World is changing, so how we teach kids should change too

Last week was the start of the new school year. More than just a new set of classes and teachers, my son came home with a whole new schedule. It was a little perplexing, to be honest.

Every Wednesday is now a collaboration day, so he starts an hour later. He gets “flex time” most days to do his schoolwork or work on a passion project (sorry, Xbox not included). His calendar didn’t look that heavy. I was starting to think that things were pretty easy for him at school this year.

Education for all kids up to Grade 9 is changing this year to a more independent learning system. Government and teachers designed this new system, which looks very different than before. That’s not the way I learned.

When I was in Grade 2, the school tried something new — free play. We got the mornings to do whatever we wanted, and had a little instruction in the afternoons. It was a blast as a kid, although I don’t know if I learned anything that year. My parents weren’t too happy about it. It didn’t last past the one year. Grade 3 was a whole different world for me.

I was thinking about my experience when I was looking at my son’s calendar. This isn’t the way my other kids learned either. What the heck is going on?

But as I thought about it a bit more, I calmed down. Sure, this is a different way of learning, but the world is a lot different than when I grew up. I get a kick out of telling people about my first day in a professional job seeing a fax machine and being fascinated by it. My kids don’t like it when I tell that story.

If we continue to teach kids as we were taught, even just a few years ago, we are doing them a disservice. There’s a study floating around that states more than half of the jobs a child in Grade 1 will have when they are an adult don’t even exist yet. Scary.

I trust the people involved know what they are doing, that they want my child to succeed just as much as I do. I’m not going to second-guess them, they have a responsibility and I leave it in their hands to deliver and ask questions along the way.

Regardless of how kids learn, I believe school is for shaping their brains. I don’t know many kids who leave high school and remember much of what they learned. What they do take away is the inspiration they got from a teacher.

Not the one that yelled at them, or gave them a hard time when an assignment wasn’t done on time, or complained about their handwriting (it doesn’t get any better with time, believe me).

They’ll remember the teacher who listened to them, supported them, encouraged them and respected them. That’s who will inspire kids into their adult life, more than grades or awards.

People might not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. If this new system encourages kids to feel empowered, confident and responsible, I’m all for it.

Makes me wish I could go back to high school. Almost.

Brad Sherwin, MBA has over 25 years’ experience in marketing, public relations and business strategy. He is currently the director of marketing for a national non-profit organization.

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