Friday, September 9, 2011

What's New?

And so begins another school year. In the past three weeks, I have participated in one way or another in opening events in 6 school districts. In one I was an opening day keynoter, in another I had students helping me deliver professional development via a systems game to their teachers, and in the others it was straight out pre-student arrival PD about Aspirations. By all accounts, schools have never been busier. It wouldn't be too big a stretch to say that before a single student sat at a desk, administrators and teachers were already feeling behind. They were excited, eager, and energetic and wondering how they had already been lapped when the official starting pistol had yet to be fired.

This year the new entry seems to be 21st Century Skills. But schools are not adopting that effort as a replacement to improving literacy or numeracy--or just coming online science and/or social studies testing. They are not side-lining common core standards or dropping their new anti-bullying program to work on Innovation and Collaboration. 21st Century Skills, the PD associated with it, the time committed to it in classrooms, the effort to assess whether the skills are being taught or not is not being done in lieu of the dozens of other initiatives schools have adopted over the years. It is just being added--some might say "piled"--on.

The big question is: Is this sustainable? All the programs are good programs. All the skills--from traditional literacy skills to the more avant guarde communication--seem critical to teach if our students are to be successful. But where will already breathless educators find the stamina to keep up this pace? One answer is from the students themselves. Not just as inspiration for doing whatever it takes, but also as partners in the effort. That's a goal I have for this year: Helping the schools I support develop deeper and fuller partnerships between teachers and students.

What's new at your school?

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