Message from the Superintendent
“What Would Our Kids Say?”
There is much buzz about smart phones and how relationships are affected by them. Dr. Catherine Steiner Adair, clinical psychologist, recently shared insight with some of our parents. Dr. Adair talks with thousands of children and parents throughout our country. When children are asked what is important to them, connectedness with their parents emerges.
Abundant talk about connectedness brings meaning to the importance of the human connection, the face-to-face human experience. Companies like Google and Apple are creating spaces and opportunities for people to connect because they know the importance of time together. They know the importance of “making and doing,” and they believe the ownership of the experience lies with the participants.
Our children have much to say about how we do (or don’t) connect with them. If we listen to our kids, we will put away our phones more often, turn off the blue tooth and be present with them. According to Dr. Adair, our children don’t like us on our phones. They don’t like the way we answer them when we are in the middle of a “quick text.” When we are texting and talking on our phones, we are not mentally present with our children. We are not listening and we are not connecting. What might happen if we took cues from our children? Really paid attention – listened and observed?
Kids Connecting With Learning in Meaningful Ways
I recently read an article in the Atlantic discussing an upcoming documentary titled, “Inside a European Adventure Playground.” (Link to article) It stopped me in my tracks. The documentary shows children on a Welsh playground where kids are encouraged to experiment with tools, junk, and other materials we would consider to be a departure from what we generally consider safe. When viewing these children’s experiences, I was initially stunned by what the film captures. But it got me thinking. Our children benefit from the power of choice and the wisdom that comes with risk taking. I am not suggesting that we replace our current school experiences with adventure playgrounds. However, our children must have the opportunity to navigate their world in meaningful ways.
What do “Connecting” and “Adventure Playground” have to do with school?
Dan Makoski has been a Design Engineer for Walmart, Microsoft, Google, Motorola, and Capital One. I recently saw Dan present at The Design Lab at UCSD. Dan works with companies to innovate and design solutions. Dan’s success is in creating a culture of bold risk-taking for good. In his work, Dan emphasizes that people are understood through what they say, what they do, and what they make. The later, “what they make,” is profound because people think at much deeper and creative levels when they are involved in “doing and making” as they tackle learning challenges and solve problems.
Although “risky play” may be outside the comfort zone of most of us, it does shed light on our children’s voices and how their quest “to do and make” should be at the core of the school experience. We must help each one of our children “win” at school, and to do so we must take cues from kids to redesign their school experience.
So, if we understand the power of risk-taking and the importance of choice and connection for children, why is there hesitation to adapt? The Atlantic article referenced above bluntly stated, “People who have power over others – in this case, adults over children – are often reluctant to share it.” How true is their claim in our world? I am not sure education’s hesitation to adapt is about losing power over children, but there is hesitation to leave what we are institutionally comfortable with. Our current system has proven quite successful according to the traditional rubric with which we have gauged success. But if we spend time connecting with our children and if we ask them to design the school experience that best works for them, will they describe what we have, for decades, traditionally laid out for them? Or will they describe something different?
Holly McClurg, Ph.D.
Please follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DMUSD_Supt.
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