21st Century Schools
Attend a conference for educators in independent schools or pick up a magazine or journal on independent school education and it won't be long before you hear or read what you can and should do to become a 21st century school or how your students can develop 21st century skills. What does it all mean? How did these particular skills emerge from the pack? How intentional do you need to be in your focus on these topics? How do you measure whether you are succeeding or not? The answers to these questions and others can be elusive but there are certain truths, including that our students are growing up in a vastly different and more inter-connected world than the one in which we did 20-50 years ago and it is our responsibility to help prepare them for that world.
The list of 21st century skills can be lengthy and it can vary depending on from whom you are hearing, what you are reading, or with whom you are speaking. However "Collaboration" seems to appear on every list I read and seems to fall from every lip I hear. It makes clear sense to me that we put our students in a position to collaborate frequently and give them feedback on how well they collaborate. Now as students and soon as employees, and now as sons and soon as parents, their ability to connect well with others, respect alternative viewpoints, and come together for a common purpose, will be tested and will be important for establishing good relationships and experiencing success in their personal and professional lives. This skill is one which we can, through smart planning and implementation but also spontaneity and improvisation, allow to flourish in an ongoing way at Fenn. Thankfully I see collaboration happening at Fenn on a frequent basis. There is Big Brother/Little Brother, the senior project, study groups in the Jafari Library, drama productions, cleaning up after lunch, old gym soccer, team meetings, student Senate, laboratory work in science, the school store; in small and large form, the proof points go on and on.
Why, however, is collaboration more of a buzz word now than before? Perhaps it is because being a global citizen requires more of it. Perhaps it is because many work spaces now are open-floor plans with group-work stations not buildings with individual offices. Or perhaps it is because the word Collaboration appears more bold under the catchy title of 21st century skills and it took that title to give the word more significance. Regardless of the reason, I contend that collaboration skills are necessary and important but I'm not convinced they are more important now than they were before and that 21st century school life has drawn it into sharper relief. Conversely I contend that collaboration has always been important and will always be important, and may be most important long after the 21st century. At the end of the day, so to speak, I am glad it is important at Fenn and happens here moment-to-moment every day.
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