Do you have a Rhonda?
Wait. Let me back up.
In our work as educators, most of us realize, and often articulate, this truth: The world is changing rapidly, and kids are learning differently than they even a decade ago. To be successful, our students need different skills and approaches to thinking. The jobs our children will hold haven’t even been invented yet, we say.
And it’s true. Here some of the things we need them to be:
- Literate in many different genres, from text to technology
- Professional learners
- Media critics
- Savvy media makers
- Mindful citizens
- Social contractors
- Global ambassadors
- Innovative designers
- Protectors of self and identity
- Flexible problem-solvers
And other things, too. Things I can't even think of.
But here’s the thing: if we want to teach young people to be these things, we’ve got to be doing them ourselves. We need to stretch, grow, and change in our thinking habits.
Which is really, really hard. For me, at least.
For me, it’s not natural. I’m a routine kind of girl. I don't seek and discover. I tend to rely on patterns and processes that have worked well, turning a blind eye to new technology and systems. Which means it’s easy for me to get caught in old and inefficient routines.
A few weeks ago, I sent off a tantrum text to my friend Rhonda. I needed help. I'd arrived at an apex of frustration—all my devices and accounts and photos were all gobblygooked up together, and I didn’t know how to manage them, or even think about ways to organize them neatly. Rhonda was the perfect person to help me work through the problem, because she is a whiz with all things technology. (She's a whiz at lots of other stuff, too, like singing, and managing people, and advocating for what's right, and being a friend, just to name a few. Which is why everyone adores her. Including me.) The other thing about Rhonda is she is always learning new things. So that's why I shot off this text: HELP ME!!! I have no idea how to manage my picts or calendar or even my texts. And Twitter! Website! Blog! Help. Oh, and there’s no more memory on my phone and I don’t know why… hateithateithateithateit.
She wrote back, “At Starbucks. Be there in five.”
I’ve always been happy Starbucks is so close, but on that day, I was super-glad.
She came into my office, handed me a latte, and put down her computer bag. She pulled up a chair. “Okay. Talk to me.” She grinned, all reassuring and confident. I breathed out.
In less than an hour, my school’s Twitter account was updated— and I understood how to work it. The piles of photos I take of our students and teachers were all in a neat Google folder, separate from personal photographs, which were stowed in a dropbox on my personal computer. I’d learned how to stream a Twitter feed, manage our school's website and Facebook page, and even how to toggle between devices and accounts with no angst or confusion.
See, Rhonda’s a learner. She’s calm about it. She doesn’t look at confusing things and see an obstacle; she simply sees a twisted path toward mastery. When I whine to her, she nods with a little crinkle between her eyes and says, “Okay.” And then she figures it out.
All of those qualities I talked about earlier? They come naturally to her.
But she’s also a natural teacher, which makes her inherent curiosity doubly valuable. She doesn’t just learn stuff—she helps other people gather information and figure out how to use it. That’s why working with someone like Rhonda can be so helpful.
In other words, for those of us who don’t naturally discover, we’ve got to seek it out. We’ve got to find a Rhonda and learn from her—not just from her knowledge, but also from her natural approach to solving problems.