I am, by occupation, an educator. Although by any other definition I am a father, husband, son, brother, writer, programmer, designer, founder, maker, coach, etc. You most likely fall into similar categories, and even though most of society defines us by our occupation, it’s nice to know that our family and friends usually define us in a variety of other ways besides what we do for a living. That being said, I care about education more than it being my occupation.
Schooling (for me) is still one of the last remaining communal experiences. It is an experience that billions of people around the world share to some degree. We have either gone to school, go to school, or hope to go to school. It doesn’t matter if you were a valedictorian or a drop-out, school is a conversation that many can take part in, and share opinions about. I realize there are kids around the world who don’t have the opportunity to go to school, but for most there is some type of option available. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a country where education (and schooling) is seen as a “human right”. I’ve also had the opportunity to help build a school in a country (Swaziland) where education is moving from a “privilege” to a “right”. In both countries, the topic of education is on the minds of many as we look forward to future generations.
As a college student I made my decision to become an educator because it is a communal experience, and because I still see it as the great equalizer. It can be a bridge out of poverty. It allows for truth to be spread, and ideas to flourish. It gives power to the people, and knowledge to the masses. Education doesn’t really end with schooling, instead schooling is the foundation for the rest of our education.
This is why I care about education. It may be only an occupation to some, but to me it’s part of who we are and who we will become.
This is why I’m incensed by what education has become in many areas of the world including parts of the US. Seth Godin said in his book, Stop Stealing Dreams: “School has become an industrialized system, working on a huge scale, that has significant byproducts, including the destruction of many of the attitudes and emotions we’d like to build our culture around.”
How can “school” be so different than “learning”? Kids like learning. Teenagers enjoy learning. Adults still continue learning. We all can attest that learning something new, and something that we are interested about, can be one of the most rewarding experiences. Yet, true learning doesn’t come in an industrialized system…
This is why I care about Intellectual Curiosity. True learning comes from someone first being intellectually curious. It does not come from a teacher (or anyone else) saying, “Hey, this is what you need to learn because you are going to be tested on it.” It comes from inquiry-driven, experiential learning. It comes from questions and not just answers. It comes from leaders who realize students should learn to think, and from teachers who not only allow for students to think critically, but actually challenge them to go further and deeper.
Leaders, challenge your teachers to cultivate inquiry-driven learning experiences.
Teachers, challenge your students to not just think outside the box, but cover every square inch of the box.
Students, if your school isn’t allowing you to think, experiment, and create — then don’t be held back. Take Mark Twain’s advice and keep moving forward. Keep learning.