World renowned globalization and education speaker Dr. Yong Zhao was in the Bulkley Valley last week to give his insights into how students are taught and how he thinks methods need to adapt to a changing world.
“He spent a lot of time … reviewing where we are, how we got here and where we’re going, and why that’s so important when we consider what skills our kids are going to be needing or even potentially needing,” said Bulkley Valley School District 54 superintendent Chris van der Mark.
“We’re preparing kids for jobs that we don’t know what they are.”
Most of Zhao’s focus was on finding each individual student’s strengths.
“Every kid’s good at something. That’s a pretty powerful message not just for the people who are in charge of the system, but it’s a really important message for kids because they may not know that or not believe that,” said van der Mark.
The superintendent said Zhao’s message of helping the students utilize their passions was key for educators.
“If you’re naturally inclined to be good at something but you don’t actually do anything, well then it doesn’t matter. I think there’s a pretty powerful message there for kids as well,” said van der Mark.
Zhao brought that message to the public during a presentation at Della Herman Theatre in Smithers Thursday night. He also spoke with school district administration, teachers and people from Northwest Community College, as well as invited guests from Prince Rupert and Nechako Lakes school districts.
Zhao took time while in the valley to also speak directly to students in Smithers and Houston, encouraging them to find their strengths.
The focus on students’ talent need not be to the detriment of working on weaker areas, according to Bulkley Valley’s top school administrator. But he said things are changing at local schools.
“We’ve had a system that 100 per cent of the kids had to do everything but, more importantly, what probably 20 per cent of the kids were really inclined to being good at,” said van der Mark.
“So how do we as a system and how do the kids get tapped into those areas where they have an inclination and a passion, where their contributions were more likely be more valuable.”
He added that value could be measured different ways.
“How is what we do valuable to others? And not strictly speaking in a remuneration form … but if what you’re doing has [financial] value, it probably has value,” said van der Mark, paraphrasing Zhao.
“We’re all talented in different areas, but we’re also all motivated by different things. Some people may be highly motivated by financial remuneration; some people may be highly motivated by just being helpful and kind and useful to others, and that is their remuneration.”
So while basic math is not going away any time soon, pulling kids away from their talented areas to work on their poor math skill is.
“He asked a really cool question: at what point is it okay for kids to give up? I don’t have the answer, but it’s an interesting bit,” said van der Mark.
“I really want when they go home at the end of the day that somehow that day was valuable.”