What are we resigned to do? | Will Richardson | 3 Min Read

Once again, the world is leaving schools behind. 

A recent Microsoft study revealed an astonishing trend across 30 countries: Over 40% of the 30,000 people surveyed said they were thinking of resigning from their current jobs. 

40%!

Why? Because as the last year and a half has taught us, many workers have more options than they thought they did. And, because by and large, they’re finding work to be boring and unfulfilling. 

The World Economic Forum notes that the “world of work has been profoundly reshaped by the pandemic.” Specifically:

  • Flexible work is here to stay
  • Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call
  • High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce
  • Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized
  • Shrinking networks are endangering innovation
  • Authenticity will spur productivity and wellbeing
  • Talent is everywhere in a hybrid world

Anyone surprised by this? We shouldn’t be. As with many other realities that were living just under the surface, the pandemic, racial and social justice issues, economic inequity, climate change and more are pushing them into the daylight. 

And they’re disruptive. 

In the context of schools, which is where I read all of these studies and revelations, the underlying realities are connected. Let’s take them one by one. 

Flexible learning is here to stay. As I wrote in my last column, schools that don’t offer students some sort of virtual option are bucking the larger trend of increased agency in learners and workers. The remote schooling ship has sailed, and most schools aren’t on it.

Leaders are out of touch with students and need a wake-up call. How will students be prepared for their lives when they’re being delivered a curriculum that ignores, among other things, an understanding of artificial intelligence, privacy and surveillance, networking, social capital, new literacies, justice and equity, self-education options, intercultural competence, crypto-economics, and personal well being?

“High expectations” is masking an unwell student body. Even before the pandemic hit, kids were increasingly stressed, anxious, and depressed. The last 18 months have only exacerbated this. 

Gen Z is at risk and will need to be healed and made prepared for more disruption to come. The pandemic may be ending, but the sea of issues and problems that our kids will have to navigate will only grow more complex. 

Shrinking opportunities for pursuing learning on their own terms are limiting students’ ability to innovate. If we want innovators, maybe individuals and institutions should make space for and model that innovative disposition.

Authenticity will spur real learning. We all know that learning only sticks when it’s meaningful, relevant, and real world. The school experience is filled with too many contrivances that get in the way of deep and powerful learning. 

Teachers, knowledge, and technologies are everywhere in a hybrid world. Kids don’t need to be in a place at a time with others their own age from their own neighborhoods with an expert teacher to learn what they want or need to learn any longer. It happens anytime, anywhere, and with anyone, if we want it to (and if we have access.)

If 40% of people might resign from their current jobs, I can’t imagine what percentage of our students want to resign from their current school realities. And many, like those Black families, are already doing that. 

The bottom line is this: whether it’s work or media or healthcare or business or politics, almost every aspect of our lives is now in flux. Old narratives and rules and expectations are breaking. If we hold on to those things in schools, we are breaking a promise to our kids to prepare them for whatever world they will be living in. 

So no one should be shocked to read that the rate of Black children being homeschooled is up by 500% since last year. They’re resigning. 

If we don’t reframe our purpose and our practices, don’t be surprised if that trend continues to the larger student body as a whole.

Will Richardson

A former public school educator of 22 years, Will Richardson has spent the past 15 years developing an international reputation as a leading thinker and writer about the intersection of social online learning networks, education, and systemic change. Most recently, Will is a co-founder of The Big Questions Institute which was created to help educators use “fearless inquiry” to make sense of this complex moment and an uncertain future.In 2017, Will was named one of 100 global “Changemakers in Education” by the Finnish site HundrED, and was named one of the Top 5 “Edupreneurs to Follow” by Forbes. He has given keynote speeches, lead breakout sessions, and provided coaching services in over 30 countries on 6 continents. He has also authored six books, and given TEDx Talks in New York, Melbourne, and Vancouver.

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