In September I invited the parents in my school district to join me in reading Tony Wagner’s text The Global Achievement Gap. As you may recall from my early blogs the Wagner text speaks to the Seven Survival Skills necessary for students to be successful in the 21st Century. He talks about why schools - even the best schools - are failing in this regard. He also talks about what needs to happen to change the educational paradigm rooted in an industrial education model which is ineffective and obsolete.Wagner was the key note speaker today in Boston at the Learning and the Brain Conference and the message is resonating with educators and social scientists from across the country.
In recent weeks, my conversations with parents have been fascinating, enlightening and encouraging. I am learning that parents:
- · Are passionately interested in the education of their children
- · Value innovation and creativity over teaching to the test
- · Wish that we would talk more about engaging students in learning and not engaging them to take tests
- · Believe that if students are learning to be critical thinkers, adept problem solvers, collaborative work partners, influencers, leaders and self-directed learners …..the tests will take care of themselves.
- · Embrace the philosophy of the International Baccalaureate program but would like to understand more about it
- · Want to understand how they can engage meaningfully with our teachers and administrators; especially at the middle and high school; understanding that there is a changing dynamic at these levels but still a place for them to be active and valued as parents
- · Believe that there are many extraordinary teachers in our schools and strongly support all efforts to give teachers the professional development resources necessary to grow and develop their skills
- · Understand that they can and do play a critical role in maintaining the necessary community support for our schools especially in these challenging economic times
- · Agree that we need to do more to improve technology resources and the use of technology in our classrooms to enhance the instructional program
Although our book chats always begin with discussion of the Wagner text, we quickly move on to parent perceptions, experiences, concerns and hopes for growth in our schools. As one parent expressed recently, “I felt like I was part of a ‘think tank’ and we were thinking together about how we could explore ideas for richer experiences and improvements.”
Parents need to be partners in learning. Educators need to embrace instead of exclude them.