Friday, June 4, 2021

The Purpose of School Isn't Preparing Students for College



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Recently I had the privilege of taking a few of our students to a career event at Bass Pro/Wonders of Wildlife in nearby Springfield, MO, one of the largest employers in our area. We got a behind the scenes tour of the incredible facilities and heard about many of the career opportunities available in the company.

As we listened for a couple of hours to the presentations from various department leaders, one thing stood out to me. Only one of the presenters indicated that students needed to go to college to get hired or have a successful career in the company. The one career field that demanded college was accounting.

Even more striking were the stories of these successful individuals. Many of them did not have a college degree themselves. For the few who did have a degree, they shared that they weren't working in an area related to their college degree. The successful completion of college was not key to their success. 

What was key to their success was what they did both prior to getting hired and especially after they were hired by the company. They continued to learn. They listened to mentors and watched what successful people were doing. They took advantage of opportunities. 

They had initiative, worked well with others, looked for ways to add value, and played to their strengths.

And they were passionate about what they were doing. Even if they weren't passionate about it at first, they became passionate about it. They developed their own love for their work and contribution.

The key to success is not college. And I'm certainly not against college. It makes sense for some students. It's necessary for some careers. And all students should be prepared for some type of postsecondary training as a result of their schooling. 

I used to think all students needed postsecondary education. I no longer believe that's true. I've seen too many of our graduates who are finding success, contribution, and fulfillment who went right to work out of HS. But the key is they went right to work with the right attitude and mindset. That's what matters most. 

The purpose of schooling is NOT preparing students for college or even for a specific career. The purpose of schooling is to prepare students to be continuous learners. To never stop learning. To be adaptable learners. To know their strengths. To be confident in their ability to tackle challenges, pursue passions, and overcome obstacles.

And by the way, if we focus on those things as the purpose of schooling, all of our learners will be far more prepared for college too, if they choose that path.

How would schooling change if we truly viewed developing continuous, adaptable learners as the goal? How might our curriculum be different? Our assessments? Grades? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.

8 comments:

  1. David, first, welcome back to blogging. No doubt, these last several months and years have impacted us in ways we cannot yet explain. And second, glad you’re back! These words reflect, perhaps, the impact we can hope will come of this experience that affected us all. Looking through a different lens at the work we do as school leaders is important, crucial even, because our thoughts shape our every action. I’m with you on so many points in this post, about “schooling” and “learning” as they apply to the purpose of school. And...I’m going to be joining you in my own restart of the blog, starting July 1. Thanks for pushing my thinking and for modeling the courage to serve others, with your words and actions.

    ~ Dennis

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Dennis! Glad to connect again. And I look forward to your blog restart also. Your voice is needed and appreciated.

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  2. As the Head of an untraditional college prep private school, I would argue that the goals of preparing students for college and preparing students to do well in their lives beyond school are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, if you are doing one, the other follows. School should be about learning. Further, if we are preparing students to do well in their lives beyond school, we will indeed include preparing them for college. #capastoneacademyatl

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    1. Yes, absolutely. It is definitely possible to prepare students for college and to be prepared for other opportunities as as well. We really want them prepared as possible for whatever they pursue as their path. My concern is that if “academic training” is the exclusive focus then they may not be prepared with the skills needed for those other paths. Thanks for your comment!

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  3. I agree with this 100%! I look out my students sitting in my classroom, and I know so many won't go to college - and that is perfectly fine because we need people to do trade or technical jobs. Great post!

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    1. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Let’s make sure we’re doing all we can to help them be ready for anything.

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  4. Completely agree with you David. Curriculum has to be robust, ultimately its the experiences we provide to our learners that help them choose their path.If they figure out their interests/ passion or calling they do get college ready or ready for life as opposed to only the 'academic training'.It truly makes impact . Look forward to more posts

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  5. Thank you, David. Schooling is about creating experiences for the learners.It's about preparing them for the life after school. Thank you for sharing.

    I hope to read more from you.

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