Posted on November 3, 2017
On October 26th and 27th, the Hawaii Education Community gathered for an annual, energizing exchange of ideas. As usual, Mid-Pacific was well represented among the presenters. No fewer than 20 of our teachers spoke (mostly to full rooms): John Cheever, Abbey Day, Chris Falk, Leslie Gleim, Jordan Guillory, Mark Hines, Ian Hunt, Edna Hussey, Pam Jenkins, Gregg Kaneko, Liz King, Jennifer Matsumoto, Bob McIntosh, Torry Montes, Billie Napoleon, Roland Nipps, Audrey Oserow, Kym Roley, Paul Turnbull, and David Wee.
Sharing at SOTF with independent, public, and charter school colleagues is always special. We also had nearly 30 Mid-Pacific students involved as room monitors and guides.
Author and educational innovator Mr. Mark Prensky was the keynote speaker for the first day of the conference. Mr. Prensky spoke for a few minutes and then called up a group of students--including Mid-Pacific senior Chaz Tanoue-- to ask them about what works in education. The kids had a lot to say.
Mr. Prensky describes today's students as highly networked and able to act collectively. Because they are so closely connected, students need to be given responsibility rather than shelter. The students echoed that by talking about the joy they feel in doing purposeful work and the boredom they feel when given rote tasks. In this context, purposeful work is work that actually impacts others outside of our "constructed" environments of school classes and activities. The students said they value making an authentic impact through experience more than following prescribed rules simply to come out on top. Prensky identifies this contrast as student "achievement" vs. student "accomplishment."
He writes, "We want them not only to understand the distinction between achievement and accomplishment, and what an accomplishment really is, but to accomplish, over and over, as many times as they can during their school years -- so that they will know they can accomplish things in the real world, and how good it makes them feel." (Prensky, 2015: Educational Technology).
Mr. Prensky was trying to provoke his audience, but many of us agree with him already. It's hard to argue that focusing only on insular "achievements" (grades, wins, and awards) rather than deeper "accomplishments"(improving a real situation, contributing to a greater good) helps either a learner or those around them.
At Mid-Pacific, students often have class opportunities to "accomplish." For instance:
Accomplishment can be found outside of class as well. In a prior blog, I talked about student interest in helping Puerto Rico. This past week, students and faculty joined forces during our traditional Aloha United Way fundraising drive to add additional programming for PR. Dubbing it "Mid-Pacific Cares" week, our community truly accomplished something meaningful, as these amounts attest:
I agree with Mr. Prensky that we can encourage our students to make a real difference now, and that telling them they are "too young" to have an impact is both insulting and injurious to society.
Where I might mince words with Mr. Prensky, however, is the nature of "achievement." As teachers and parents we should be proud of students who earn good marks or are recognized for doing something well. The danger is when we think that achievement is the most important or only thing...or if we fail to focus on the process along the way.
As a parent who is also an educator, I have been tested on this front from time to time. When one of my children achieves a good grade or meets a goal, I'm tempted to say that I'm proud of the achievement. However, educational experts advise us to focus more on the skills and habits that our children exhibit along the way. Instead of praising the achievement, we can praise the mindset and effort. "I'm proud of what you did" transforms into "I'm proud of how hard you worked for that." I find that when I open up my thinking in this way, there is also more to praise and give positive feedback on!
I travelled to Kauai to watch our cross-country and bowling teams compete in the state finals two weekends ago. They "achieved" the honor of representing our school--and two of our bowlers even brought home medals-- but more importantly, they practiced things that matter at a high level. The habits of mind and goal-setting they demonstrated are uniquely valuable. Students can turn those kinds of skills toward even greater impact and good works in the world. The next challenge is right around the corner, and a student who feels a sense of "agency" (the ability to impact the world through their own actions) can transfer that belief to deeper questions the world has to offer.
Cross-Country runners and coaches on Kauai, having accomplished their state competition.
Kai ('20) and Saige ('18) Yamada celebrate their accomplishments.
At Mid-Pacific, our teachers talk all the time about how our instruction and assessment practices should reinforce process rather than just product. We want our students to practice and focus on their learning, gaining confidence in their ability to impact the world around them. We keep working on connecting them to that world to make an impact now, today--and they can.
In closing, a final word on the SOTF conference and a recommendation for the Mid-Pacific community. Although I couldn't attend every Mid-Pacific teacher's session offering, I was fortunate to see Ian Hunt (High School Physical Education) present: "I am different, not disabled: Life through the lens of ADHD, a perspective from the neurodiverse."
Accomplished Mid-Pacific Faculty Member Ian Hunt shares his story with a crowded Schools of the Future conference audience.
Mr. Hunt's presentation was well-researched and deeply personal. It was affecting and effective. Supporting all learners starts with an understanding of who those learners are. Emphasizing process over product and accomplishment over achievement make reaching all learners more possible. As Mr. Hunt said in his presentation, disability is created by the environment and not by the individual. We minimize a person when we stress only one kind of achievement instead of opening up myriad ways that person can impact the world.
We are continuing the conversation that Mr. Hunt started at SOTF by welcoming Jonathan Mooney to Mid-Pacific. Mr. Mooney is an expert in neurodiversity with his own compelling story. He will speak to our students during the day on Wednesday, 11/29. In the evening, thanks to the generous partnership of Na 'Ohana Pueo, he will speak in Bakken at 5:30 pm. Sign up here: http://www.midpac.edu/mypueo/2017/10/speaker-series-.php
I hope to see you there!