The success of a school is often not seen until years after the students graduate. School needs to have prepared them for the world, especially the world of employment, something that is changing more rapidly than the curriculum.
The pace of technological advancement means that the job landscape is undiscovered terrain. What we teach our children today could be taken over by machines tomorrow. So how can we best prepare our students for the world they will encounter?
In his New York Times column, David Brooks says the advantage will go to changemakers – “people who can see the patterns around them, identify the problems in any situation, figure out ways to solve the problem, organize fluid teams, lead collective action and then continually adapt as situations change… It doesn’t matter if you are working in the cafeteria or the inspection line of a plant, companies will now only hire people who can see problems and organize responses.”
How can we develop this capacity in children? Imagine a 12-year-old girl telling a parent about an interpersonal problem at school. “This is a big moment,” says Brooks. “You pause what you are doing and ask her if there’s anything she thinks she can do to solve the problem, not just for this situation but for the next time it happens, too. Very few kids take action to solve the first problem they see, but eventually they come back having conceived and owning an idea. They organize their friends and do something. The adult job now is to get out of the way. Put the kids in charge. Once a kid has had an idea, built a team, and changed her world, she’s a changemaker. She has the power. She’ll go on to organize more teams. She will always be needed.”
There are 2 key qualities of changemakers.
The first is cognitive empathy – the ability to perceive how people are feeling in evolving circumstances. Teaching children to think of others, to imagine how others are feeling is vitally important. For those who are slightly egotistical, cultivating kindness and empathy is still something worth investing in.
The second quality is agency – the belief that you can and must make a difference. Community service, giving to others, changing the status quo is fundamental to building agency. This is not the same as building self-esteem for it to stay within the self, but rather the notion that each and every one of us has something to give that will make a positive impact on others.
So in order to prepare our children for an every changing world and to guide them through the uncertainty that comes, the best we can do is teach our children to think of others and do what they can to make our school, our community and our country a better place.