Education in the last 80 years has been extremely efficient in teaching content, with students, like empty vessels needing to be filled, receiving all the information from their teacher, ‘the knowledge fountain’. It’s been extremely efficient in teaching how to write well, listen well, remember well and regurgitate pretty well too!
But that’s worked in the past… what about the future?
Moving deeper into the 21st century, this paradigm must shift. There are other skills - skills that extend beyond content, computers and technology - that will be necessary to succeed in life, and the workforce.
Research agrees that collaboration and teamwork, creativity and imagination, critical thinking and problem solving are skills that must be developed and harnessed.
Students will need to develop empathy, be resilient, become global citizens and lifelong learners. They will need to show initiative, be ethical, socially responsible and technologically literate. Oral and written communication skills go without saying.
So what classroom changes must happen in the next 10 years?
- The role of the teacher will need to shift from one of ‘fountain’ to one of facilitator – someone who asks good questions, questions that stimulate debate, reasoning and cultivate life skills.
- The classroom environment will need to change from linear in desk design and minimal distractions to one that is more organic - perhaps with sliding glass panels and modular furniture that can be arranged as best needed - areas for group work, discussion, research and debate. The ‘outside’ will need to be allowed inside – computers, tablets, phones – as they provide access to an infinite world of knowledge.
- Off-site Learning: learning will take place more outside the classroom through research, reading and video. The new classroom will be a place where that content learning is debated and discussed.
- Learning goals will must change from simply memorising and regurgitating content to one that nurtures creative and critical thinking students. The way knowledge is measured will need to change too.
And, in my opinion, the most important element:
- Student and Teacher Mental Health and Wellbeing: How do we create future classrooms that nurture students to become capable, creative, critical thinkers while maintaining their mental health and wellbeing? How do we create learning environments where students have resilience, are empathic citizens of the classroom who care about one another, the environment, their community and the world at large – who are kind and compassionate to themselves and others?
It's easy… and teachers don’t need to be a health guru to learn how to bring daily bursts of yoga, breath and mindfulness into every school day. They just need a few simple tools to create calmer, healthier and more vibrant learning environments.
Why is this SO important?
Because just a few minutes of mindful movement and deep breathing overrides the stress response, halting the flight-fight hormone production. The strengthening, lengthening, twisting, bending and stretching, coupled with smooth breaths, creates mental and physical focus and, very quickly (in fact immediately), helps students and teachers to feel more vibrant, less reactive, more interested and able to concentrate better and for longer. It stimulates kindness, both to oneself and to others. The Para-Sympathetic arm of the nervous system (rest and digest), starts to kick in.
In a world that is often very chaotic and over-stimulating for all of us, especially kids, it’s important to offer Peace Pauses – minutes where students and teachers can be drawn back into the present… to re-set.
Academics is paramount, but so is the mental health and wellbeing of our teachers and students. Creating future fit schools means creating environments where students are nurtured into whole human beings – healthy creative and critical thinkers and learners; self aware; and kind, compassionate citizens of the classroom, their community and the world.
Beth Borowsky is an educator, yoga teacher, teacher trainer and mum of 2 adult daughters. She is the founder of The Karma Class, and their accredited workshop - A Karma Classroom: Yoga, Breath + Mindfulness - teaches teachers how to support culture change within their schools, and build resilience and calm into their classroom.