, is what are you teaching today that will matter in 30 years?

To illustrate this point Dr. Juntune's principal, clearly entrenched in the habit of Keeping the End in Mind, would have his staff write the number 30 on a sheet of paper. Then each teacher would subtract the average of their students from 30.  For me it would 30 - 11 = 19.

Then the teachers would add that number to the current year:  2014 +19 = 2033.  

Before the meeting was over, each teacher would write on a sheet of paper:

What will I do today that will matter in the year 2033?

Each teacher would post those papers in their room as a daily reminder to make sure they taught something that day that would matter to their students when those students turned 30.

That does not mean we stop teaching with the short term in mind but it helps us remember what Dr. Calvin Taylor at the University of Utah said:  

"Grades alone have zero correlation to future success in life.  It's not what you know that counts, it's what you do with what you know that makes the difference."

And this where creativity comes in to play.  Once the students have the information, let them go and use it, release them to use their creativity to create meaning.  And that is a skill all students are going to need when they are 30.  Information is free; how they use it is the million dollar question.

For more in depth lesson ideas and full unit descriptions pick up a copy of Stand Up! Speak Out! The Social Action Curriculum for Building 21st-Century Skills available from Prufrock Press and Amazon and Barnes & Noble

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