future proof [for QUEST 2016]

This has to stop. These moments of time travel – I get headaches.

While standing in class, mid-lesson, mid thought- I blink it’s 1985, I blink again and it is 2016. Where am I? The lights, the corkboard, the rows of desks. A chalky sense of nostalgia chased by the grim reality of, well, nostalgia, all soaked with the sour smell of ‘been there, done that’.

Wow.

It all is pretty much as it was in 1989 when I graduated from high school.

I’m getting jittery, edgy and what could have been fuzzy feelings from my high school days turn on me viciously. Looking at my current classroom, I realize that my younger self is screaming at me, dissing me for missing my own point; I had issues with school back in 1985 as a student, that now, in 2016, teacher-me continues to perpetuate.

Reality check…if I had walked out of a classroom in 1985, back-to-the-future, and walked into a classroom in 2016, what would I have registered as radical as the fact that I had just traveled 30 years into the future? Huge changes? Any changes? Computers, fashion, adornments notwithstanding…

I cue into the now.

The lesson I’m delivering is hinged on the question ‘Is your career future proof?’ Solid angle of inquiry for a careers course, right? I thought so. Each of the students, at this point, has started to investigate and plan their post-secondary pathway. Each of the students has started to pick the senior level courses that in theory will keep them racing towards a career.

Is it important for the students to see a bit of their future? Of course it is!

The future is where change manifests, dreams come true, and everything we learn in school becomes real. It is important to keep them tracking their future targets…right? Even though we know their targets are constantly moving and the competition for finite future prospects is stiff. And as I ask the students, I realize that I want to answer it as well. Am I future proof?

I start to future cast into the next 15 – 20 years that remain before my tentative retirement, what if I am still standing in a similar classroom? What if the children of these children remark to me ‘wow this class looks exactly the same as my mother described’?

Now I am really uncomfortable.

That chalky, tingly sensation is almost unbearable. The students needed some prodding, I shift gears. ‘Is teaching future proof?’ Still lots of blinking. ‘Will I be able to teach in the same way that I do now in 5 years, or 10 years, or even 15 years from now?’ I am catching a roll now, I should wait, waiting time is good, but I throw one more question to the crowd. ‘Can you folks imagine a school, without ever setting foot inside a school…building?’

This gets them chatting. Analyzing what a teaching job would look like in the next 15-20 years became the parallel sweet spot for our lesson. The students could not stop poking questions and making statements about my career. Some students took the opportunity to comment on the current system, as they know it; others tried to project themselves into a future system that they may never be a part of. A few tried to keep their future plans in plain sight, but the gravity of the topic pulled them in too. The best of the bunch riffed off of each other as the creative spark lit up their thinking. Either way, I felt my younger self-smiling satisfactorily.

Capturing the full transcript was impossible, the energy, the controversy, the opportunity to poke the system in the eye- all of this exploded out into the conversation. The next day the debates continued. Much of what happened in those two periods were lost, the feed was just too rich.

We never officially pegged an answer. We did not find a clear path to our future selves. We did leave the space with some pretty good critically constructive inquiries. Some of them are captured here.

[Them & Me ]

‘You should stop using paper handouts.‘ I have tried that, some students do not have digital technology.. ‘No, just stop using paper handouts…period‘ Like stop handing things out at all? No handouts..?

‘Can we film our class?‘…in general? ‘Ya, I film everything then I post it.‘ Post it? Where? ‘Everywhere.‘

‘The WiFi should be available outside in the school yard.‘ It kinda works if you really need it, you could stand near the door… ‘I want to work outside when the weather is nice…‘

‘The school has it wrong…‘ Good start, what are you thinking? ‘I don’t want to insult you, but school is designed wrong.‘ School is not just me, it’s you and me. ‘Ya right.‘

‘Why do we have classrooms?‘

‘Why can’t I Skype your class from the library?’

‘I agree, school is messed up.‘ Share your thinking. ‘We walk in the halls and sit in the classrooms. I want to hang out in the halls and move around in class.‘

‘Why can’t I stay home and do school with YouTube?‘ Explain your thinking. ‘I watched two YouTube videos today in P1, could’ve watched that at home.‘

‘Could I sit in my friend’s Psych class this week instead of coming to Careers?’ uhhh, hmmm. ‘…they’re talking about abnormal psych, I just studied Oedipus…’

‘School should be free.‘ It is, kind of, for you. ‘No, free, right up through university.‘ How would that work? ‘Well we can pretty much learn anything for class from the web…‘

‘I was just thinking about my art teacher, he uses a lot of history examples in viz art… I like how he mixes other courses into art class.‘

‘School sucks…I want to work…why can’t I just go to work and not do school?‘ Where do I start? There’s lots of reasons to get an education, then get a better job… ‘I don’t really care about that, I just want to work.‘

‘Are you worried about your job?’

‘If I am a modern learner, does that make you a modern teacher?’ I believe so. ‘Wait, what does that even mean..?’

‘I miss my elementary school.‘ Why? ‘I had more fun.‘ …like recess? ‘Not just that, I think that it was just more fun to learn.‘

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