The Learner…Our Focus

I recently spent a week in Aruba working with the Ministry of Education kicking off their strategic National Educational Plan (2007- 2017) titled, “The Learner: Our Focus”. Each day brought 1/5 of the island’s educators to a seminar where the national plan, which has been designed over 18 months, was presented along with my sessions on backwards planning from student achievement…to student change…to teacher change…to changes in staff relationships…to changes in leadership. I also presented a workshop on Tapping Student Effort…. Increasing Student Achievement.

Aruba’s plan was built in a highly participatory process involving interviews of students, parents, educators, business and community leaders. Through the process they developed a vision statement for schools:

Our graduate is….
“a responsible, satisfied, global citizen, who is a life-long learner and contributes to the community’s quality of life”.

Here are Aruba’s descriptions for terms used in the vision statement.
How do your system’s and personal visions compare?

A global citizen:
-is like a cat that falls on her paws no matter where you throw her (old Aruban saying);
-can communicate well in 4 languages (Papiamento, Dutch, English, Spanish);
-displays proficiency in technical skills (telephone, computer), as well as academic, social and communication skills;
-seeks to be informed and knows how to look for information;
-has a global outlook;
-knows and understands what is going on around him or her;
-shows flexibility in the face of change and is able to adapt to different situations.

A satisfied citizen:
· is confident and content with self and her/his environment;
· feels good about own achievements, in the past, present and future;
· is content and proud about own abilities, what she/he knows and is at present, and what she/he can achieve in the future;
· achieves her/his goal, expresses and accepts herself/himself as she/he is and is accepted as is by others.

A life-long learner:
-has kept the desire to learn more, know more, and keep on progressing.
-Contributes to the community’s quality oflife:
-gives and helps in the community with all that is good.

Here are the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that Aruba will have as a focus:

Thinking and Learning Skills
Global Thinking-the graduate is an Olympian thinker, systems thinker; thinks critically, problem solves and creates solutions.
Effective Communication Skills- the graduate is a multilingual person who can read, write, speak proficiently in at least four languages, Papiamento, English, Dutch and Spanish; and observes, listens, and articulates thoughts well.
Ability to Work in a Team -the graduate collaborates, demonstrates respect for one another, shares and helps each other, and gives and takes feedback.
Flexibility and creativity-the graduate shows openness and responsiveness to new and diverse perspectives and demonstrates originality and inventiveness in work.
Initiative- the graduate demonstrates ability to define, prioritize and complete tasks without direct oversight.

Life Skills
Leadership skills -the graduate is able to mobilize others to achieve a common goal and is able to use interpersonal and problem-solving skills to serve the benefit of the whole rather than just self-benefit.
Ability to apply knowledge into practice-the graduate is able translate knowledge and ideas in practical ways.
Effective and productive work habits -the graduate is punctual and reliable, and is able to use time efficiently and manage workload effectively.
Ambition and self-driven -the graduate demonstrates initiative to advance professional skill and knowledge levels.
Positive mental attitude and behavior-the graduate demonstrates ability to focus on the future, on solutions, and look for the good as well as valuable lessons in any situation.
Self-confidence and self-motivation -the graduate demonstrates realistic expectations based on own skills and experience, and puts in the effort and preparation to reach a planned goal.
Ability to adapt to change -the graduate is able to adapt to a variety of roles and responsibilities and meet changing priorities with an ability to tolerate ambiguity.
Accountability for own actions -the graduate makes responsible decisions and creates his/her own solutions to problems.
Integrity -the graduate makes ethically informed judgments and aligns speech with deeds.
Social responsibility for civic participation -the graduate actively offers services for the wellbeing of the (global) community

ICT Literacy
Information and communications technology -the graduate utilizes the internet as a learning and research tool: knows how to get the right information for study, work, and private use.

Knowledge
Global awareness of issues affecting the present and future generations- the graduate is aware of the world as one interconnected whole and how global issues affect him/her and his/her local community, understands and appreciates intercultural differences between him/her and others; and has a strong national identity.

Health, fitness and well-being -the graduate is capable of making health improving life choices based on exposure to preventive physical and mental health measures, such as healthy diet, nutrition, exercise, risk avoidance and stress reduction and the ability to access health information and services.

I commended the educators of Aruba for committing to this vision. I shared my belief that the collaboration of the educators will be critical to the achievement of this goal!

If there are many teachers like the one who sent me the following note, I am sure the learners in Aruba will be the focus and will extend their achievement.

Dear Mr. Barkley,

Today I’ve attended your The Learner.. Our Focus meeting at the Marriot Hotel in Aruba.You have made me really enthusiastic about achieving my own goals. I just graduated from the Pabo, in Holland, so now I’m a teacher. But I really would love to just study some more. All the things you’ve told us today really made me think about my own future. I really want to pick up a new study. But what I’d like to hear from you is what you have studied, because I really want to do something with the things you have told us today. (My English is not very good. So I hope you understand my question!)
I want to thank you for making me think again about my future and realizing I am not at the highest level that I could achieve. I want to set a higher goal for myself!

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One Response to “ The Learner…Our Focus ”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Steve,
    First of all, thank you for the easy access to your on-going learning and information through your weekly posts. I read your blog every week, although this is the first time I have commented.

    I appreciate this week’s focus on students and and the specificity described for the Aruban learners -It was wonderful to learn the Aruban saying (is like a cat that falls on her paws…)and to see how the educators embedded culture into their vision.

    The letter from the participant is powerful. Keep these blogs coming! We are reading and learning along with you!

    (P.S I tried to put my URL in but it wouldn’t let me and the message came up as having illegal characters!!! Carol corwecar@wcboe.k12.md.us)

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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