education · inspiration

What Problems Do you Want to Solve?

Did you catch the mindshift in education recently? It started when a casappicture from a conference where Google Chief Education Evangelist Jaime Casap spoke.

“Rather than, What do you want to be when you grow up? Let’s ask, What problem do you want to solve? … This changes the conversation from who do I want to work for, to what do I need to learn to be able to do that.”

Mind blown.

Educators, parents, those working in corporate all united in a wave of re-tweets, FB re-posts, and re-sharing on Google+. Everytime I saw this quote, I flashed back to my childhood when adults would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Once I gave a standard response (librarian was my dream job, in case you are wondering), the conversation ended. As a school counselor, I am guilty of asking that same question to my students as I get to know them. Each time I read that quote, I feel an inner voice telling me that I can and MUST do better for my students.

A few days ago I was meeting with a student for the first time. We chatted easily, but I couldn’t shake the sense that she heard my voice as the adult Snip20151203_8voice in the Peanuts cartoon: “Wah wah wah.” Before I knew it, the question came out of my mouth. “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Ugh. I cringed inside.

“An astronaut,” the student replied quickly. Clearly this question had been asked before. I paused for a moment, thinking of how to phrase my next question.

“What unresolved questions about space or problems do you want to solve as an astronaut?” I asked. She opened her mouth to respond and then hesitated. Silence ensued as I watched her think about her response for the first time since we met.

“We’ve only just begun to explore what life forms exist on Mars,” she began. “I am curious to know what types of microorganisms live there and how they have evolved to withstand the climate. I also want to marslearn more about life on other planets and how those organisms have evolved.”
I was stunned by the response. Oh, did I mention this is an eleven-year-old? I literally felt chills as I listened to this student talk about excitedly about space exploration. I felt honored to listen to her articulate questions she never realized she had about our universe. I held back tears, thinking to myself, “This conversation would have happened had I not learned to reframe a question I’ve asked hundreds of times.”


6 thoughts on “What Problems Do you Want to Solve?

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