For previous generations, the focus of school was academics. Adults spoke of success in terms of academic success, and these measurements shaped opportunities and in some cases outcomes for children. As the world becomes increasingly global and careers are redefined by a new set of skills, an educational philosophy that emphasizes the different types of intelligences rather than pure academics is most able to set students up for success in today’s world.
Academic skills are an essential part of a quality education, but are no more important than collaboration, creativity and perseverance. A classroom environment that fosters these skills is one that will prepare students for the future. In life, we work with others, exercise creative problem-solving skills and demonstrate an ability to work through challenges without giving up. These abilities are important regardless of the field in which you work. Many careers now are based on relationship building, negotiating challenging situations and showing ingenuity and entrepreneurship. These are pieces of a whole-child approach, one that values emotional intelligence and creativity as well as academic skills.
While the benefits of a progressive classroom will serve students for a lifetime, particularly in our modern world, the goal of school is not only to prepare for the future but also to engage in the moment. A classroom that invites children to ask and answer real questions, follow their interests and work together in the process is one that brings out a joy in learning for students of all ages. They see themselves as active builders of knowledge rather than passive recipients, and they develop a practice of inquiry and discovery. School is not a chore, but a purpose, and each student contributes to the learning environment. The roles of students and teachers shift in a progressive classroom because there is a more open exchange and independent ideas and interests are valued. Teachers shape learning while modeling that everyone is on a journey in learning, career and life.
As parents and educators, we do not know exactly what the world will look like when our students leave formal school and are working and living independently. We do know that it will be a world that changes quickly due to technology and an open exchange of ideas, a world that is driven by innovation and leadership. Innovation requires creativity and risk-taking, and leadership relies on interpersonal skills and learning from mistakes. The qualities that shape capable students will also cultivate self-sufficient people in a 21stcentury world.