Part 4 – Why Should Anyone Care? How 8th Graders in Virginia Are Changing the World (and Education).

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Why should anyone care about this blog, or my class, or me?

I haven’t done anything yet. I’m not being searched on Google. I’ve only been in education for seven years. As far as the class so what. We’ve formed a few partnerships, done a couple presentations, touched on design thinking and entrepreneurial mindsets. We’ve let students have control of the class. Who cares? This kind of “thing” is already happening other places. This kind of “thing” isn’t going to get my kid into Harvard. This kind of “thing” doesn’t tie into the standards required for accreditation.

Well guess what? This “thing” is going to disrupt the state of education in the United States!

And what separates me, is that I’m not into politics or bureaucracy. I’m into taking risks and doing what I KNOW is best for students that is driven by their curiosity and guided by my craft of teaching, leading, and coaching. I’m not into people telling me no because “those are just the rules”, “the budget is already out”, “what about the students and teachers that can’t do this like you”, “what if it fails”, “we need to meet some more and think about some things first.”

Here’s the best idea ever for a course in our schools: let’s do it because we know in our guts that it is great for kids!

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It’s not just about turning kids into entrepreneurs though. It’s about putting kids in opportunities where they THINK LIKE entrepreneurs. It’s about kids thinking about people other than themselves, creating a solution for their need, getting criticism and not falling apart. It’s about kids discovering who they are and becoming self-aware.

This kind of “thing” gives kids something to look forward to in their school day where they get a chance to do something that matters to them instead of having Algebra, parts of speech, or types of soil forced down their throats while they sit compliantly (and silently) in rows.

Here in Henrico County Public Schools, we have a lot of great people making huge strides to transform our middle schools through our Deeper Learning Leadership and Middle School Transformation teams. I know first-hand because I’m a member myself. Their commitment and vision is exactly what we need to make schools what they should be. But this is a four year plan at best (and most likely longer than that).

We have an opportunity RIGHT NOW to truly change the lives of a select group of students. We have piloted this type of class in 8th grade and with the behind the scenes work of a few people erasing some pencil marks and re-writing the “class requirements”, re-allocating the budget, we can scale this course up and give a group of 25 students an opportunity as high-schoolers inside the school walls that they’ve never experienced before.

Higher education is on board. Business and the “real world” say this kind of class is the way to go. Parents are on board. Last but certainly not least, our students are on board.

I’d like to pause for a moment and slow down the pace.

Previously in this very spot where you are reading this sentence, I had a long paragraph/rant about why this class wouldn’t be scaled for the upcoming school year. The essence of the lines were angry, passionate, and perhaps a little brash. So I will let you (the reader) imagine those lines yourself. Here’s the deal: I’m willing to teach a class at the high school level, and “loop up” with these current Innovation students, PRO BONO.

Now, let’s move on.

What is my hope for this post? I hope it disrupts. I hope it makes people uncomfortable. I hope it changes educational direction like we are in a jet ski instead of a cruise ship. I hope it makes someone else around the world say, hey you know what, I’m going to do this in my classroom, in my building, in my district.

So I ask again: why should anyone care about this blog, or class, or me?

I want you to care about this blog because I want you to feel what we feel and see the obstacles we face in hopes that you can navigate your own path with more agility than we have.

I want you to care about this class because when kids want to make the world a better place, become entrepreneurs at thirteen, collaborate on real projects with the surrounding community, engage audiences worldwide, walk a little taller in the hallways, come out of their shells, and look at themselves and others and smile, we have a moral obligation as educators to provide them a space in their day to make those things happen.

I want you to care about me because I care about kids, just like you. I wake up every day with a hunger to change. I’m tired of the endless excuses of why we can’t do something in education. I know that patience is a virtue, but in education, patience is inaction in disguise. This type of learning, this type of class will prevail. Where we want education to go, we already have a ten second head start.

Ultimately, I am someone who just doesn’t get it. And that is exactly why I will succeed. We’re still on the ground floor, but get in quick, because we’re going ALL THE WAY UP!

But then again who am I?

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