Last week, we began to dive deeper into the direction our school is moving by examining what our ideal graduate looked like. Instead of focusing on what our 2015 ideal graduate looked like, our staff was challenged with thinking forward to 2025 and what skills and attributes we wanted to see in that graduate. We are continuing the conversation this week, but here were a few of my original take-aways:
1. Moving Skills Forward
Asking people to focus on the future is one of the hardest things to do. We are so consumed by what we know and the present we live in, that many times it feels daunting to think about what’s next. As our staff collaborated on building the ideal graduate of 2025, one teacher pointed out, “many of these things are what we are already doing!” They were right…for the past two decades our school has spent countless hours defining what student outcomes are valuable to us. However, the question here wasn’t that we shouldn’t still focus on these things, but how do we move what we are doing with these skills forward. For example, collaboration is a schoolwide learning outcome that is valuable to what our ideal graduate looks like. The challenge is, as a staff, how do we measure this skill moving forward to be better prepared for our ideal graduate of 2025 starting tomorrow?
2. Considering Job Growth
Out of our discussion around the ideal graduate, the need to involve industry grew ever more apparent. It is true, many of the jobs we know today will continue to evolve and might not exist in 2025. Statistics support that fact that STEM-related jobs will continue to be some of the fastest rising occupations over the last decade. As a room full of educators, we are not experts in industry analysis or understanding the changing nature of the work environment. As we think about the Kindergartners, 1st, and 2nd graders that will soon be in our high school, we have to consider what skills THEY WILL need for the jobs that WILL EXIST when they are our graduates.
3. What We Don’t Yet Know
I love love love having discussions around topics like this. It is so dangerous for us as educators to think past what we have done, what do, and what we know.
I recently watched a great talk from Dr. Tony Wagner about the global achievement gap and he highlights seven skills students must have in the future: critical thinking, collaboration across networks, adaptability, entrepreneurialism, effective communication, analyzing information, and curiosity. Many teachers will challenge that we are already providing access to these skills for our students. That is where the conversation gets tough. We don’t actually know yet what these skills will look like in action in 2025. By our staff at least starting this conversation, we are going to be challenged to see what trends are leading us towards what we don’t know yet.
This viewpoint, along with Andrew McAfee’s TED talk “What will future jobs look like?”, have really challenged me to think about what we are doing today to prepare for our students of the future. This is not an easy thing for myself or our staff here at New Technology High School to do, but the conversation has begun, and that is a start.