We live in a constantly changing world, and education needs to reflect the pace at which the world moves. The reality of our world is that nobody can predict what the future will look like. We can't group our students into traditional careers like accountants, auto mechanics, and teachers. The top 10 fastest growing jobs in 2012 did not exist in 2004. With the exponential changes we are seeing in technology, all current projections have similar expectations for the next ten years. Our old ways of preparing students for the future need to change. In many ways, they already have.
As educators, we need to inspire and empower our students to be the citizens, stewards, and leaders that our communities need in order to face the challenges of this century. This means engaging in projects and learning experiences that immerse our kids in their communities - learning from experts and working together to solve real-world problems.
The face of education is changing, as is the role of the teacher. With students designing projects ranging from trail networks to outdoor classrooms to greenhouses for our school gardens, I can't expect to teach them everything they need to know about their topic. I can, however, put them in touch with experts in each field, giving my students a chance to engage with professionals, to work on meaningful projects, and to develop skills that they can apply across a broad range of possible careers. This is where the village comes in.
For too long, the responsibility of preparing our children for the future has been shouldered too heavily by the education system. We need the support of our communities in order to give our students the opportunities that they will need in order to lead successful and engaged adult lives.
For businesses, this means opening your doors to interns and giving them an opportunity to see what will be expected of them in the future. For professionals, it means being willing to share your expertise with students who have an interest in learning more about what you do. For all of us, it means recognizing the fact that the most important job any of us can ever have is in making sure that we are preparing our children, as best we can, for the future paths that they will take.
Luke Foley, the 2014 Vermont Teacher of the Year and STAR Alternative Program teacher at Northfield High School, lives in Warren, Vt.