One Sunday, back in the spring, I was driving my kids to a friend’s house. One of the twins says, “Are you ready for tomorrow?” Suddenly, I was panicked. What’s tomorrow? What have I forgotten? Whatever it is, clearly, I’m not ready.
Turns out, there was nothing planned for Monday. It was just my daughter being silly and reading a sign on their school.
Many of our school district’s buildings have a mural that states “Ready for Tomorrow.” It’s one of those things you notice, but don’t really see. Not only had I never really “seen” it, I had never considered the sign to be a question, only a statement. But, once posed as a question, my mind wouldn’t let it go. I started to really wonder, what does it take to be ready for tomorrow.
If tomorrow is truly the next day, well, that takes a bit of planning and organization. Not a big deal. But, what if tomorrow is next year, or five years from now? Are my kids ready for that? Will my kids be ready for their entry into life beyond school? I had to know.
Relying only upon the news in my LinkedIn feed would have led me to believe that we’re in real trouble. At least once a day you can read about the shortage of qualified workers for certain jobs. According to employers, far too many candidates fall short of their expectations. And, who or what is to blame for this skill shortage? Inevitably, we’re told “schools” or “education.”
So, I decided to check out what’s going on in the world of education, specifically in the world outside of just my kids’ schools. From my experience, you don’t find a lot of teachers or administrators on LinkedIn. So, I revived my Twitter account and started looking for educational insights.
Teachers, principals and superintendents are all over Twitter. So too are authors that write books for teachers, as well as educational consultants. Add to that, countless hashtags for workshops and conferences — one big event nearly every week throughout the summer — and you have a real bird’s-eye view into the world of education.
Once I started reading their tweets with regularity, I noticed a stark difference between my LinkedIn feed and my Twitter feed. LinkedIn is filled with articles about problems caused by bad managers, toxic cultures, and the lack of good leadership. In fact, I’ve made my own contributions to that genre of articles. But, there’s not any “conversations” between managers. Managers aren’t posting helpful managerial tips, or book reviews, or selfies from conferences, as they pose next to their management consultant heroes.
But, over on Twitter, it’s a whole different world. It’s not a feed full of problems. It’s a feed full of solutions. Solutions offered not by consultants, per se. Offered by other teachers. It’s a world of teachers helping teachers. Offering solutions for quirks in Google applications. Or, solutions for better technology integration. And, solutions for staying inspired and fulfilling professional development requirements.
Perhaps most fascinating was the continual tweets about the books teachers and principals were reading. Not just a typed quote from the book, mind you, but a photograph of the page of the book, with the quote highlighted.
I found myself “following” teachers just to witness their passion for their jobs, for their students, and for their fellow teachers. In this world, authors of educational how-to books are heroes. Other teachers with unique insights are heroes. And, if one of these heroes provides a keynote at a conference, suddenly Twitter is filled with photos and tweets about “Look who I just met!”
Why is this all so surprising? Because I’ve never seen anything quite like this in the world of business. Sure, there is a plethora of books on management and leadership. Certainly the books are read. And, when the authors appear at conferences, I’m sure some photos are taken.
But, it’s not celebrated in the same way that teachers are celebrating their passion for learning. Teachers are more than comfortable “geeking out” about a book, or better yet a signed copy of the book. And, they’re not geeking out in the comfort of their home. No, they’re putting it out there on Twitter for their fellow teachers to see and celebrate as well.
I’ve simply never seen this type of support in the world of business. In business it seems there’s more competition than cooperation. In the world of business, it’s not at all about the people you’re managing, it’s about profit. But, with education, there seems to be a genuine desire to inspire others, to assist others, and to challenge others to try something new.
I’m still trying to answer my questions about what my kids need to be ready for tomorrow. In fact, I’m now curious about what skills all kids will need for the Future of Work. But, I’m not worried.
It’s quite possible that no one is yet ready for the Future of Work. If that’s true, then I’m quite optimistic. Spend a few days following educators on Twitter, and you too will see that we have a great group of teachers and principals and superintendents who will gladly rise to the challenge.
Teachers have passion, not only for their work, but for each other and their profession. With that spirit of generosity and kindness, I’m very optimistic that today’s kids are in good hands.
And, to those employers that want to continue to blame education for their shortage of qualified workers, I encourage you to critically evaluate what you bring to the table. Maybe it’s not a lack of qualified workers, but a lack of desirable work, particularly for employees that want something more than just a paycheck.