Take the Brakes Off of the Ferrari

Dr. Bill Wiecking
October 26, 2021

40 years ago, Dr. Bill Wiecking began his life as a passionate educator, who believes that education is a serious calling, not to be taken lightly. With teaching experience at all levels from high school to medical school, Bill has seen the spectrum of good and bad in education and dreams of a future where we inspire and honor the creativity of every student.

Dr. Bill Wiecking in the Energy Lab that he helped design and build at Hawaii Preparatory Academy

What do we think of when we think of Ferrari? Dancing horse? Red car? Speed?

Too often we have the resources, both physical and intellectual, that could build education into a Ferrari. But in reality our Ferrari has the emergency brake on: it looks fast, but it sure doesn’t go fast.

What does this look like, and how can we change it?

Infrastructure: We teach in structures designed more for raising chickens than humans: separate fiefdoms with no collaborative spaces, poor air, lighting and sound treatments, in places nobody would voluntarily go to study or work. We will know we have effective learning spaces when we see people voluntarily going to these spaces to learn and collaborate.

Programming: We teach in a factory model (see the work of Sir Ken Robinson) based on time on task, individual evaluation, and placement based on date of manufacture. This is not a good way to build iPhones, let alone educated humans. We will know this has been improved when we see no bored students in any class, and students seeking out groups to learn with.

Preparation: Most teachers are technophobic not out of lack of intelligence but lack of opportunity and professional support. Ask any kid what sort of computer equipment and knowledge they have, it will likely eclipse anything the teachers can muster. This is systemic, but also something teachers can take by the horns and impact change. Get out of the comfort zone, ask your kids, ask other young adults, ask experts. Your vulnerability in this case can be your superpower. We will know this has evolved when teachers are comfortable using emerging technologies as extensions of their creativity, including mobile devices, virtual presence and collaborative reflection.

So where do we go from here?

We have no idea what the future holds. Anyone who does should invest in bitcoin or the markets. But let’s not be the Model T education in a freeway future.  

How can we prepare our kids for this mutable future? Do your best to look ahead. You are an expert in your field. People trust you. People also rely on you to keep up to date with your subject, whatever it is. Imagine life 5, 10, 20 years ahead. If you can’t, try looking back the same number of years, and imagine what you might have thought about your life now. Vision is our unique skill, along with empathy. Empathy truly means putting yourself into the mind, not just the shoes of another. Empathy for your students is what separates you from a computer program or online learning. What you see, hear and sense cannot be replicated. 

Education is a gift. Don’t squander it. Take the brakes off the Ferrari.

Dr. Wiecking uses Unrulr with his Computer Science, Independent Science Research, AP Environmental Science, and Capstone students at Hawai’i Preparatory Academy. It’s a tool and platform that, in his words, “allows him to see what resonates with his student.”