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Whose Eyes?

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with several other people at a local university for a round-table conversation on innovation. What made this meeting unique was the fact it included the perspectives of people from several different sectors including healthcare, business, higher education, etc. I’m still processing much of what we discussed, but wanted to share a quick story and a couple of preliminary thoughts.

One thing I appreciated about our time together was that it was focused on questions that impacted the entire group in different ways. The university facilitators provided several questions in advance of our meeting, and this allowed us to have a more free-flowing dialog when the group met together. I added a couple of the questions below.

When an environment invests in innovation what problem are we trying to solve?

What is the role of student thinking in innovative environments?

Although our focus was innovation in education, the entire group was invested in the topic regardless of the sector a person was representing.

I recall listening as a local business person shared how he invests nearly $100,000 annually on entry-level training for new employees. He mentioned that this training focuses on some of the “soft skills” like collaboration and a more networked approach to problem-solving. He was somewhat bewildered that his applicants did not have a base level of competency in many of these areas, but resigned to providing the training since his business requires these skills.

He also mentioned that the training budget was money that would have been (or could be) added to an employee’s paycheck if the employees came with the skills his company needed. I’m not sure it’s relevant, but I’ll also add that the jobs he’s having a difficult time filling are well-paying jobs that do not necessarily require a college degree.

It was a fascinating conversation, and I’m just sharing the cliff notes. This specific story shared by the business person made me think of a similar dilemma we’ve encountered in education. I’ve noticed that some of the skills and pedagogy that’s expected of today’s teachers are not always present in the student-teachers who seek field experience in our schools.

You might be thinking this makes sense since student-teaching is one of the first experiences a new teacher has to develop those skills. I agree to a point. I also think that we should expect some of these skills and dispositions be at least on a student-teacher’s radar after having completed their university undergraduate classes. But why would they be on anyone’s radar if the university professors who are preparing student-teachers for placements are not acclimated to emerging trends, creationary tools, or a connected pedagogy?

The reason I share this is not to point fingers at any university’s teacher-preparation program or college professor. That’s not the point. I think we all play an important role in developing solutions that work for teachers and students. Pointing fingers is not one of those roles. We’re all on the same team, so my point is actually more of a question.

What are the meaningful changes our students (at every level) need us to make to prepare them for success now and into the future?

I think this is a question that needs to be asked (and responded to) with more urgency. As educators, we may feel that we have the luxury of making incremental changes each year and seeing how those changes work with the next group of kiddos we’re serving. (Regardless of whether we’re serving college-aged kiddos or kindergarteners.) I suspect if we looked at the opportunity in front of us through the eyes of our students we would see things very differently.

Perhaps that is the most innovative and empathetic thing we can do.

If you’re interested in this topic, you may want to check out my book, Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Students. The book is chalk full of passion and outlines a pedagogy that serves today’s kids.



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