Steven Weber

Curriculum Director/Specialist

Hillsborough, NC

Interests: Curriculum Development...

  • Joined 4 Years ago
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A Bucket List for K-12 Students

In today’s global and entrepreneurial economy, every student must be able to walk out of the building with a meaningful diploma, prepared for success in the twenty-first century.
Alliance for Excellent Education, Civic Enterprises, and the Data Quality Campaign, 2011, p. 1

In 2007, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman starred in The Bucket List.  In the movie, Nicholson and Freeman make a list of things they wish to do before they die.  They sky dive, travel the world, visit landmarks such as the Taj Mahal, and climb the Great Wall of China.  The term bucket list is becoming more popular.  When someone uses the term sarcastically, they may say, "That is definitely not on my bucket list."  Recently, a friend gave me a book titled, The Baseball Fan's Bucket List.  The book suggests that every baseball fan should visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, learn to keep score, see a Double AA game, and watch the movie Bull Durham.  As a baseball fan, I can promise you that these things will bring happiness.  Each of them have been checked on my bucket list.

Typically, people create a bucket list, because they want to have the opportunity to do the things on the list before they 'kick the bucket.'  What if schools created a bucket list?  I realize how morbid this sounds.  It would frighten a nine year old to hear the teacher say, "We are going to learn teamwork and communication skills today, because you need to have these skills before you die."  For the remainder of this article, let's eliminate the thought of dying.  Rather than dying, assume that all students will need to have their bucket list checked by graduation day.

What would a Bucket List for K-12 Students Look Like?

This is the age old question, "What should every student know and be able to do?"  As we celebrate the Class of 2012, we can reflect and ask if each student is graduating prepared for college and career.  What skills are students lacking?  Do they have a good balance of academic skills and soft skills?  Do they know how to complete a job application?  Did the school teach interview skills?  Do they know how to manage their money?  The following list is a short list that I have started for K-12 students.

  • Communication Skills
  • Collaboration Skills
  • Time Management
  • Interview Skills
  • Personal Financial Literacy
  • Digital Literacy
  • Ability to analyze multiple perspectives
  • Ability to share his or her own perspective (i.e., blogs, social media, and creating original work to post online)
  • Civic Literacy
  • The Tools Needed to Succeed in First Year College Courses, without Remediation
  • Resiliance
  • Punctuality
  • Metacognition
  • Ability to Apply Skills and Adapt Abilities in Different Enviornments
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Citizenship (The type of skills that apply in most international settings)
  • Reading and Writing Skills (not just a passing grade in English, but true skills)
  • Global Awareness
  • College Knowledge (What Does It Take to Get Into College? - See David Conley's books and articles)
  • Students Who Understand the Importance of Community Service

If you have attended a Senior Awards ceremony or a graduation, you may have overheard adults whispering:
"He is the total package."  "She is what every employer is looking for."  "He is the most well-rounded student."  "She may win 3/4 of the scholarships tonight."  "He has the skills that every student needs upon graduation."

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education (2009), “The mission of the public education system must shift from educating some students and preparing them for the twentieth-century American economy to educating all students and preparing them for the twenty-first century global economy” (p. 4).  The recent adoption of the Common Core State Standards may support college and career readiness across the United States.  If educators would commit to a bucket list for students, then there would be an intentional effort to see that more students are 'the total package.'  Some students will still possess better reading skills and some students will have a deeper understanding of digital literacy.  Some of the seniors will still go to Harvard and Stanford, while a majority will not qualify.  If you have ever viewed The Bucket List, you see the satisfaction that it brings the actors to check off their goals and dreams.  Student success should not be left to the decision students make when they come to a fork in the road.  Students will make choices for the remainder of their lives and those choices should be based on a solid foundation.

As a parent, I would be thrilled if my own son and daughter graduated with the skills that I outlined in this article.  Which skills or understandings would you add to the list?  Share your thoughts below on ASCD EDge.  If all of your students entered your class with a bucket, could you fill it by the end of the year?  Which skills are elementary, middle, or high school-specific?  Which skills are taught and retaught throughout the K-12 years?  How can a bucket list provide more students with the skills highlighted by the Smithsonian Institute's recent video about education?  If we truly want to change the world, we may need to develop a bucket list for K-12 students. 

8 Comments

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Jennifer_Davis_Bowman

17 Oct 2013, 08:31 AM

Hi Steven. I am new to ASCD. I enjoyed your article. It makes me wonder what would a bucket list for educators look like?

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Krissy_Cordes

05 Aug 2012, 10:29 PM

I love this article and idea about a bucket list for K-12 students. I teach Kindergarten and a great book that I share with my class is called Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide To Daily Happiness for Kids and it is written by Carol McCloud. It provides a very basic understanding about how actions and words can effect the well being of others and ourselves. Students learn how to appreciate and be kind to others - very important to foster good communication, collaboration and problem solving skills - some of the items you mentioned in your list. Other important items for Kindergartners to have on their bucket list would be: self confidence, independence, compassion for others, the ability to share, patience and respect. I'm thinking about using this bucket list idea as a theme in my class this year. Thanks again for a great article!

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Steven_Weber

11 Aug 2012, 10:36 PM

Krissy: That is a great post! Thanks for providing perspective from a Kindergarten teacher. I don't have the answers for every grade level, but you provided some outstanding outcomes for Kindergarten! This will give others ideas for their grade level. Thanks for expanding on the article by sharing your experiences and ideas. I would love to have a child leave kindergarten with those outcomes! Make it happen this year!

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Mark_Warren

29 Jul 2012, 10:53 PM

Students already get so much advice on how to get into college.  I'm more worried about all the students that don't know what to do once they get there, i.e., how to be successful and not become one of the huge number that don't make it to their second year.  So in addition to David Conley's books and articles, perhaps a book like the following: http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Best-College-Revised-Updated/dp/160774144X

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Steven_Weber

30 Jul 2012, 06:35 AM

Mark: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have not hear of the book you recommended. I am going to buy it! Our nation has a problem with students going to college for one year. One and Done is bad when your team loses the NCAA Basketball Tournament. It is a much bigger problem when your nation's students are "One and Done." North Carolina has a website which tracks students who graduate from a NC high school and enter the UNC system. It is online at http://www.northcarolina.edu/ira/ir/analytics/fresh.htm. Thank you.

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Kelly_Pauling

23 Jun 2012, 06:13 PM

Steven, I am so glad our paths crossed last week. I love your bucket list idea. You have managed to capture the keys to personal and professional success which far exceeds the skills to do well on a multiple choice test! Thank you for reminding me of this awesome community. Looking forward to staying in touch.

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Steven_Weber

24 Jun 2012, 04:46 PM

It was nice to meet you in person. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on a "bucket list" for students. I think you will love ASCD EDge! The community of educators has grown to over 40,000. The posts are thought-provoking and you can meet teachers, principals, superintendents, university professors, authors, and others who have a passion for education. We are at an important point in history when it comes to K-12 education. College and Career Readiness has never been an option for all students. In order to make this shift, educators will need to rely on each other, take risks, and change traditional methods of instruction and assessment. I look forward to seeing your next post on ASCD EDge!

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Steven_Weber

17 Jun 2012, 12:53 AM

Thank you to all who viewed this article, shared it on Twitter, and contacted me with your ideas for a "bucket list" for students!  I enjoyed hearing your thoughts.  As we implement the Common Core State Standards, it will be easy to focus on curriculum, instruction, and assessment.  In the absence of clear learning outcomes, we could "cover" the standards without teaching for understanding. Does your grade level have a "bucket list" for the 2012-2013 school year?  What should you include based on the standards, district goals, and the requirements at the next level of learning?

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Mark_Barnes

16 Jun 2012, 03:20 PM

Although you touch on reading (literacy and skills), I would add "a love of reading" to your list. We focus too much on reading to learn. I want all kids to love reading and to love books. The rest wiill fall into place. Nice, creative post.

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Steven_Weber

17 Jun 2012, 12:49 AM

Mark: Thank you for your feedback and for the additional ideas for a "bucket list" for students. I understand what you are saying. I don't know when I developed a love for reading. However, I think it would be a shame for students to develop skills and know how to pass tests, without learning the love of reading. There is nothing like reading at the ocean, reading in your backyard, reading at the pool, or reading a great book before you fall asleep. Students need this skill - I agree. I enjoyed reading your recent blog titled, "Five Reasons I Hate the Common Core." I am looking forward to implementing to Common Core State Standards in NC in 2012-2013. I think teachers and administrators are excited about the standards and the way they were written. I think you made some good points in the article.

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Laurie_Vent

12 Jun 2012, 01:20 PM

I love your student bucket list idea.

I would add PERSEVERANCE and learning a foreigh language in elementary school.

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Steven_Weber

15 Jun 2012, 10:34 PM

Laurie: Thank you for your kind words. I like the recommendations you made above. Perseverance seems to be lacking in our students. This is a college and career readiness skill that may not be taught in schools on a regular basis.

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Michael_Fisher

08 Jun 2012, 12:11 AM

Wow, bud. This is a fantastic post. You got your creative on, big time! It made me think about my bucket list for my own child--and it included everything on your list, PLUS--

  • School sponsored world travel
  • Opportunities to learn several languages, starting in Kindergarten
  • Internships based on interest areas starting in 9th grade
  • Divergent diplomas based on interest and with an underpinning of college preparatory work.
  • Smaller classes and individualized instruction
  • Her spending two more years with her Pre-K teacher and the kids she's currently with to build a solid and strong foundation collaboratively for everything else she'll learn in school.
  • Opportunities for local and global service work.
  • Opportunities for her to teach others what she knows.
  • Opportunities for her to cease participation in state mandated tests and show what she knows in a series of multi-dimensional performance tasks that span multiple content areas.

Sharing this right now!


-Mike

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Steven_Weber

15 Jun 2012, 10:30 PM

Mike: Thank you for your kind words. I enjoyed reading your list. I think that schools can support College and Career Readiness by engaging in this conversation and developing their own list. I am inspired by your blogs and I am looking forward to co-writing another blog with you. Keep up the great work with teachers and students!

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