High school graduations speeches tend to all sound the same. Bless the students and guest speakers, but after sitting through 15 graduations in the last 15 years, most of the wisdom and reflections are worn out. Yesterday, Carson Scott, the valedictorian of our Francis Parker School graduating class provided two words that will stick with me, and deeply resonate with my philosophy of how education should be.
He told a short story: his group of 16 juniors and seniors participating in our Global Studies program had just landed in Hanoi after about 20 hours of travel. They got on a bus to go to dinner. The lead chaperone, and one of the best teachers I have ever known, Tom Crowley, came back to where the group of 6 seniors sat on the bus and gathered their attention. Carson was sure Mr. Crowley was going to give them the “be safe, be leaders, don’t do anything stupid on this trip” speech. He didn’t. He said just two words that stuck with Carson for his valedictory speech, and I know are going to stick with him for the rest of his life: “Dive in.”
I now have my good friend and colleague Tom Crowley to thank for the first two words of my evolving book, The Learning Pond. The pond I am writing about describes the shape and function of K-12 learning in the future, as we go beyond teaching our students “what” and we engage them with “how” and “what if” by tapping into their collective innate sources of “why”. This pond has many different sub-habitats, just like a real pond, and it is linked to the rest of the cognitasphere just as a natural pond is linked to the rest of the hydrosphere. I won’t go into details now; that has been evolving on my computer over the last 6 months and hopefully will be ready for public review before long.
But one thing I will say, thanks to Tom Crowley and Carson Scott, is that the single most important step for all learners—students, teachers, and parents—is to Dive In. The Pond is nothing if you stay on the shore. What a great image to pursue and a commitment to make! If we don’t dive in, we will never truly be in the pond, and oh, what a waste that is!