Week after the Education Hackathon I've also lead a workshop in my former high school from which I graduated 15 years ago. About 15 students from the Student parliament between age 12 to 18 and I. We've spent 5 hours discussing what do they like and don't like about their school and what changes would they suggest. To our mutual surprise, none of the students said "Let's close the school down".
But all of them said "Let's have more fun. We want to learn, but please, make it interesting". And also "Help us to choose our future profession, we don't really know now what we want to do."
When I was writing up my notes after the event, it dawn on me that all along, we ask our children the wrong question. Instead of simplifying "What job do you want to do" we should start asking "What type of person do you want to become and how do you want to live your life".
Two years prior graduation our high school asks students to choose whether they want to study natural sciences or humanities. Based on this choice they later on submit their application to the universities. But not always children know what actually interests them. I am the best example - in high school I focused on chemistry and history of art, I dropped of the Art history university course, found job in IT, got undergraduate degree in Business and Management when I turned 30 and now I am pondering Masters in Education. It must be clear to everyone that I couldn't possibly know at the age of 17 what profession I would like to do.
But even in as a teenager I knew how my future life should look like. I wanted to travel, be independent and live 'differently than all the other people'. I wasn't quite sure what I've meant by that but I knew that I didn't want to end up in my home town with low paid mediocre job. This was my true motivation - if I wanted more, I had to study harder. And not only study at school but also work on myself. Keep pushing my boundaries, use all opportunities to work abroad and learn how to take care of myself.
Medical doctor, lawyer, engineer. Do we ourselves know which profession fits us best? If you, as an adult person are undecided about your career, how teenagers who are still questioning who they are can know the answer?
But I'm pretty sure that if you ask them "What type of life do you want to lead in 20 years", their imagination will run wild and they will paint you a wonderful picture. From there we could build a bridge to "So what do you need to do to get there?" Perhaps all those boring facts may become more interesting once you know they will help you to achieve your dreams.
There is one even more important aspect of this "who" question - it opens discussion about our values and what is important to us. We can start debate about families, relationships, environment, communities, politics - in short to cover all kind of complexities of life to help young people to successfully navigate in this world and to create opinion which will be their own. Perhaps we should be asking exactly the same question ourselves.
So, who do you really want to be and what will you do to get there?