“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Being a teacher is both one of the most difficult and the most rewarding careers that one can pursue. I know – I have been there. The difficulties and challenges hit you first. After having spent years as an engineer, I made a switch to the classroom and I was amazed at the amount of work it takes to conduct a successful one-hour class. Good teachers know that the magic happens in the preparation and through their own commitment to be learners. Both are hard to come by when 5-6 hours every day are spent managing groups of young people and another few hours go towards all the administrative tasks that keeps it all moving along. But we keep looking for that magic time because the rewards are so great. Whether it is a real-time “aha” moment or a thoughtful acknowledgment from a student years later, those young people never fail to remind us that we are building the future.
Educators are subject to all sorts of criticism and they are bombarded by countless new initiatives. There are many reasons for this. We all have a stake in how well prepared our young people are; many people think that sitting in a classroom for 12-16 years has made them experts in terms of how people learn; and the education “industry” is multi-billion dollar market that attracts all levels of interest. But the system is enormous, and it is multi-facetted. Inertia is high due to both its size and its many impacts. Change will take time. And I am convinced it must start at the heart of the system – with our teachers. They are the artists who understand how all the pieces need to fit together to create that magic that supports learning for all. When a new initiative values their talent and expertise, it finds a way into their classrooms. When they can manage change in the highly dynamic classroom environment that is their reality, change happens. This means that you need to start with what you have and focus on evolution, not revolution.
That is the motivation behind my newly released book “Designing the Future”. It is meant to give the many teachers I have worked with and those who I have yet to meet some ideas, resources, and actual means to get that change started. It is my way of giving back to the many inspiring teachers and students that I have had the honor to learn with. It is a road map of first steps on a very challenging journey. And I can promise you that there will be many rewards along the way. It is not about why or what we need to change; it is about how you can make that change part of your classroom.
We all hope for a better future. Our teachers are the ones who will build it.
"Bring the real world into your classroom. It needs to be there because the students you are teaching today are our future. They will be faced with developing solutions to a wide range of problems and designing technologies to improve our lives and safeguard the planet. They will have to make decisions about products, processes, and situations we cannot begin to imagine. They will need to be innovative, entrepreneurial, and able to adapt so they can be productive, happy members of society… As a teacher, you can take steps to close the gap between your classroom and the world outside. Connect concepts, embed skills, and model the process of creative problem-solving with engineering design. Centuries ago, students went to school to find out. They learned facts and figures and were exposed to scholarly works. As teachers, we need to think about re-engineering our goals; we need to think of our role as enabling students to figure out what they need to know."