At the end of January, we were thrilled to take part in the GCSLS conference in San Antonio, a conversation among educators worldwide about the future of schooling in a world that is changing more rapidly every day. The theme of the conference was one near and dear to our Waterloo hearts: education must meet the needs of and help form the whole child, body and soul as well as mind, and must prepare them for a future we cannot even begin to imagine. In order to do so, we must re-humanize the process and create an educational landscape that is focused on relationships, not transactions, and one that is healthy for both students and teachers.
Sound familiar yet? We were confirmed in our perception that Waterloo is at the forefront of a new movement in education, one that is already seeing encouraging results. The conference highlighted the work of organizations such as MeTEOR Education and futurists such as Rex Miller, whose Mindshift process is helping companies and industries find new ways to tackle “wicked problems”, all of which is fueling and supporting a new generation of school leaders who want to, as we put it, “school different.” Justin Cook and his colleagues from Ontario led interactive seminars that embodied their philosophy of “deeper in, further out.” Their premise is that real work excites and engages students, forming them more deeply at their core and inspiring them to reach out into the world and become agents of change, a conviction that was borne out by the beautiful student projects they shared— a publication of 5th-grade slave narratives sold to benefit organizations fighting human trafficking, a fish hatchery and ecosystem study, a supply drive for the SPCA and animals in need.
And yet, this new movement is also embracing some rather traditional ideas and bringing them into the 21st century. Words such as relationship, community, involvement, and diversity came up over and over again in the keynote addresses, panel presentations, and workshops, along with the call to innovate. The emphasis on community reminds us that while an education that is designed by educators is different, it is not different for the sake of innovation or change itself. It is different because good teachers know instinctively that the key to learning and student outcome is the quality of the relationships in students’ lives.
Formation through relationship is at the heart of what we do at Waterloo, because when you focus on relationship, all of the best learning naturally follows. We’re on this journey to form hearts and minds together, and we are so glad you’re with us.