Today’s insights are brought to you by my colleague and founder of the Future Smart Parent club, Jude Foulston.
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be snuck into a conference being held for teachers. I was excited to hear the presenter.
The speaker was great, passionately talking about developing character and asking questions about how we build our teens capacity and ability to make independent choices, decisions, and take actions that shape their lives.
I jotted down some notes, took a photo of one of his slides and was generally just grateful for the opportunity of being there. (I had literally just popped in to say hello to one of the exhibitors who was at the conference who suggested a grab a seat!)
And then we got to the part in his presentation (the part ANY introvert hates), but the part where the presenter says ‘turn to the person next to you and talk about (insert the topic here – i can’t remember the exact question.)’
I duly turned to my right and the guy next to me looked up from his laptop that he was typing away on at a furious pace. I said hello and he replied with ‘‘So what are we supposed to be talking about here?’
I was confused… I seriously thought he was taking notes from said engaging presenter. But no, he was working on an assignment (I think he said for his master’s degree, but I could be wrong.)
So we chatted for a minute until the presenter continued with his keynote… I faced forward again, and the delegate to my right went back to writing his assignment. Hearing nothing more of building character in teens.
And he wasn’t the only teacher who wasn’t paying attention. From where I was sitting in the back row, I could see numerous laptops open with content that had nothing to do with character building.
I get it… Conferences can be dead boring. Delegates often don’t want to be there and probably more to the point, have a list as long as both their arms of other stuff that they need to do.
But the irony of sitting at a conference for teachers, where some of the teachers themselves weren’t interested in the learning that was available to them for that session, and doing exactly what probably half of their own students do on any given day or lesson – ignore the lesson, and carry on with something more interesting to them – be that doodling, Snapchatting or perhaps just day dreaming.
I get it… Put me in a class on how to improve my excel spreadsheet skills – I’d also be finding something else to do.
These teachers had been in conference for a full afternoon and morning already, keynote after keynote… Whereas I had arrived just at the right time, fortunate to listen to someone who I wanted to hear speak, on a topic that I’m passionate about… and then could leave after an hour… Without having to sign the register proving I had attended.
It got me thinking about two things in particular…
The way we teach HAS to change…
Just as some of the teachers at that particular session at the conference didn’t want to be there and so probably didn’t absorb much from that particular session, too many of our young teens and tweens also don’t want to be in certain classes, learning about certain topics, but yet are still made to sign the attendance register and “learn” (or should I say sit through the lessons.)
Perhaps that teen who can’t focus in his chemistry class just doesn’t want to be there and would far rather be in a lesson learning the science of cooking or baking because THAT is his passion.
Perhaps the 8 year old who can’t sit still in maths class is more interested in dinosaurs or drawing or making mud pies…. (and will still learn how to divide when they have only 3 mud pies and 6 friends who want some mud pie for lunch).
It’s 2023 and yet we still make everyone in the room learn exactly the same thing, and attend every single lesson, whether they’re interested in it or not.
When speaking to another delegate after the conference I asked her whether she saw the irony of the teachers not all embracing their learning journey that weekend, having to sign registers etc, and I asked why she thought the conference was run like this… Her response…. “It’s just the way it’s always been done.’
That’s not learning people… That’s ticking boxes.
Perhaps when we let our teens learn what they want to learn, rather than telling them what we think they should learn, letting them deep dive into what they’re passionate about, perhaps that is when we’ll see some of their agency return. Perhaps then we’ll see them getting excited about learning again.
The same goes for your people, in YOUR organisation…
I get it, conferences are important. There is information that your teams need for the greater good of your organisation. There are some amazing speakers who educate, change mindsets and also motivate. These events can and do often play important roles in the growth of your organisation and people.
But, once the annual conference is done and dusted, what more are you doing to invest in your people’s learning?
Perhaps it’s time to rethink some of the learning that’s available in your own organisation?
Some of your people will love attending the big budget conference your organisation puts together and will learn a whole heap, be energized by walking over hot coals, or similar team building exercises, and they’ll get back to the office with new ideas, new connections, new enthusiasm and new things to implement.
While others… well – there are others who would love the opportunity to rather attend an online webinar hosted by my colleague Graeme Codrington once a month, for example! Or the opportunity to buy a new business book each month.
Perhaps it’s the opportunity for someone in your team to sign up for an online class on a topic that seems so off topic to their job that it seems crazy to make such an investment, but because it’s something that they’re interested in, and something that they want to learn more about, maybe it isn’t so crazy…
Perhaps it’s not about the points your employees get for completing a course, or the certificate of completion, but rather the opportunity and safe space you provide them to share things that they’ve learnt by being able to access an online course, together with the conversations that could ensue.
Isn’t THAT what curiosity is all about… Isn’t that where innovation comes from?
Isn’t that part of how we really start to establish this ‘continuous learning’ that we suggest is a critical skill essential for the future?
Isn’t it time we started learning a little differently?
Just because “it’s how we’ve always done it”, isn’t a good enough reason for you to just keep doing it.
About the author of today’s Tuesday Tip – Jude Foulston
As the founder of the Future Smart Parent club, Jude has dedicated herself to creating a supportive community that embraces the challenges and joys of raising empowered and happy children with an eye towards the future.
Through this unique platform, she brings together parents and teachers from all walks of life, fostering a nurturing environment where knowledge, experiences, and innovative ideas are shared, enabling families to embrace the challenges of the digital age and prepare for the uncharted territories of tomorrow.