Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Something else to worry about - but this is actually important

Average is over!  That's the title of a chapter is Thomas Friedman's and Michael Mandelbaum's relatively new book That Used to Be Us.  
What they say is somewhat disconcerting. "In a hyper-connected world . . ., what was 'average' work ten years ago is below average today, and will be further below average ten years from now. . . As a result, everyone needs to raise his or her game just to stay in place, let alone get ahead."
My job as the Superintendent of the Novi Community Schools is to prepare students to be successful in the world that they will live in. Friedman and Mandelbaum help me understand what that means.  
I can no longer focus on making sure my students have the basic skills.  Oh, those skills are still important and still need to be taught. The students in Novi need to know how to read, write, communicate, and compute.  
But I can't stop there. I have to help everyone in my district understand that, in the future, an average performance or an average skill set will no longer guarantee a middle class lifestyle. If my students, the students in my district, are going to have a chance to live the life they want they can no longer be satisfied with be "good enough."  I have to help my students understand that "average is over.!"
In the article The New Face of Global Competition in Fast Company the author states that companies learn that long-term prosperity depends on providing services of increasingly higher value.  It describes one company that goes out of its way to help its employees who have technical skills learn other skills - skills at building relationships - that help to set it apart from other companies. 
That's the challenge facing my school district. How can I teach my students that their future depends on both technical skills and the "extra" set of skills that will set them apart?
We've taken small steps in Novi.  At the elementary level we have embraced a concept called "The Leader in Me." Based on the work of Covey and the seven habits, we are trying to help our youngest students learn how to take responsibility for their life and success. Data notebooks, setting priorities, being reflective - these and other skills are being taught to the students in our K-6 buildings.
This is one small step in a much larger puzzle. Schools must embrace an ethos that focuses on helping our students learn more than how to read, write, and compute. Our district has to help students learn to add value to whatever job they do.
As I said, I now have something else to worry about. But this is actually important. 

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