Do we need schools? What was the original purpose of schools? What should future "schools" look like?
“It's quite fashionable to say that the education system's broken — it's not broken, it's wonderfully constructed. It's just that we don't need it anymore. It's outdated.”
“The Victorians were great engineers. They engineered a [schooling] system that was so robust that it's still with us today, continuously producing identical people for a machine that no longer exists.”
Educational researcher, Dr Sugata Mitra (winner of the 2013 TED Prize), reveals more in this TED presentation.
This is a classic story that has inspired many teachers around the world. Originally titled "Three letters from Teddy" and has been adapted into several versions over the years. You can also listen to the story narrated by Dr Wayne Dyer or watch the slide show. Be inspired:
A Teacher's Story
There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy.
Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn't play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.
Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners...he is a joy to be around."
His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."
His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."
Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class."
By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. She stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist.
Teddy stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to." After the children left she cried for at least an hour.
On that very day, she quit teaching reading, and writing, and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children.
Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets."
A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, second in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stollard, M.D.
The story doesn't end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he'd met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.
Of course, Mrs. Thompson, did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.
They hugged each other, and Teddy whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."
Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."
This is, unfortunately, a common remark made by staffs when they did not complete their tasks. Examples include "I don't know how to use the new software because you did not teach me", "I don't know how to use the scanner because you did not teach me", "I don't know to how use social media because you did not teach me" and so on.
I will sum this up as an attitude problem or to be more precise, a learning attitude problem. It could be caused by the current education system, which sucks, but that is the topic for other time.
Staffs with positive learning attitude will say "I don't know because I did not learn" and proceed to learn from various sources such as books, internet, friends, family etc. Attitude + aptitude = altitude. These staffs can go further and higher compared to staffs with bad learning attitude.
In the past, classroom training was the only way to learn. Now, with internet and online learning, it is possible to learn almost anything anytime for free. This includes learning from world class universities such as MIT, Harvard, Yale, Princeton etc. Google+, Youtube and other social media are excellent tools to learn new skills.
How to find out whether your staffs have good or bad learning attitude? Use this exercise to explore their attitudes and beliefs about learning. Ask them to tick beside the statements that are true:
_____ I believe that lifelong learning will help me achieve my goals.
_____ I'm willing to make mistakes and learn from them.
_____ I'm aware that learning opportunities are all around me.
_____ I take charge of my own learning. I use every opportunity I have to learn something new.
_____ I'm willing and eager to learn.
_____ I know what skills and knowledge I need or want to learn.
_____ I know where to find out about formal learning opportunities (mentors, friends, family members).
_____ I set new learning goals regularly.
Act fast before it leads to bozo explosion in your company or you may get to hear this: "I don't know anything because you did not teach me anything" ...
Getting top notch education and knowledge need not be expensive. In fact, it is free .. for all.
In May 2012, MIT and Harvard University launched edX, an organisation offering online university-level courses. Students can enrol, complete courses at their own pace and sit for exam without going to the campus. Online learners who demonstrate mastery of subjects could earn a certificate of completion, but such certificates would not be issued under the name of Harvard or MIT.
In April 2012, Princeton, Stanford, Michigan and Pennsylvania uni offer courses online in Coursera. Also, free. There are other entities offering online courses, free or low cost. Let the revolution begin.
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