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Opinion: Grandparents in the 21st Century: An Underutilized Asset in Education or Grandparents: A Unique Perspective in Education

Luc Gendron is a committed grandfather. He dreams that grandparents will find their place in schools in order to contribute in different ways, especially in relation to the use of digital technology. In this text, he proposes the creation of the Réseau des grands-parents curieux et branchés en éducation du Québec.
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By Luc Gendron, committed grandfather 

Today, a grandparent is not just useful to offset the busy schedules of their parent children or to volunteer at a school. A grandparent is not just cute and friendly.  

The grandparents of my generation and in my contacts evolve today in networks linked digitally and globally by the Internet thanks to their continuous self-learning. 

A grandparent is a parent twice over. After watching his children grow up, he has developed a certain critical distance from their academic careers and the use of technology in education. He is well positioned to focus on the essentials and not get distracted by the "mechanics." He makes a clear distinction between educational success and academic success. 

Curious people; not stage managers

Curious people are constantly looking for opportunities, data, information and experiences to grow and develop regardless of their age. They are in constant monitoring mode from multiple sources and generally have an open minded listening style. 

One study even found that explorer's passion is more important for those 65 years and older. In an aging, educated and healthy population, the education ecosystem has a vested interest in attracting and integrating those who have remained curious.

Curiosity is also a skill that every child is naturally born with and that the education system too often stifles (see segment 8:43 to 10:20 of Ken Robinson: Changing education paradigms).  

We need to stimulate our grandchildren to ask engaging questions to develop their capacity for self-directed learning and collaboration to find answers to increasingly complex problems. This ability will be invaluable to them long after they are in school. 

Governance that stimulates collective intelligence, not muzzles it.

Those who hold the truth are too often focused on themselves, on their careers, not on others. They do not have theactive listening essential to be part of and to evolve a network.

We need representatives who can ask divergent questions to stimulate the collective intelligence of curious leaders in the service of learners. It is important to evolve this culture.where asking a question showed a lack of trust in the bureaucratic authorities." (Yes, school structures need to be reviewed

Since 2018, I have been actively involved with the parent leaders of the Oaks School Service Center Parent Committee. I am a curious observer of the impact of governance change in education. Inspired by the reflection by Michel ClairI would like to see "an approach to governance that trusts more people involved in governance rather than fewer people." 

For example, the resignation of five members of the board of directors last March is a symptom of a larger problem that deserves analysis from other perspectives than just inside the "box".

A network to complete the "village

Imagine 33 inquisitive and connected grandparents serving schools in every school service center: 2,400 province-wide. Imagine one on every board of directors. 

Imagine them stimulating and nurturing the collective intelligence of the Quebec education ecosystem? Imagine them contributing to the whole village thinking and acting as a network; not in silos as they do now?

Inspired by more than 60 events realized with other curious accomplices in Quebec around these three axes LISTEN - UNDERSTAND - ACT , I wish to detect, animate and catalyze curious grandparents who are currently "invisible" and who have an expertise, a talent or an interest in exploiting the digital world beyond the screens.

Since grandparents are often the ones who keep a family together, the intention is to start with the curious and connected grandparents and then invite all curious people who want to listen, understand and network: parents, leaders, teachers, professionals and learners.

The project was requested in 2019 by Mr. Jean-François Roberge. To date, it has not received a favorable response to support its start-up. The project does not "fit" in the "box". It requires great curiosity to explore beyond the boundaries of current habits and structures.

Nevertheless, I still believe that groups of grandparents could emerge in different settings to eventually create the foundation for such a network. "The expertise of these individuals should be able to be showcased in the school setting."

Testimonials from curious and connected grandparents

Grandparents consulted see great value in such a network and wish to contribute to it.

"I find this project very exciting and would like to participate in it because I feel that nowadays, with the hectic lives that parents and their children live, grandparents have an increased role with grandchildren and are in an excellent position to contribute to their education in a broad sense because they have more availability and can effectively pass on their experience and values in many ways."

(retired CEO of a large company)

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Openness to knowledge is increasingly important in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment. I believe we need to move from this somewhat paternalistic educational system to a new mode of distributed collective learning. We must prepare our young people to learn from others and also with others. 

(retired CEO of a CIUSSS)

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I firmly believe that life skills are more important than academic knowledge to succeed in life. Grandparents are privileged witnesses to the fact that acquired knowledge is most of the time worthless if we do not know how to use it, share it with passion and heart intelligence for the common good.

I share with you my personal experience in elementary school that has shaped my entire life.

My teacher, Frances, placed her 32 students in pairs in the classroom. She placed them in a way that the weaker one sat next to the stronger one. When she was teaching a subject to all of them, she would stop after a few minutes and ask the stronger one to help the other one understand the piece of knowledge she had just passed on.

Moreover, during the knowledge tests she only announced the average of the 2 students. So imagine the impact on the two children. They learned to work as a team, to develop their relationships, to take into account the strengths of the other, to accept the difference, to be proud of succeeding together. 

I believe that grandparents can enrich education with their knowledge and skills in collaboration with teachers and educators.

This project will help build a more equitable and inclusive society through intergenerational work and allow grey hairs to be an active source of inspiration in the daily lives of our children, our future. 

(coach and management consultant)

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I fundamentally believe that I can be a resource for younger people with all the life experiences in family, work as well as teaching and coaching sports teams. Giving back and providing a listening ear would have been one of the things I really wish I had received when I was younger.

I believe it has become essential to share knowledge and this sense of curiosity, which can't be done electronically, it takes emotion. My greatest satisfaction is to see how young people are inspired by passionate and curious people. There is no age for learning if the communications are clear. All parties can learn more and become better people morally, socially and personally. 

(expert in international logistics)

Am I the only one?

Do you know any curious and connected grandparents in your family, school or community who are interested in exploring why, if and how to contribute to the culture and collective intelligence of their school and of Quebec? Do you know school service center and school administrators who are interested in developing an educational ecosystem adapted to the 21st century with all the people in the "village"?

If so, share this with them short survey. I will be able to intercept these curious people and evaluate the interest of organizing a regional or provincial meeting to determine together the relevance of starting such a stimulating co-learning network.

"I was able to find what I was looking for, because I stood on the shoulders of the generation before me. Isaac Newton

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