Don’t prepare your kids for the future…

The following question was tweeted today:

“Classroom of the Future” “Classroom for the Future” “21st Century Classroom” “Digital Learning?” Which sound better? Any other suggestions?”

My suggestion would be “The classroom for today.”

Teachers should not teach kids skills that they will need in the future. Chew on that for a second. Learning occurs because kids can connect what is being taught to a previous experience and apply it to current experiences. They don’t hold on to something hoping that someday they will find some use for it. Their brains relinquish what is not immediately usable, and implant what they can use immediately. When a student teacher plans a unit, one of the questions I ask is how can they use the skills in this unit “today.”

Think about the last lesson you taught. What were they able to use from the lesson immediately? Did they learn something they could apply immediately to their lives? Or was it something that they might use years from now or worse yet, something that they will never need to be able to do or remember after the “test.”

Don’t get your kids ready for the future.

Don’t get your kids ready for the “21st Century.”

Go into class each day and get them ready for today.

Teaching kids for today will have them prepared to create the future.


  1. You are discussing such a basic truth but one which is often foreign to the way we teach in our schools. We either lean to much to the past, or want to leap too much into the future, but forget about the now.

    We are conteding with different crises: a decline in education standards, poor literacy levels, an economic down-turn, political upheavals … the list goes on. If we do not empower our learners with skills to deal with current challenges, but rather focus on what we think they may need tomorrow, there may not be a tomorrow for many of them.

  2. Thanks for posting this.

    I have been working for over a year on designing a “Classroom of the Future” Honestly, I hate the name and cannot say it with conviction. I did not come up with it. My Superintendent did but I think he would also like to call it something else. This will be a very technology rich classroom.

    21st Century ??? has been thrown around, but that is now. We live in the 21st cent. We are talking about today. We should be teaching for today.

    So what should be in the title? I want to transform how we teach. Tech is just a tool. Good teaching and learning is the goal. This classroom will hopefully serve as a model for the school, district, etc.

  3. I can see your point. However, when I use the term “teach to the kids’ futures,” I don’t necessarily content, tools, or facts. I also don’t mean “teach” in the traditional sense either.

    Instead, I mean:
    I hope to create learning opportunities for them to develop skills that will allow them to survive and thrive in their futures.

    But when I say that to parents, the reactions they show tell me they kinda need a primer with “Teach to the kids’ futures,” first.

  4. As with everything, aren’t we just kind of caught in the middle. I think we are trying to relate new ideaology with old diction. Samantha Mora says it best with, “We are talking about today.” The ‘we’ being a collective few who are envisioning something very different from what is the current norm.

    Maybe it is not the students’ future the title in representing. Perhaps it is simply the future of the classroom. Maybe that comment isn’t even considering content, simply the tools and pedagogy being used for the delivery of content.

    I’m not in love with Classroom of the Future either, but it has to be called something. And better if the name gives others an idea of some destination.But what if we stopped thinking about ourselves and started thinking about them, something I think you are speaking to Paul. What if this were the Classroom for the Students?

  5. This is so true, I love it. You’ve made it so simple and clear. It actually is the 21st century. I don’t think we are teaching skills for today, but ways of thinking and problem solving. The actual skill may not be applicable to daily life, but the process of learning it certainly is.

  6. @Steve Kimmi I am afraid every time I hear classroom of the future, or tools of the future, or students of the future, or just using the word future and applying it to any tool or technique or skill.
    I think as soon as we use the word future in any title, or place the words 21st century into an educational change conversation, it automatically takes people off the hook for not doing something now. When you have to do something in the “future,” you can put it off and you are still on schedule for getting it done in the “future.” I can’t think of a good analogy…howabout if Obama says in the future we will lessen our dependency on fossil fuels. Different than if he said right now this is what is we will do to make a difference for our dependency right now, what will will continue tomorrow, and how it will change our future.
    “Classroom for the students.” I think we need to remove the words classroom, students, and teachers from our discussion on school change. I think we need to flip everything upside down and erase our memories. Most of us are a product of the system and so all we can do is think of variations of it when trying to “improve” it. But since that is not going to happen…I like the “Classroom for the Students.” I am imagining myself walking in to my parent meeting at the beginning of the year and saying “This classroom is built for your kids.” Come on, so much of what goes on in classes today is for the teachers. From easily managed activities, giving everyone the same assignment, at the same time, due on the same day. One catch all “behavior management plan.” Hmmm..still playing the phrase in my head..day one…”welcome kids, this is your class.” Imagine walking up to someone and saying “I teach in a classroom for the students.” I like it. Now to come up with a alternative wording so that when a kid hears it it sounds like I teach in your classroom. Some kind of wording that makes it personal…
    I should stop…afraid to hit submit and see how long this sucker is…

    1. I can’t agree with you more on “future”. That’s what I would avoid it. Do you watch Flight of the Concords? I can’t stop thinking of their song, The Humans Are Dead. In it there is the line, “The distant future, the year 2000”.

      Thinking about Classroom for the Students, what kind of message does that send out…about the other classrooms? Well if this is the classroom for students, what is your’s, who’s it for?

      1. Good point…would have to be a school-wide initiative…no…besides people hating me more, why not make people fess up and answer the question? Why do we always worry about the other teachers feelings? In business if someone had a really great idea, do they tell the person to not employ it because it will hurt the feelings of the other employees? Sorry you hit a pet peeve of mine. Somebody should be able to say room 425 is awesome, room 520 sucks. Instead we use all of this nicey nice language to make everyone feel good. Ya know, somethings that teachers do are just simply wrong. They don’t follow any logical reasoning or science…why doesn’t someone just say you are wrong. That’s what they would do to their kids.

        1. I am right with you on this one. The whole reason we would avoid calling it the Classroom for the Students is to skirt any chance of having this question popping up.

          Is that right? No, it isn’t.

          I’ve been thinking of and posting about a number of these issues. Why can we not expect the same thing from our teachers that we expect of our students? Why are we so worried?

  7. Some really good food for thought. Many educationalists are on the current bandwagon of trying to teach for 21st century needs, and what is perceived as future skills. However, my greatest focus in the classroom, is to teach my students how to be lifelong learners and that I hope, includes today, tomorrow and the future.

  8. Pingback: Now… | Blogush
  9. Thanks for bringing such an important point to the front of my mind. As an education student, that’s something I definitely needed to learn.

  10. Unfortunately we teach children that they need to be lifelong learners in order to get a job, make money, and take care of a family, which all happens in the future. Instead, we need to teach our students the importance of learning for fun. Learning can be playful, meaningful, and relevant. For it to be relevant, it needs to be useful now, not in the future. What makes sense for adolescences now will make learning fun and will aid in their motivation to learn, which will in turn create lifelong learners that are productive citizens. The problem today in the public schools is we are using textbooks from the past and we are bombarded with constantly changing assessments and technology. How do we get it all in? There has to be a happy middle, and that is the now. Making it relevant to students is what is happening in the now. Let’s celebrate the now, that’s where children and adolescents are when they enter into our classrooms. All children will eventually “grow up” let’s not rush it.

  11. ok never thought of it this way before however this makes so much sense to me, there does have to be some sense of preparing them but at the same time I have my own kids and really dont want them to grow up that fast which I think is happening more now than when I was young(not that long ago!!!) As Beth says though a lot of it is teaching from past and older material not relevant now, which for my subject is very true(computing)

    certainly given me a lot to ponder !!!

  12. Wow. I agree–there’s an excellent chance that what we think will be the future will be a footnote. Better to make their lives today exciting, teach them how to learn what they need to know so they can find what they need when they need it later.

    1. Hi,Over the years I’ve used a simple cdontuown technique to get students to be silent. You simply count down from 10 to 0 and by the time you get to 0 students need to be silent. The 10 second gap gives students some take-up time to get ready to be silent. Of course you need to model the technique a lot before students get the hang of it, and you need to practise it whenever you can for it to become ingrained into your classroom routines. So being consistent and persistent wins the day.At a slight tangent, although silence is vital when teachers are talking, it’s also important that we show students how to use noise productively in class. There’s a page on my website about

  13. Paul, I think you’re being provocative for its own sake. I like bold statements, but here you go too far. You are in danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. And really, all you’ve done here is redefine terms to suit your argument–you’ve essentially said there is no difference between “today” and “tomorrow,” a fallacy of arbitrary redefinition.

    I agree that terms such as “21st Century Learning” are at best meaningless and and worst misleading. But I must disagree that we ought to teach only for today. Kids do hold onto things they can’t yet make sense out of. I’m sure all teachers have had that experience of a former student coming back and saying thanks for something they only came to appreciate years after they left the classroom.

    I think your point is that we can easily forget we are teaching students, not ideas. But if we believe imagination is important at all, we believe that the future is important for imagination works only in the future.

    1. I do think some kids can be in a class that is doing work “for the future” and either get it, or get it years later and come back to thank the teacher. If I had more time in this post I would have probably flushed out the word “today.” I am all for teaching things that they will not use “today,” but those skills still have to connect to something relevant in the students’ lives today.
      Everything that goes in one ear must connect to something that is already in there, otherwise it goes right out the other ear.
      I also think that kids in lower classes/schools have a huge problem with grasping the future. At my old school the future was at best the walk home from school. Teachers who teach the upper cusp of each grade level can easily get away with teaching something and not making it relevant to students lives, try doing that at the bottom end of the socio-economic scale or the bottom of the academic scale and the kids will simply turn-up their nose at the information being force-fed into their heads.
      Imagination does only work in the future, but too often I hear people try to give the kids their future–“you will need this for XYZ.” I think we need to harness their imagination to be used today. Let them use it on problems they solve this week. Not practice activities to prep them for using it in the future.

      1. You raise an excellent point that I, for one, often overlook. There is education in its loftiest sense, meaning something like cultivating our humanity. But there is also a very practical side; that is when education hits the ground it can often mean that different groups will have to pursue this goal differently.

  14. hey paul, nice thought provoking post. curious…what do you consider beneficial lessons for today/now? and can they be incorporated into the majority of curriculum/classrooms as they stand today? I’d love to hear some of your examples.

    1. Amanda I don’t think we have to do anything fancy or make any earth shattering changes to make it relevant to today. For example, the unit we are doing this month is on 19th Century Heroes. We start off by talking about their current heroes, their definition, what problems they have that require heroes etc… The “essay” that we wrote requires them to to use all the state mandated testing skills but the “story” they are telling is for submission to myhero.com, a real audience awaits–they are excited to be “published.” Today we went down and did a presentation for the sixth graders–real audience. We now shift to making movies on the heroes that will be up on youtube–real possible virtual audience, but also each kid has a specific audience while making the video. Some are making them for elementary kids in Virginia, some for high schoolers in Colorado, and some for young unschoolers in Califonia.
      I will stop short of answering your question about beneficial lessons. A great story teller once told me to never give the lesson in a story to the audience, everyone gets what they need in that moment after a story is finished. But I will say I hope they learn to collaborate, communicate, and create. I hope that they learn to stand tall with pride, and find out a little bit more about who they are, and who they want to be.

  15. Thanks Paul-very helpful. I wish there were more like you. Like Pitita said, may your enthusism & ideas catch like wildfire. Love it. I wonder how many of your students will tell about you as their modern day hero 🙂

  16. Hi,

    I absolutly agree with your post!
    Kids like to learn to apply their konowledge immediatly, in the first time.
    However, they do like to get some learning ideas about the future because the society puts all the time ‘the future’ in front of them.
    Learning must be doing for ‘learn with fun’.
    In every countries, teachers complain about ‘boring’ textbooks. I see is not an european problem! The curricula must be adaptated to ‘the present’, with attractive themes that link kids to their real life!
    Thanks God!Tech are there to help us 🙂


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