Educational Practices for the Past, the Future, and Humans (2018)


Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

We’re already wrapping up the first month of 2018, and I’m reflecting on where 1/12th of the year has gone. Time marches quickly, which gives me reason to think about shaking things up.

What will you decide to do with your 2018, so that months don’t fly by without preparing your school for the future?

In this post, I’ll share:

  • Why Human-Centered Education is a Must for 2018
  • Steps to Ready Your School for the Future
  • Educational Practices that Deserve to Die

As the months fly by, what steps are you taking to shape your school for the future?

Why Human-Centered Education is a Must for 2018

I listened to Jay-Z’s recent interview about President Trump and walked away chewing on a quote (politics aside):

It’s not about how much money you make – Treat me badly, but pay me well – It’s about how well you treat people.

In an American climate where criticism, tribalism, and distrust run rampant, more than ever, educational environments are places where we can create our own climate.

Your school is a protected environment where students learn about reality, reflect on human interactions, and learn to forge a better future. But it starts with leadership.

Leadership sets the tone, communicates the vision, and determines what is acceptable. Are you establishing a human-centered workplace and learning environment on campus? Here are a few catalyst questions:

  • How do I show my appreciation of my people during daily conversations?
  • How do I show relatability to my team or reports?
  • How do I value the backstories of my students and families?
  • How do I communicate the school’s vision on a frequent basis and in a variety of ways?
  • Does our school’s vision align with bettering the lives of staff members, students, and families?
  • Do I find ways to connect and build community?
  • Am I building connections more than crestcre competitive opportunities for win/lose?
  • Do I enlarge circles of trust, rather than promulgating fear, intimidation, or anxiety?

So, in the spirit of Jay-Z,

It doesn’t matter what your test scores are, if your people aren’t treated well.

Is Your School Ready for the Future?

You saw Amazon’s new store, right? Well, cameras, scanners, and cell phones replace the need for cashiers and registers.

You’ve heard of the mission to Mars from Sir Elon? Humans on Mars in the next few years. Colonies in the next few decades.

Outdated schooling is a constant nemesis. We need drastic shift measures to be future-ready.

Here are four essential steps.

Step One: Human-Centered Workforce

Expect a human-centered workforce. The dawn of the social age has taught us one thing – people need connection and deserve to be valued as humans.

Step Two: Awaken Shared Vision of the Future

Remember that MEd graduate course on a shared vision? Everyone knows about those beautiful vision planning document that collects dust and sits on a webpage that no one visits.

Is your campus vision shared? Is it alive and awake on campus?

Does your shared vision force a future-ready transformation in the next 3-5 years? Will your vision create a school that looks altogether different and better?

There are small steps to take now, which in short time, can reawaken your vision.

Start with spring planning meetings to provide opportunities for open-decision making and refine your shared vision. Then hit the ground running in the Fall of 2018 with an awakened shared vision for your school. It starts now.

Step Three: Serious About STEAM

Get serious about STEAM. Standardized curricula are here to stay at least for another year or two, so how can you get seriously innovative about integrating more science, technology, engineering, art/design, and math.

You’re already integrating more STEAM initiatives and programs? Then the question is not how to do more, but how do you make it more meaningful? That is, how to use STEAM to make real-life student contributions in your community.

Step Four: Question the Four Core

Language, Math, Science, and Social Studies have been around a long time. Two conclusions can be drawn: they’re here for good reasons, or it’s time to think about them leaving.

I’m not completely in the boat of the second conclusion. However, it is time to begin questioning the four core courses in our standardized curriculum. Here are a few to get you thinking:

  • Why are reading and literature a courses through 12th grade?
  • Are there other, more meaningful courses to provide the same skills?
  • Why isn’t coding a core language?
  • If thinking-skills are the reason we teach advanced math to all, then wouldn’t it make more sense to teach logic and philosophy instead?
  • We live in the information age, why then does science only comprise one of the four courses?
  • Why do historical facts rule the roost when sociology, human psychology, and emotional intelligence are way more meaningful to happy and successful living?

Does your shared vision actually force a future ready transformation over the next 3-5 years?

Educational Practices that Deserve to Die

2018 is the year to slay certain educational practices and leave them in the dust heap of history (nothing magical about 2018, just better now than later).

The following practices do not create equitable learning opportunities for all students. They do not ensure the level of integration needed for future innovation.

This is a short list because while some practices are less than effective in general, it’s just too dogmatic to give the universal slay to some practices, which may be effective in some settings.

Without further ado, let’s slay…

First to Die: Standardized Curriculum

We have the technology, the assessment tools, and research to support a move to personalized curricula.

Second to Die: Achievement/Standardized Testing

Achievement testing is a valuable tool for academically oriented students, but life (thankfully) is not academics. Life is so much more than academics. School too. There’s so much more to be assessed instead of what we currently measure in standardized testing. (Read more here in the Future of Assessment: Undoing the Unintended Consequences of Standardized Assessment

Third to Die: Tendency to Mediocrity

Many of our outdated evaluation systems, outdated accountability systems, traditional grading practices, and improvement planning techniques lend themselves to the broadscale central tendency.

(Read more on Outlier Teachers)

Early Death to [Erroneous] Standards-Based Grading

It’s great to see entire school systems moving to standards-based grading including the use of learning scales, progressions, and learning targets. However, I’ve seen some districts already over-swinging the pendulum, and standards-based grading could quickly become synonymous with inaccurate assessment practices. Beware of erroneous grading practices that “ease up” on our standards of accuracy.

Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts? What educational practices need to die in 2018? How can you better prepare your school for the future? Feel free to comment below.