10 Student Expectations That All Schools Should Consider

10 Student Expectations That All Schools Should Consider

We’re big on student voice at Noble Impact. Students are the key constituents in the education system, so it only makes sense to include them in the conversation about their education. Right? Well, that’s not always the case. Students are often on the receiving end of the “expectations” conversation.

As most schools around the nation wrap up for summer, I’d urge teachers and school leaders to think about student voice and how they can collect and meet the expectations that their students have of their education. Rather than schools setting expectations for student behavior, achievements, and proficiency, why don’t we all take a step back and make sure that our students’ expectations are truly being heard and met.

This week, I was reminded of the “10 Expectations” list produced by Big Picture Learning, a network of schools that was established in 1995 with the sole mission of putting students directly at the center of their own learning. This list consists of 10 expectations it believes all students should have of their schools. By my gauge, it’s certainly plausible that every student deserves and should have access to an engaging learning environment marked by these expectations.

If you’re looking for a dose of inspiration on what a student-centered learning approach looks like, watch Big Picture Learning’s “10 Expectations” video below. I’ve also included a transcript of the 10 expectations for easy future reading.

The “10 Expectations” that students should have of their schools, as outlined in the above Big Picture Learning video, include:

  1. Relationships. Am I just another face in the classroom, a test score? Or do my teachers know about me and my interests and talents? Do the teachers help me form relationships with peers and adults who might serve as models and coaches?
  2. Relevance. Is it just a series of hoops to jump? Or is the work relevant to my interests? Do my teachers help me understand how my learning contributes to my community and to the world?
  3. Time. Am I expected to learn at a constant pace decided by the teacher, or can I learn at my own pace? Is there time for learning to be deep as well as broad?
  4. Timing. Do all students have to learn things in the same sequence, or can I learn things in an order that fits my learning style or interests?
  5. Play. Is there always pressure to perform? Or do I have opportunities to explore and make mistakes and learn from them, without being branded as a failure? Do I have opportunities to tinker and make guesses?
  6. Practice. Do we learn something and then immediately move on to the next skill? Or can we engage in deep and sustained practice of those skills we need to learn?
  7. Choice. Am I just following the same path as every student? Or do I have real choices about what, when, and how I will learn and demonstrate my abilities?
  8. Authenticity. Is my work just a series of diddos? Or is the learning and work I do considered significant outside of school by experts, family, and employers?
    Does the community recognize the value of my work?
  9. Challenge. Is it just about completing assignments? Or do I feel appropriately challenged? Am I addressing high and meaningful standards of excellence?
  10. Application. Is my learning all theoretical? Or do I have opportunities to apply what I’m learning in real world settings?

Does your school incorporate student voice and expectations? If so, share your methods for student inclusion in the comments below.

Why K-12 Entrepreneurial Education Is Critical To A Student’s Success

Why K-12 Entrepreneurial Education Is Critical To A Student’s Success

“Honestly, I didn’t even know it was an option,” she said.

A recent college graduate, she sat across the table from me at the Venture Center explaining that she didn’t even know places like the Venture Center existed.

“I always assumed that entrepreneurs were special. They had all the connections or money,” she continued. “But now I see that anyone can do it. You don’t just have to settle for any old job.”

The Venture Center recently welcomed a group of students from eStem High School’s Noble Impact program in an effort to expose students to the community’s entrepreneurial resources.

Where Does Entrepreneurial Education Start?

Entrepreneurism begins with the realization that launching a new business is possible. If you never understand that opening a startup is a career choice, you never try. Entrepreneurism remains distant. It is something “out there.” It’s not a viable option.

How many great ideas never make it to market? How many remarkable businesses never launch simply because those who would have launched them never believed they were possible?

Noble Impact exposes high school students to the startup community. But that’s not all. Students also explore key components of the startup community and what it takes to be an entrepreneur. The most important thing that Noble Impact has done for students at eStem is that the program has exposed them to real world environments and relationships.

Tim Freeman of Hark TV chats with Noble Impact students
Tim Freeman of Hark TV chats with Noble Impact students

What would happen if entrepreneurism were just a “normal” career option in the minds of young startup leaders?

To change students’ mindsets, they have to be exposed to the idea in the early stages of their development.

Entrepreneurship education at the K-12 level is not only important, it’s critical. We live in a world of constant change and we can’t wait to introduce students to real world education until they leave high school.

— Chad Williamson, Noble Impact facilitator at eStem

If students are not exposed to the “real world” until they leave high school, they are at a disadvantage. Today, though, the barrier for entry in entrepreneurism is lower than it has ever been. Due to rapid technological advancements, if a student isn’t turning his/her interests into marketable skills, he/she may already be behind.

High school students are learning to code like their parents learned a second language. Many of these budding developers are launching apps and web platforms to solve real-life problems that impact their daily lives.

The students who are taught to assess risk are able to craft a business model and position and launch their solution as a product in the market place. As a result, they set themselves up for success in the workplace.

Why Is Early Entrepreneurial Education Important?

Lou McAlister, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Venture Center
Lou McAlister, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Venture Center
Chad Williamson, lead Noble Impact facilitator at eStem, also points out that “An understanding of the startup ecosystem is valuable to all students because it’s deeply rooted in risk-taking and high-level communication.”

Life involves risk. Those who have the greatest skills in mitigating and minimizing risk advance in all areas of life. Teaching students to analyze and navigate risk in a real world setting allows them to make smaller mistakes with moderated consequences.

This opportunity helps to develop greater emotional intelligence, an important component of a successful entrepreneur. Investors want to know that the entrepreneur has an investable idea, but they also want to know that the entrepreneur is an investable person, says Lou McAlister, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Venture Center.

When people learn that entrepreneurism is a career option and they develop the emotional fortitude to process and minimize risk, they are positioned to move into the startup community with a strong foundation. They come to the market as an investable person. The energy of their efforts can be focused on producing the best, most investable business idea.

Why a Strong Startup Community?

One of the key components to a strong entrepreneurial community is diversity. In a thriving community, all elements are welcomed. Diversity is celebrated.

Why is diversity important?

I’m all about the boats rising together, the importance of diversity, and being fiercely conscious of inclusivity … more people will want to be part of the game. Strong entrepreneurial ecosystems drive economic growth, educational outcomes and relationships.

— Chad Williamson, Noble Impact facilitator at eStem

The greatest result of a strong entrepreneurial community is an expansion of the “pie.” The more ideas that are fostered, the larger the economic pie grows.

Entrepreneurism gives each member of the community an opportunity to contribute to the growth of the larger economic pie, and it provides an opportunity for other community members to experience the economic benefit of that expansion.

What is the Bottom Line?

Educating students early about entrepreneurism gives them options. Options bring hope. Exposure to real life communities, growth and innovation enables students to be stronger people with a high emotional intelligence. It prepares them to compete in the marketplace—whether they launch their own business or contribute to the success of someone else’s.

When students’ mindsets are success-oriented, we all win.

This post originally appeared in Arkansas Money & Politics, where Steve Rice is an avid contributor.

A Case For Apprenticeships In Modern Education

A Case For Apprenticeships In Modern Education

Our current assembly-line education system needs a modern day makeover. I believe that by implementing project-based learning and a more apprenticeship-like curriculum, we can better prepare our students for the workforce and the real world.

My Apprenticeship Experience

I moved to New York City in early September 2012 to start my apprenticeship at Holstee, a sustainable design and lifestyle company. Through a program called Enstitute, I lived with 10 other apprentices, who each worked for various companies such as Bitly, Thrillist, and Unified Social, to name a few. Each of our individual apprenticeships were different, but they all had one key thing common — we were all getting a very in-depth look into how startups actually work and seeing into the day-to-day of the entrepreneurs who run them.

My apprenticeship led me to travel to Mexico for a month, help launch a Kickstarter, and gain exposure to things and concepts that up until that point, I had only read about in class. I sat in on pitch meetings with VCs. I helped interview new hires and took notes during exit interviews. I saw what it was like to take a product from a sketch in a notebook to a physical prototype. I even apprenticed under another entrepreneur in Dublin for six weeks and learned how business can vary from culture to culture. The year-long apprenticeship adventure set me up for success by teaching me real-world, marketable skills.

See A Problem, Fix A Problem

My apprenticeship experience changed my career trajectory. So, why aren’t we starting students out with real-world learning much earlier?

Education, at all levels, needs to be revamped for the modern world. The current, outdated system created for a different time period no longer makes sense in our modern, faster-paced society. Too often students learn facts and interesting anecdotes without any real hope of practical application. This lack of opportunity forces students to stress over marks on multiple choice tests in lieu of manifesting creativity. This outdated system leads to stunted career paths and increased student loan debt.

I was the kid who sat in the back of class on his laptop, reading blogs by Tim Ferriss and Gary Vaynerchuk and occasionally answering a question or two to keep the teacher off of my back.

The class met once per week for three hours, where we went over 100 PowerPoint slides each class period. My brain was fried, my classmates were exhausted from working all day, and most of us didn’t fully understand why we were there. I once pressed my professor for an example of how we could apply the day’s theories in the modern workplace. The response was startling.

Eventually, she concluded, “It’s not my job to provide relevant examples, it’s simply my job to present the material.”

What good is information with no practical application? Why are we as students forced from the age of five to memorize facts, dates, and definitions without any route to attempt application of what we are studying?

I believe that classrooms need to better simulate the real-world for which they are supposed to be preparing students. We need more learn-by-doing lesson plans. We need to implement apprenticeships and hands-on learning into modern education.

Capstone Projects: A Step In The Right Direction

My last semester of college, my main focus was my Senior Capstone project — a real-world simulation where a group and I actually performed experiments on the freshman (muhahaha). The experiment focused on finding relationships (or lack thereof) between a certain type of memory and key characteristics of depression. We administered surveys, performed interviews, ran statistical models, and presented our findings to numerous faculty and students, who then subjected us to a tough line of questioning. The project brought my engagement up to a whole new level and opened my eyes to the hands-on education I had been yearning for over the last 18 or so years. We need more classrooms settings to follow this same line of thinking and teaching.

High school students explore lots of different subjects in order to find out what they want to study in college. But outside of Student Council and clubs, most classes don’t actually enable students to “do” anything. Teachers lecture, students read, tests are taken, and then the process is repeated.

What would happen if every time a student wrote a paper, they were then required to use that paper in order to teach what they had learned to the other students? I bet the content would shift dramatically, and the depth of learning would be that much greater. if the goal went passed simply trying to obtain an “A” to real-world application, perhaps students would finally be truly engaged and intrigued to learn more.

Too often, students are simply aiming to check off boxes on a grading rubric. “Did you write at least 500 words? Is the paper in proper MLA/APA/etc format? Are sources properly cited?” Who cares?

Preparing Students For 21st Century Life

Assignments should focus on preparation for the future, not completing rote tasks. Assignments should focus on actual learning. Grading rubrics should instead address topics like: “Did you obtain a firm understanding of the material, so much so that you could then use this knowledge to infer and devise solutions to future problems?”

Now, I’m an entrepreneur. In fact, I have been ever since I was a child, it just took me a long time to come to this realization. No one told me “where companies come from” or that the creative solutions I was coming up with could potentially turn into a career. I always have multiple, simultaneous side projects in action, some of which currently include a digital marketing consulting company, freelance resume and cover letter writing services, and a business making skinny ties. In order to scale each of these ideas, I need to hire savvy people to help me out, and the task has proven difficult in the past.

As an entrepreneur, I’m not looking to hire walking dictionaries and encyclopedias. I’m looking for people with grit, tenacity, problem solving and reasoning skills, who can think creatively. We need people that can actually get things done and that aren’t simply aiming for an “A”. The skills listed above are only a handful that I picked up in multiple apprenticeships through Enstitute, a learn-by-doing program for young adults (which I mentioned above). My hope is that by addressing the lack of practical application in the classroom early on, others will not have to wait as long I did to truly start learning.

I believe that we should start implementing apprenticeships and project-based learning into our high schools. Any major change into the education system will be met with tons of pushback and will have to get through layers of red tape, so we should start with ideas that are more progressive and open-minded. I believe that high school apprenticeships can solve a lot of the issues we currently face in education, namely lack of engagement and real-world connecting, and I believe it’s possible to make apprenticeships work systemically. This type of learning should not be limited to after-school programs, such as the one I self-selected into, but should be an option for all students interested in getting their hands dirty.

Header image courtesy of Holstee

What About Miguel? The Story Of A Student Left Behind And What To Do About It

What About Miguel? The Story Of A Student Left Behind And What To Do About It

A few weeks ago I had the chance to grab breakfast with an Arkansas teacher’s union leader. I chose an adult breakfast of coffee and a chocolate chip cookie. As my colleague waited for her egg and sausage sandwich to cool down, we began our trek down an unlikely conversation. A simple breakfast date between two educators may not seem extraordinary, except as education leaders navigating a constantly swinging political pendulum, charter people (I guess that’s me) and union people aren’t supposed to get along.

We agreed to meet to share ideas, and as she told me about her work advocating for teachers and her love for her students, I soon realized I was dining with an ally.

She told me about her own challenges as a young mother trying to earn a college degree. Later as a special education teacher, she stepped up to the role of a political advocate for teachers. I asked her what made her take on such an incredibly tough job of navigating adult politics. It was her students, of course!

I shared a story about Miguel, one of my former 9th grade students on the Mexican border in Brownsville, Texas. At our school with a 55% drop out rate, showing up each day and attempting to graduate was a struggle for most students.

Miguel spent many lunch periods in my classroom making up work he quietly refused to do in class. This soft-spoken young man, hiding behind long bangs and shrugging shoulders, would sit in the last chair nearest the door — always positioned for a quick escape. After a few weeks, he began to tell me about things. All of the men in his family were behind bars. And when I asked why he wouldn’t work in my class, he at once became the teacher. He looked me in the eye and explained that he didn’t belong in my class.

To illustrate his point, Miguel told me that earlier in the day, during English class, when the teacher used the word “paragraph,” he had no idea what she was talking about. He believed he had been passed on to the next grade each year since the 6th grade because no one wanted to deal with him. There is no happy ending to my story about Miguel. He, like countless others, disappeared from class during the school year.

I shared this story with my colleague to highlight why we needed to create a new conversation about how to advocate for teachers and students. Just as my friend in the union wants to make sure teachers are protected, we also need serious dedication towards serving all students. We shouldn’t need to spend valuable time and resources to protect dedicated and effective teachers. Instead, we must trust them, compensate them and get out of their way.

Rather than politics, we must start a new conversation about the value of the teaching profession and reinforcing educational systems that prioritize the voice of all students. We must find, cultivate and support teachers who are leaders in their profession. Being an excellent teacher is one of the hardest jobs in the world. I know many of them and in a school full of excellent teachers who are supported and trusted, Miguel’s plight would be intolerable.

So, thank you to the leaders in education, like my new ally, who are willing to focus on what’s important for our students.

This post originally appeared on Arkansas Money & Politics, where Trish contributes as a local entrepreneur.