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Education Reform

Considering Family to Prepare Students for their Future

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Considering Family to Prepare Students for their Future

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It seemed like yesterday when educators were introduced to the concept of “21st Century Skills” during professional development sessions and conferences. The message was clear, teachers need to teach differently to prepare students for the industries of the future. Now, it is not uncommon for educators to see the need to prepare students to contribute and shape the society they will inherit. But, starting with the early 2000s, teachers were fed a heavy diet of the frequently updated futuristic ‘Did You Know’ videos.

Each video highlighted how the speed of change in technology was going to transform everything we understood about how we need to prepare our students for careers and the skills required to navigate the new world. Like many other educators, I was convinced that the career opportunities of the future were going to be filled with wonder for my students. I was also sure that mind-boggling innovations would bring much need solutions to the world’s vast problems.

Fast forward 10 years and I am at a loss for words to see that one of those new industries that young people are now preparing for is…wait for it… the cannabis industry. That’s right, we now have students studying to be professional weed experts at Northern Michigan University. Is this what we have been preparing our students for? I know there is substantial debate around issues like medical marijuana, the legalization of marijuana, and their moral implications. However, the fact that the higher education community appears to be embracing the cannabis industry causes me to wonder what led them to the decision to offer that program of study. Were the implications for primary and secondary schools considered. What about the consequences for the family?

After my initial shock, I started to really think more deeply about how offering cannabis studies at a university directly impacts the health and vitality of the family. After all, it is no secret that strong families are the building blocks of healthy communities, and healthy communities are the building blocks of strong nations. It is also well understood that our public education systems serve students and their family, not the other way around. When we forget this truism, we are forced to witness the breakdown of our society.  

This is evidenced by our country’s addiction epidemic. Just look at the frequency in which we use the word addiction to describe many modern American social behaviors, i.e. smartphone addiction, porn addiction, food addiction, opioid addiction, etc. Some could even say that we have an emotional addiction if you consider how our current social and political climate is driven by emotional arguments that are void of logic and reason. It is very common to see individuals or groups quickly attack one another and their character when faced with a mere disagreement of position or opinion.  Somehow we have forgotten that our indulgence in material pleasures is connected to a lack of self-control, which is a learned behavior that is developed within the family.  As an educator, this changing trend forces me to see how the drive for innovation has overpowered the family.  I also wonder why more educators are not advocating for the family before embracing every “new thing.”

Consequently, this internal weakness in our society is exacerbated when our education system promotes policies, practices, and social messages that harm the wellbeing of the family. Regardless of your position on the use of cannabis, I see the need for K-12 public schools systems and universities to go beyond engaging industry  to consider the voices of families regarding the implications of new education aims, especially controversial university course offerings. We need to have more focused debate on how will our actions strengthen the family and improve our society’s ability to function and thrive, and not just in terms of economics. We can no longer afford to proceed with what we are told the future will be like or what skills students will need for new industries without rigorously contemplating the health of our nation’s families.

So, if we continue in this pattern, what will the next 10 years of ‘Did You Know’ videos highlight?

Personal Development

What is Your Personal Example Saying?

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What is Your Personal Example Saying?

Photo by Min An on

Most days I wake up with my daily routine on my mind. I anticipate my workout and the associated feelings of accomplishment after I complete the sweat session. Ever mindful of the time, I continuously monitor the clock to make sure I have ample time for prayer, Bible study, and writing. Then it is a mad dash to hit the shower, get dressed, and kiss my family goodbye before dashing out of the door only to be joined in traffic by thousands of other individuals rushing to work. As I engage in all of these routine tasks, I am intentionally focused on doing, what I have come to learn, helps me to be the best person I can be for the day. But today, when I arrived at work, I realized that there was an important factor missing from my daily regiment.

It was when I stumbled upon an encounter with a co-worker that I rarely interact with in the break room. After a few pleasantries and a short conversation about a recent news event, my co-worker surprised me with one of those comments that make you think, “I never knew you saw me that way.” He shared a comment that included a statement like, “because of you, I have decided to pursue a long-held professional goal…”. I immediately replied, “good for you,” but internally I was shocked by his response because I couldn’t recall ever having a conversation with him about his career goals, my professional experiences, or anything that would lead me to believe I would have influenced his decision. I was quickly reminded at that moment that my personal example is speaking to people even to those that I don’t really engage in conversation.

Personally, I believe that we all should take responsibility for our words and actions, which are manifested through our personal example. So, after being reminded of my long-held belief by my co-worker, I realized that I was apparently communicating a message that encouraged others to take action to improve themselves. However, that encounter made me think a little more about the message I share daily. More specifically, I wondered, what am I doing to ensure that my personal example is communicating what I would like for it to say? After all, I put so much effort into getting ready, physically, spiritually, and emotionally to be the best version of myself, that I should be more aware of the fact that my actions are speaking to others.

Now, as an educator, you can’t avoid influencing others through your example. In fact, one of the things successful teachers realize is that your personal example is your most potent instructional tool with students. Since this concept wasn’t foreign to me, I focused on identifying approaches to help me be more present and aware of the opportunities I have to influence and hone the message of my personal example.

(1) strive to be the best version of myself in every aspect of my life, from my appearance to my word choice to my disposition every day

Excellence fosters excellence, and the more we are at our best, the more we can inspire others to be at their best. Making a conscious effort to model the highest standard of professionalism, collegiality, and respect for everyone we interact with will drastically streamline what our personal example is saying to others.

(2) concentrate on being present and paying more attention to the people I interact with daily

We have to be aware to be intentional, and it is easier to pay attention to people when your general disposition is to have outgoing concern for others. Living as an example is an enlightening way of life rooted in service to others. It can be both rewarding and eye-opening to merely think about the needs, perspectives, and strengths of others before acting.

In a Forbes article, The Most Powerful Leadership Tool You Have: Your Own Example,  contributor John Hall states, “Your own example is the most powerful leadership tool you have.” He goes on to share five things you can do to strengthen that tool and improve your example as a leader.

1. Get in the trenches (without getting trapped in the weeds).
2. Eliminate superiority barriers.
3. Forget your insecurities.
4. Challenge yourself and those around you to become better.
5. Prove the impossible is possible.

My daily routines are filled with activities designed to help me accomplish my goals. They serve me well, and I see no reason to change them. Instead, I understand the need to align them to the broader purpose of preparing me to influence and improve the lives of others positively. After all, Booker T. Washington said it best, “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” So the more awareness I have of the message of my personal example, the more I will be able to accomplish my goals of helping others aim higher and be better.  Now, my question to you is, what does your personal example communicate?

Education Reform

Haiku on Learning

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Haiku on Learning

Photo by Pragyan Bezbaruah on

Living is learning

Character through challenges

Improving Culture

Learning is ruined

Politics and agendas

Stay Purpose Driven

Personal Development/Podcast Episodes

Episode 4: Self-Confidence in Education

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Episode 4: Self-Confidence in Education

Superintendent of Schools for Community ISD, Dr. Roosevelt Nivens, highlighted his personal story of triumph.  During this episode, Dr. Nivens shared a truly inspiring story of overcoming as his father, friends, and teachers supporting him along his journey from a poor illiterate child, to an NFL football player, and ultimately to becoming a school superintendent.  He also discussed how he developed self-confidence and how he is driven to foster the right confidence in those he serves and impacts every day.