The A,B,C’s of (Real World) Success

Ryan Pflughaupt

By Ryan Pflughaupt

It was a chilly January evening in a small, rural district in South Texas where community stakeholders gathered to provide district leaders with valuable feedback concerning the expectations they had for their children’s school experience. Also assembled was a diverse group of students who were selected to share with their peers, parents, teachers, community and district leaders honest feedback about their school experience.

Success isn’t measured in A’s, B’s, C’s or whatever degrees you get in college. Click To Tweet

At one point during the student panel, a young sophomore took the microphone and confidently stood up tall, although she was barely five feet, and said, “Success isn’t measured in A’s, B’s, C’s or whatever degrees you get in college.” Her poise and tone was such that it seemed as though she believed this was her moment to finally tell the powers that be how she felt about her high school experience. “No,” she continued, “success is based on how you react in real life.” The young sophomore went on to explain the degree to which schools are failing to prepare students for the real world, because when you have a real job, “You can’t just say what you are going to do, you have to do it.”

You can’t just say what you are going to do, you have to do it. Click To Tweet

At barely 16 years old, this young woman aptly determined what it means to be career ready–possessing the ability to demonstrate mastery. Or, more simply put, the ability to think, create, and solve problems with a moment’s notice.

This young woman’s bold and honest reflection on her school experience is disheartening because, for all intents and purposes, she is the epitome of what we call a “good student.” How is it then that a student having a “successful” K-12 career can feel that she is not adequately prepared for the real world? Unfortunately, this student panel proved that she was not alone in her assessment of the shortcomings of public education.

“If I had to put a number to it,” said one young man, “I’d say the amount of time I am actively engaged in school would be less than 10% of the time.” The assembled community stakeholders snickered, and the young man turned abruptly to correct them, “That’s no joke. The time that I am actually learning in school is less than 10% of the time.” At e2L, we often question whether learners are getting the full benefit of the 20,000 hours they will spend in grades kinder through 12th, and here we have a learner who confesses 18,000 of those hours have been lost on something other than learning.

If this young man, an honor student who was ranked third in his class, can achieve such high levels of academic success with so little attention or daily engagement, then what sort of potential is squandered during the other 90% of the day he is actively disengaged from his learning environment?

What does it mean and what does it take for learners to be future ready? Click To Tweet

Stories such as these are particularly alarming because, for every one “successful” student who is discontented with their school experience, there are 1,000 “unsuccessful” students. Lost in the shuffle of measuring success in grades and GPAs is a greater question: what does it mean and what does it take for learners to be future ready?

It is for this very reason that e2L is on a mission. We work tirelessly with our partners to create space and opportunities for parents, students, and community stakeholders to share with district leaders what they are hoping learners get out of their school experience. It for this very reason e2L embedded community feedback into our bevy of strategic planning and initiative rollout services. Those of us at e2L who have had the opportunity to facilitate and attend these town hall meetings across the nation consistently hear the same thing over and over.

Parents want schools to equip their children to succeed in the real world.

Learners want to be engaged in learning they know is relevant to the real world.

Teachers want the tools and training necessary to engage learners and equip them to succeed in the real world.

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