When will I become irrelevant?

Bezos’ Iconic Laugh

Bezos’ Iconic Laugh (Photo credit: jurvetson)

Change is happening all the time whether we like it or not. It seems that even when a teacher calls himself an agent of change, there is still change that this teacher just cannot deal with.  I pride myself on being an innovative teacher, but I am stuck in my ways just like the next gal.  But if you want to get me going, saying that I am not an innovator, not creative, not flexible, just might get you a punch in the face.

With the move, starting school, grading papers, I had no idea that Jeff Bezos, the Captain of Amazon.com, had purchased the Washington Post.    He is so positive and happy.  Well…just look at him! He is idealistic and believes that innovation and change can save the Post.   I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him.  I had to look away from that bright shiny smile and shake my head.  It is hard for me to not think “Dude!  You are doomed!  Run for your life!  The printed word is dead!!!”

But maybe he just might do it.  Just maybe, he has enough money to give people the free time and space to solve the problem of the printed/online newspaper.  Maybe the editors, the writers, and support staff, will figure out how to transform this staple of hard-hitting investigative reporting into a medium that will be profitable and widely read for years to come.

In a recent interview Bezos said, “It’s important for The Post not just to survive, but to grow…The product of The Post is still great. The piece that’s missing is that it’s a challenged business. No business can continue to shrink. That can only go on for so long before irrelevancy sets in.”

This got me thinking…when does school become irrelevant?  When, will what I’m doing now, no longer help my students in the future?  What Bezos is saying here is equally applicable to teaching.  We don’t just want our kids to survive school; school isn’t something they should “get through.”  We want our kids to grow.  We want kids to be adaptable and flourish in their world.  We want them to be prepared for the future challenges of college and university.  And I want what I’m teaching now to help them be a great contributor in their adult life later.

Yet teachers today in the 21st Century classroom are more inundated than ever with stuff they have to get through.  Teachers around the US are working hard to prepare students for tests at the 4th, 8th, and 10th grade years.  Teachers around the world are preparing students K-12 for IB tests that don’t happen until the end of their 12th grade year.  There is a tremendous amount of pre-testing data, reports, and portfolios to study to see if their teaching is effective.  But is what they are learning relevant?  Did that student grow?  And are our exit tests showing results that accurately show student growth and preparedness for the future?

What teachers need is what Bezos is prepared to give his staff at the Washington Post: Time.  He is paying for time that will allow his staff to sit and talk.  He is paying for time that will allow his staff to brainstorm and solve problems.  He is paying for the opportunity of innovation to happen.  Teachers need this time too.

Districts and private schools should not be spending money on consultants to come in and tell them ways to improve.  Teachers are amazing innovators, so let them innovate.  And in a world that is rushing by at light speed, most schools offer no time to grow and change, no time to sit and solve problems.  Schools are left with too many problems to fix and too many holes to plug.  Because schools have no time to deal with change, they end up doing the quick fix, rather than looking toward long-range solutions.

John Dewey once said “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”  I like this.  It is a good reminder to me that the students I teach are growing into a much different world than I experienced at their age.  The skills they need to meet the challenges they face are not the things I even learned about in University.  In order for me to be my best for them I must continue to change and grow or I will become irrelevant.

More brain candy on this topic of Time and Where Good Ideas Come From:

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