Preparing for Life, or Preparing for School?

Will Smith quote about traditional education

Being as my role includes the words “innovation” and “design,” I often talk to parents about shifts in educational practice, and why they are happening. Our district is elementary only, so some parents naturally worry about what will happen to their children after they leave an innovative elementary experience.

The question usually goes something like this:

Are my children going to be prepared for a traditional ______
(middle school, high school, college) experience?

It made me think about my own children, and what I prepared them for, and how I prepared them. I knew there’d be a time when both my girls would have their hearts broken by a love interest. But never did I think to myself, “Perhaps I should break their heart fnow so they are prepared for this moment.”

Instead, I focus on building confidence and independence in my daughters. I model resilience by being open about my own disappointing life experiences. I share books, articles, movies, and songs with positive life messages. And above all else, I encourage open dialogue with them so they see me as a source of support, and not fear.

I didn’t need to break their hearts to prepare them for heartbreak. They have each experienced the woes of teenage angst, and unreturned love, and came out a stronger, more determined woman.

Likewise, I don’t feel children need to be prepared for traditional school experiences by mimicking those experiences. Instead, children should be taught the skills they will need to thrive and find success regardless of the situation in which they are placed. If they learn critical problem finding and solving skills; how to collaborate with a team, even if the team is less than ideal; ways to empathize with others; and how to engage in creative thought and process they will be equipped with the skills to not only get them through the outdated, err traditional, school experience, but they’ll also have the skills to be successful in life.

I suggest we help parents instead pose the question:

Are my children going to be equipped with skills needed for a successful life,
regardless of their _____ (middle school, high school, college) experience?


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