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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Tomorrowland Today

Be inquisitive today to keep the door open to tomorrow's possibilities.
By James Daly
Credit: Veer

The young folks entering kindergarten over the next few weeks are a fascinating group. Born at the dawn of the twenty-first century, they will retire -- if they retire at all -- in 2073. Many could live into the twenty-second century. It's hard to imagine what the world will be like in 2013, let alone 2073 or beyond. No doubt their journey will be unlike anything we've ever dreamed about, filled with inventions and possibilities beyond our most creative fantasies.

I was reminded of this a few days before the school year ended this past June, when my nine-year-old son came to me in a funk. Earlier that day, his teacher had been free thinking with some other students and asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. One kid said he wanted to be an architect; another, a pilot. My son, however, said he didn't know. He felt bewildered, even a little nervous.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" remains one of the most enchanting and daunting questions of childhood. But in an age of endless possibility, it's no longer such an easy question to answer. When I was young, my friends and I would confidently predict our future jobs: fireman, pilot, policeman, cowboy, lion tamer. Never did we consider search engine optimization as a career choice.

So, here's what I told my son: The career you choose may, in fact, not even have been created yet. Instead, learn to be inquisitive and enthusiastic. Seek out new ideas. Debate. Suggest. Imagine. Challenge what others have told you. Follow what you love -- and, if you're lucky, you'll love what you follow.

Those are important goals for the upcoming school year, as well. In an age of accountability, we must keep the door open to possibility, both for our students and for ourselves. The beginning of an academic year is not only a chance to connect with a new class of students but also a chance for you -- the educator, the backbone of our public education system -- to grow in the job, show leadership, and speak up about your school's and district's direction. Also, it's a great time to learn from the best of your peers -- many of whom have joined us online at Edutopia.org, where they provide the percolating heart and soul of our online community.

In nearly every field, workers are encouraged to become more inventive and inquisitive. That is true of the best educational settings as well. This year, make a commitment to try something new. For one day each week, perhaps, maybe it won't be business as usual. Ditch your lesson plan. Turn the tables and let a student run the class. Flex your brain.

We are often so focused on the end goal -- hitting our test numbers, making sure attendance is up -- that we forget the rewards of the journey. We at Edutopia would like to keep you recharged and refreshed with new ideas and intriguing perspectives, so you don't feel like you're nodding off on the assembly line of public education. In this, our annual "What's Next" issue, we hope to help you rediscover the love of teaching that attracted you to this profession in the first place -- and help you be as inquisitive as the students you teach.

Welcome back. And hang on.


James Daly
Editor in Chief

Comments (4)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Angel Bonham's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As I read the Up Front piece, Tomorrowland Today, I could identify with the bewilderment felt by James Daly's son, as I have sons at ages seven and ten. Both, very unsure of their future careers. I also identified with the middle school students I am surrounded by on a daily basis, as well. What does their future hold? When I read the advice Daly issued his own son, I immediately reached for a red Sharpie for circling these poiniant and valuable words of wisdom! As he began, "The career you choose may, in fact, not even have been created yet. . . " I decided to make a poster with these words emblazened on it to post on several walls at my school. As an Intstructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT) not only do I try to impress upon students that their options are limitless, but also share that same concept with the teachers who guide them along their journey. Hopefully, Daly's advice to his son will also impress upon the students and teachers at my school, via a subtle suggestion posted on the wall.
Thanks.

Angel Bonham
Instructional Technology Resource Teacher
Spotsylvania, Virginia

wes koga's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Perhaps a better question would be What do you think the future will be like rather than what you would like to be. Our task should be to inspire creative thought much as Jules Verne or De Vinci inspired the developers of the airplane, submarines, space travel and other technology we now take for granted
Wes Koga
Technology Coordinator
Wahiawa, Hawaii

Michael Martin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe the proper answer to your son dates back over fifty years:

When I was just a little boy
I asked my mother what would I be
...
Here's what she said to me:
Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera.

Contrarian's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a 61-year old college professor I often tell students not to be bewildered or nervous that they haven't found "what they want to be." Why? I still haven't decided what I want to be when I grow up (whatever that means)!

;-)

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