Kim, Project Manager, Former Assistant Principal & Teacher, Mother of 2, CO
When you think about your children, what would a “good” life be for them? What is the role of school in achieving that?
A good life to me means that Jack and Ryan are reaching the goals that they are setting for themselves and that their education isn’t stalling that, but rather it’s a propeller. If Jack wants to be a mechanic, then he’s gone through school to be a mechanic and it has helped him get there. If he’s unsure, then he shouldn’t have to totally go back and re-do everything, but he should have enough expertise to go back and adjust. I want him to go slow to choose an educational experience to make sure that it’s the right one for the career path that he’s on. He shouldn’t go to school to be a doctor and then want to be a counselor. Then that’s a misstep. So, how can you make sure that the education is aligned to what his goals would be?
How would you want them to discover these goals?
I would hope it’s mutual decision between himself and school--I only know my frame of reference and the school has their own definition. If he has the chance to travel, seeing other people out there, those world experiences will give him as many options as he can and then he will be thinking about what’s good for him. He can decide what his areas of thriving might be. People in schools often set an expectation that you will find a career and a job out there for you, but it’s important to be communicated with, pushing that high expectation of “Who do want to be?” But, the future is so unclear, I just want him to be ready to do something with his life. School should be framing this for him.
Do you think people generally agree with this?
Career connect education is becoming a big thing, especially in high school, getting kids into internships in engineering, business, etc. so they have these experiences. We have these partnerships across Denver with companies, and we ask: “What do you want your graduates to be skilled with?” They all go to the soft skills--collaborators, communicators, problem solvers. That’s what companies want. The kids who lack those softer skills don’t succeed in those ventures. They can teach you Excel and other technical skills; but it’s more expensive to teach someone emotional intelligence.
When you ask parents that they want for their children, they often say they want kids to be optimistic, grateful, curious, optimistic, well-rounded. They won’t say I want them to be a chemist. Maybe it’s because they know that’s what they relied on in their lives; people skills, empathy to be kind, and those soft skills.
Another thing is that we often learn things by doing. If you get past that the branding, “You will go to college. Off you go.” We need to think about how college really is preparing kids for the workplace. It seems that jobs prepare kids more than actually going and learning it.
Do you think schools are doing this currently?
I like to think that schools are doing that. It’s hard to generalize. I think the future is bright for kids, when we think about what kids can be. I don’t think there are many teachers out there that don’t have that growth mindset. Why would you be teaching if you don’t think that anything is possible for these children? In general, kids are happy in schools. However, sometimes schools might get lost in a few things that we need to hash out. For example, there is this push to look at the whole child: do they feel safe? Are we teaching social-emotional learning? Do they feel fit? If children feel like they belong to a community and are safe, they will thrive.