What if, as parents and teachers, through a simple shift in mindset, we could teach children to view themselves as craftspeople when they go to school or learn at home. What if we could teach them to treat their learning as their craft and use each workday as an opportunity for growth and thus, prepare your child for success?
Imagine for a moment if all the children around the world were not merely seen as children but as craftspeople. As you probably know, a craftsperson is someone who practices a craft. Can you remember the last time you took your children to an art show? You’ve probably saw intricate woodwork, breathtaking photography, sculpted clay, detailed quilts or precision artwork that perfectly demonstrates craftsmanship. For the craftsperson, the process of excellence is a lifelong labour of love—and it shows! The craftsperson deliberately creates well-considered, polished works and continually seeks new methods to hone his or her skills. Craftspeople acknowledge their mistakes and learn techniques to correct them.
Children, like craftspeople, need curiosity, concentration, and determination to see their projects through and to overcome the obstacles to excellence. They need imagination to come up with new and innovative ideas, as well as thinking skills to work out their plans and arguments. They need to be organised, reflective and work well with feedback to be able to improve their knowledge and skills.
So, how about teaching them to approach all learning with a craftsmanship mindset and focus on improvement rather than achievement? The focus on improvement will put children into learning mode. Just like a craftsperson, they will aim to improve for as long as possible before they have to turn in a good performance, whether that be in an examination or on the sports field.
Excellence, whether in a traditional school, a homeschool or a craftsperson’s atelier, is born from their mindset and their environment. When children enter a family, a community or a school that demands and supports excellence, they work to fit in with that environment’s dominant mindset. A mindset of excellence transcends race, class and geography. Their gender, skin colour, family income or background does not matter. Once those children enter a place with a powerful learning mindset and useful learning tools, that level—one focused on excellence—becomes their norm. It’s what they know.
School mindsets that support excellence can look very different from one another and can be found in diverse settings. There is no one blueprint. Different countries have different educational systems, and I do not pretend to (or wish to) know them all. However, from working with thousands of children online and with my own child, I have come to believe that producing excellent work is transformational. Once a child sees that he or she is capable of excellence, that child is never quite the same. There is a new self-image, a new notion of possibility. They develop an appetite for excellence, and after a child has tasted it, they’re never quite satisfied with less.
In my work as a learning designer, the first thing I do when I arrive at work is what a carpenter does: I unload my toolboxes. In my work as a learning consultant, the first thing I do when I arrive at a school site is exactly the same: I unload my learning toolboxes, metaphorically speaking. My team and I have tools to share, ones that we have borrowed from others and ones that we have built ourselves. My hope is that at least some of these tools will prove useful to you. The tools we offer here at How People Learn are strategies, models and blueprints. Along with them, we have classroom workshops, webinars and online courses. Every Sunday, Nico and I tell stories that I hope put these tools in context and make them clear and useful in your parenting or classes. All of these resources are carefully crafted to help you build the craftsperson mindset, be it at home or in school.
There is no higher compliment that builders give to each other than this: “That guy is a craftsman”. This one word says it all. It connotes someone who has integrity and knowledge, who is dedicated to his/her work and who is proud of what he/she does and who he/she is. Someone who thinks carefully and does things well.
We want homes and classrooms full of craftspeople. We want children whose work is strong and accurate and beautiful. Children who are proud of what they learn theoretically, but also what they do and the way they impact the world beyond the classroom.
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