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Were You Ever a Child???

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast time, I posted about the Platinum Rule for leaders:
“Treat others in the way they would like to be treated”

I’d like to suggest a twist on it for those whose decisions affect children in our public schools:
“Would you want your own child in a classroom following these policies? How would you have fared as a student?”

For one thing, this simple data item–our own values around a policy–would halt debates on topics such as “Do students benefit from recess?” “Should a first-grader be asked to sit still for a three-hour test?” I think we could answer these with the question, “Were you ever a child?”

But more important, we need to have students as excited on their first day of their senior year as they are on their first day of kindergarten.Why? Because their learning has only just begun. To really make it in today’s world, no matter what they learned in school, they will have to keep learning their entire lives. Cultivating a love of learning is as, if not more, crucial as any content matter.

Let’s ask ourselves

  • Could I have sat still that long?
  • Was I ready for such tasks at that age?
  • How would I have reacted to a school day with no art, music, physical education, woodworking, etc.?
  • When did I learn the most? Why?
  • What knowledge have I used?
  • What motivated me to learn to learn on my own?

But we can’t stop there. We need to compare answers because we aren’t all interested in or motivated by the same things. And we need to make sure there’s room for every child to become a lifelong learner, perhaps not worrying too soon about whether what they’re learning is directly applicable to being part of the global economy. As we move to implementing the Common Core State Standards, is there room for a child’s interests? And especially, for the one-off children, the ones whose interests may not be in the standards?

Time travel.001

Real-life example. That’s my son, whose 5th-grade teacher let him explore time travel for the science fair. I can picture teachers saying that science fiction isn’t appropriate for science fair, especially in a STEM world. It certainly wasn’t on the suggested topic list. Note that he found the whole topic so fascinating that he needed no prompting from Mom, Dad or teacher to finish on time. Isn’t that what we’re after?

Let’s remember that our own memories and reactions ARE data and give them an appropriate place in education decisions. What other questions should we be asking that tap the wisdom of our own childhoods?

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Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

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