With the Common Core, the term “college and career ready” has become a part of our lexicon. However, as these words part our lips we question its meaning. While we aim to teach in ways that help children become “college and career ready,” we can’t do so without thinking deeply about the implications of the phrase.
To help you think about this, we ask that you take five minutes and watch this short film by Peter Reynolds titled Above and Beyond. As you watch it, consider Maya and Charlie’s success. If we place this in the context of “college and career readiness,” what does Peter Reynolds suggest is important?
As learners, Maya and Charlie bring very different strengths to the table. Maya is an observer and a risk-taker and thinks “outside of the box.” Charlie, on the other hand, is systematic, careful, but still curious. They are both respectful, communicative, and highly collaborative. Together, they think critically and problem solve in ways that allow them to creatively innovate.
As we have watched this film with countless teachers, many have smiled and nodded and said, “Yes, we want our students to be like that, in fact, those are the students we dreamed about when we first began teaching…but poor Maya, in our high-stakes testing environment, there’s just no room for her.”
In spite of the fact that we may feel that standardized testing interferes with the development of Mayas in our classrooms, we still have to pause and think about the need for Mayas in our 21st century world. What will become of us if we only allow Charlies to thrive? And in spite of our greatest efforts, don’t Mayas exist anyway? Are Mayas the ones who grow up to be Larry Page and Sergey Brin (founders of Google) or Mark Zuckerman (Facebook) or Jeff Bezos (Amazon) or Tony Hsieh (Zappos)? In spite of whatever tests Smarter Balanced and PARCC release in 2014, “college and career ready” seems contingent upon communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and yes, creativity. In order to thrive in a 21st century world, our students will need to be part Maya AND part Charlie which means, we’ve got to teach in ways that make room for both.
We DO want to prepare students for college and career. But we want to prepare them for a whole lot more, too.