I was recently listening to an audio version of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I have read the book before but wanted to revisit the ideas. Gladwell speaks about several different people and groups of people who had extraordinary opportunities. Junior hockey players in Canada. The Beatles. Bill Gates.
While the individuals on this list may have been successful on their own, it was the opportunities that were presented which pushed them to the height of their respective disciplines.
I also had the chance this week to visit the Northfield Community Middle School. The visit gave me the chance to see the tremendous opportunity that students are given at the Middle School. Meeting with Principal Glenn Robbins and Digital Shop Teacher Kevin Jarrett, I was struck with the extraordinary opportunities that students are presented with.
Students are included in the decision making process, allowed to work independently on projects of their own choosing, and encouraged to create and make, while being taught empathy and concern for others. The leadership and staff at Northfield have focused on creating a very specific experience for students; one that allows for freedom and trust and engages students in their passions.
When talking to the students, I found that they were excited to talk about their learning experiences and what drove them as learners. They were thrilled to have the opportunity to engage their passions during a daily student edcamp session. On this particular day, students learned about writing limericks, creating impromptu speeches, and critiquing films, among others.
Which leads me back to Outliers. Gladwell demonstrates the case that it is the opportunities that help certain people achieve greatness. It is our responsibility as educators to provide students with those extraordinary opportunities. Just as my visit to Northfield proves, it is possible to give students these opportunities by thinking outside the box, considering what experience you are trying to deliver, and trusting students to engage in the learning process.
Find a way to give students these opportunities. Make their learning experience something that they will carry throughout their lives.
Create an experience for your students.
Create opportunity for your students.