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Every Student: An Individual

This past week I have been honored to be at the TEDActive Conference in Palm Springs, CA.   The folks at TED are launching a new website for education and they invited some amazing educators to attend and help them with their upcoming launch.  First of all, I want to say thanks to the folks at TED and to Kohl’s department store for providing us this opportunity.  It was a mind-expanding week of learning and connecting. 

Though the TED talks were amazing, what was more amazing was the time to chat and get to meet and share ideas with a wide variety of people.  I met someone who worked on the Human Genome Project.  I met CFO’s and CEO’s, doctors, technology leaders, and hedge fund managers. 

But, one of my best connections was with one of the security guards at the conference.  Mark told me how he hadn’t seen his wife and 12 year old daughter for a week because he was trying to provide for them.  He shared with me some of his dreams for his girl and how his daughter loves to dance.  And then as I was about to leave, he asked me what I recommended so his daughter would have a better life than his.  Should he push her to excel in Math or Science?  He wanted to know what I thought he should do to better his girl’s future.  As I pondered how to answer him, it actually came out pretty quickly:  “Mark, you need to let your daughter pursue what she is passionate about.  Encourage her to pursue HER dreams.”

Every kid is different.  They are all individuals.  They all need to pursue their dreams, not ours.  We as educators should see all our students as individuals and help them all pursue their dreams.  Will you join me? 

TED Conference


3 Responses to Every Student: An Individual

  1. Kerry says:

    100% agree. Students do not see the relevance of education to their lives. My favorite quote is by Albert Einstein "All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual." If we want a better, more innovative, supportive, progressive, sustainable, etc. future we need to invest in individuals. Right now our education system wants to mass produce "robots" who all comply to standard rules and expectations for "acheivment." If you take the time to really look at the individuals who made major and valuable contributions to society (or even just the everyday people around you who have an excellent quality of life) it is because they pursued their passion. In many cases these people defied the expectations of standardized schooling in order to do so. Sir Ken Robinson highlights such individuals in his book "The Element" and Steve Jobs explains his own path to success in his moving commencement speech at Stanford. It is time for our education system to support and cultivate individual pursuit of skill, mastery and passion rather than depress it with standardized "learning" goals. I will be happy to join you in your mission! :)

  2. Jeff Kelley says:

    I find this to be both interesting and viable to education in our society today. I am amazed at how many people believe our system of education is outdated and the problem in our society.  I don't believe our system of education is the problem. I believe our methods and understandings of communication are the problem. Our education system functioning properely is only supposed to model how to learn, not what to learn and since learning involves communication, maybe that is the problem. If we were all told exactly what to learn we would all be the same. I believe the problem in our system is communication. We currently use a system I will call order of communication based upon fear. An example is that depending on where we fall in the order, we are supposed to listen to those above us or speak first to those below us. The reason teachers are supposed to speak first and students second. If we look at society, who speaks first policeman or motorist, doctor or patient, priest or parrishioner?  What happened to this system? Well, I think we understand more today than ever before and fear less. This lack of fear causes our order of communication based on fear to fall out of order. The teachers, police and parents will all agree that they are not always able to be heard first. What is the solution? Since we all learn from modeled behaviors, we need to listen to understand our children first and help them to understand the benefits of listening, and not model the behavior of always speaking first, and getting angry when our children do not listen, and then wondering why they reciprocate that behavior with us when they are not afraid. We are all taught to reciprocate behavior in the absence of fear. Let's also look at all living things. They grow. We grow through understanding. When we listen to understand based upon that which we are listening, we grow and feel alive. When we try to make others listen to us, we are not growing. We control our ability to listen to understand, not our ability to make others listen. With that being said, the reciprocal behavior in the absence of fear would also allow others to reciprocate the behavior of listening to understand those who listen to them. Think about the last time you got angry…Who were you trying to make listen to understand you? If they did listen to understand you, would you have been angry?…The cause of anger is the misconstrued belief that one person can make another listen to understand (respect). The stronger the belief, the angrier they get…domestic violence…War…gang violence…all anger…Do you listen to understand people who do not listen to understand you? The reason teachers are having difficulty. Students do not listen to those who do not listen to them, unless they understand the value in listen to grow…Because without that understanding the only other reason to listen, would be fear that they lack…If the mission of teachers was to listen to understand their students first, based upon what their students understand, what do you think the reciprocal behavior would be? I believe that was what Socrates meant when he said the best teachers see their students as teachers and seek to learn from them…And the best students see all those around them as teachers and listen to understand them all….By the way, this works…I was able to learn from many students, and funny thing was, they said they enjoyed the process and were able to comprehend and retain more info for a greater period of time…

  3. Jeff Kelley says:

    One other point. I mentioned we should listen to understand our children to model the behavior and to create reciprocal behaviors in the absence of fear. I also tell children to model the behavior for their parents so that they too can create reciprocal behaviors in them and get heard or shall we say respect. I would ask those who question this method to look at the relationship between teachers and teachers pets. Who listens to who first and creates the reciprocal behavior in the absence of fear? If the teacher was listening to understand all the students based on what the students understand, would all the students be reciprocating? To those who say they do not have time, I would say you do not have the time not too…How many times do you repeat yourself and how much of what you say do your students allow to enter their understanding? And which students grow faster, the ones who listen to you first or the ones who do not listen to you?…

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