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My son has taken an interest in the Jackson Five
Completely outside his generation, he dances, sings, commands
“Sit down girl! I think I love ya! Yeah, Get up girl!”

It’s a sweet, precious mess!

As he figures the tune and makes sense of the words, I try to guide him by stating the actual lyrics…

“Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmatic are the branches of the learning tree!”

But, they’re not, anymore.

Reading, Writing and math are clicks away to an iPad saavy generation
and learning we would have called rote still is, but with lights, bells, whistles and digital games.

None of it is bad.
We all learn.

But I’ve noticed a shift in how I think about what I teach and what I want for my children to learn.

I chatted today with a mother who was a former classroom teacher. She and her husband made the decision to homeschool their four children. I confided in her that despite all the curricular improvement and invention I’ve ever seen, I recently worried who would teach my children not to mix bleach and ammonia when cleaning.

The lesson, a little much for a three-year old, but it did cross my mind when I saw ammonia in the grocery store.

Which brings me to 21st Century Skills. There’s a nice set of the skills and definitions here. But what they seem to call for is not just simply knowledge, but utilizing the knowledge to make the best decisions—even if the decisions are innovations.

And, that now, is what is expected.
The branches have become roots.
Use what you know to make a decision.

Rote knowledge no longer the sweet spot
Marked off by the latest, greatest Junior Jeopardy winner
How to utilize that knowledge lest you become in a jeopardy of your own.

It’s great.
Discernment can be taught.
Best if practiced routinely, but boy!
What a leap!

All along Bloom’s been shaking his head, I’m sure.
It’s what you call “good sense” or “common sense” but I like the way it’s articulated

I’ve seen all kinds of reform come and go
Each promising to heal the ills of the education system

I lived through watching teachers
Lament writing objectives.
Certain they crawled with irritation as the first few minutes of their precious teaching time was rerouted to us students scratching the objectives into our “objective” notebooks. Trees never been wasted for such frivolousness.

Then they checked those notebooks—for points.

Not sure if I got more take-away from learning organization or becoming obsessive.
Either way it happened.

It’s not the framing that was the problem—it makes sense to frame what you’re teaching so learners know what to expect.

It also makes sense to have buy-in because what you’re doing is what’s best and not simply what’s mandated.

More mandates would come.
I suppose it’s what to expect.

Ask a surgeon for an opinion, she’ll recommend surgery
A government will govern, just the same.

But these skills are fluid,
Giving you parameters with which to approach an issue
To see the boulder in the street not as a roadblock
But as a challenge that requires your best attention—your discernment.

When I read them I want to shout them from the mountaintop
To adults, mostly:
Adapt to change, be flexible, manage goals and time, work independently, be self-directed learners, interact effectively with others…those are the life & career skills, and there are more.

Also, they encourage me.
I have to learn them, too.
I wasn’t taught them formally, but life has thrown a few at me.

Unlike my middle school teachers, life wasn’t required to neatly print the lesson that was to come on the chalkboard in front of me.

But I wish it were.
I wish I were taught formally.

I haven’t seen a curriculum that effectively does.
But I bet I could write one.
There’s enough here for a lifetime of learning
Which means it’s good.
It’s flexible and allows opportunity for growth and consideration at each step.

It’s a good way to start the week.
To think about the skills my young learners need to have in order to courageously face the world as it grows.

And as the world grows beyond the generation in which I was taught, I do want to keep up, keep learning, thrive in the change, revel in the past—use wisdom to know the value in both. Grow the web of my own learning.

From floppy disks to clouds
From feverishly copying notes down from a chalkboard to snapping a quick photo of what I need to remember.
From the fresh smell of encyclopedia to having to discern which website or YouTube video will best fill the gap in my knowledge.
What exciting innovations!

And through it all and despite it all,
I’m still likely to teach my kids not to mix ammonia and bleach!