By Henry May, CEO and Co-founder of Coschool

I believe that life is defined by moments; those snapshots in time where your eyes light up, chills run down your spine, and the world takes a different shape. When I think about moments in my own life, there are a few that stand out…

19-year-old me, standing on a beach at the start of my gap year, knees trembling and tears of fear streaming down my face in the realization that I was about to travel across Latin America all alone for 4 months.

24- year-old me, joining in a pile-up of ecstatic teenagers from the public school football team I coached as they scored an outrageous last-minute winning goal against a private school to secure our first ever win.

27-year-old me, stomaching butterflies and enduring sweaty palms to make this speech to fans of Club Atletico Huracán in Buenos Aires as The Huracan Foundation story was taking off.

Speech for Club Atlético Huracán’s fans

These ‘moments’ have shaped my life. In each, I learned something new about myself, about the world and my place within it. Each moment caused me to act differently, guiding the path I’m now on. But none of them were created at school. Why?

Can we orchestrate moments in education?

Whilst teaching at a challenging South London school in 2010, two facilitators (aged 21 and 23) from an organization called Humanutopia turned up at school. They’d been invited to run a 1-day workshop for the notorious year 10 students.

So carefully designed was their methodology, so powerful was their delivery and so fantastic were those facilitators that remarkable, positive, and transcendent things took place that day for the students of year 10. Moments of breakthrough I had been yearning for, for 2 years, were created in just 1 day of Humanutopia’s visit.

This was another defining moment for me, one I’m sure inspired me in some way to do the work I’m doing now. In 2016, I invited Humanutopia to work alongside Coschool for the young people of Colombia. I was curious to see if they could work their magic here in a different context & culture. Once again, they brought about reconciliations and moments of self-awareness that the school’s teachers and counsellors hadn’t managed in years of working with the students. In just ONE day. The school, the parents and I were left gobsmacked.

Covlog sobre nuestra experiencia en Coschool con Humanutopia

My work with Humanutopia over the years has sparked questions I just can’t shake: what would happen if we deliberately designed ‘moments’ for students in school more often? What would school be like for children if it were more spontaneous and bold with our education model?

For those in education, accepting the notion that real transformation can take place in short moments of time is very challenging. As a trained teacher, I should know. I’ve worked in schools for long enough to know that the conventional wisdom and research tells us we need to think, plan, and work towards long-term goals, for teachers to build effective relationships, and for children to spend 12 or so years in school. There is overwhelming evidence to support all of these ideas, and I’m not about to argue against them. This idea of creating more moments in schools isn’t to replace what we’re already doing but to work alongside it.

How does designing for ‘moments’ work in practice?

Chip y Dan Heath acaban de publicar un nuevo libro llamado “The Power of Moments“, sobre la base de otro libro perspicaz “Switch“, que me encantó. Este libro explora los momentos con gran detalle. Según la investigación citada en “El poder de los momentos”, es más probable que experimentemos y recordemos los “momentos” entre los 15 y los 30 años. Este es el momento de nuestro llamado ‘Reminiscence Bump’ (Golpe de reminiscencia), un momento en nuestras vidas que nunca olvidaremos. Es durante este período de edad que nuestras mentes son particularmente receptivas a los momentos que tienen un efecto que altera la vida.

Chip and Dan Heath have just published a new book called ‘The Power of Moments’. Building on another insightful book “Switch”, which I loved, this book explores moments in great detail. According to research cited in ‘The Power of Moments’, we are most likely to experience and remember ‘moments’ between the age of 15-30. This is the time of our so-called ‘Reminiscence Bump’, a time in our lives we’ll never forget. It is during this age bracket that our minds are particularly receptive to moments having a life-altering effect.

Knowing this, two questions come to mind:

  1. Why are we not doing more to create more intentionally, powerful moments for students while they are in school?
  2. Why are we are not educating and preparing younger students (say from 10-15) about the power of moments and the importance of seizing them when they arise?

Our education system and our schools have become bogged down in long classes, long exams, long projects. What are we doing as educators to create more powerful, spontaneous, mindset-shifting moments? How can we continue to engage and support the rapid learning of our students?

One great example that inspires me…

YES Prep founder, Chris Barbic and his college counsellor and neighbour, Donald Kamentz were watching the college signing day for the nation’s top student-athletes on ESPN’s SportsCenter, when they had an idea for a moment they wanted to create for their students.

Most of their students would be the first in their families to go to college, many of them headed to big name universities – and Chris and Donald believed this was cause enough for celebration.

So, in June 2001, they held the first Senior Signing day with 17 graduating seniors of YES Prep, their families, 300 younger YES Preppers and staff to cheer and honour their hard work. It was one big party randomly thrown to create a moment in their students’ lives that they would remember and feel proud of forever. (Read more about it here and watch it unfold down here)

Senior Signing day at YES Prep

I recently asked Donald Kamentz to reflect on why creating moments like this one, matter. Here’s what he had to say…

“When we created our Senior Signing Day event, it wasn’t some long-drawn-out plan but more of a spontaneous decision that has grown into the event it is today. Yet, every time we hosted the event, we were even more intentional about what we wanted to happen. To me, this is exactly what educators do every day – work to create micro, ‘aha’ moments for our students and if they happen to grow into larger ones, so be it. We strive to create these moments and when they do, it’s truly spectacular and game-changing, no matter how big or small!”

If we want our children to be lifelong learners (and we do), then learning has got to feel good. Education should, therefore, be celebrated, fun and ultimately make us feel happy and pumped up about who we are and who we want to be.

What can you do?

In the months of July, August and October, Coschool will organize 12 Bootcamps in total, distributed in the cities and regions: Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Santa Marta, Maizales and Urabá. It is an opportunity for us to design our own “aha” moments for the students.

Here are 3 ways you can might want to trying designing moments yourself.

  1. Ask yourself, your students, and those around you what moments really stand out to them in their lives. Find the patterns. Figure out what moves your community.
  2. Cross-reference your designed ‘moment’ against any or all the boxes that Chip and Dan Heath propose in their book (is it a moment designed around elevation, insight, pride, or connection. If so, great!)

Design a moment around an end goal, for example, you could decorate the entire school, buy a page to celebrate the students in the local newspaper, or bring in a DJ for a day to create a moment around the end of exams.

I’d love to hear stories of the best moments that you have experienced, and created for others, so send me an email to hmay@coschool.co