How to stay relevant

I was discussing the current state of high school education the other day with several people and we developed what I thought was a likely scenario—-high schools as we know them, are on their way to becoming extinct. They were designed in the early part of the 20th Century with an assembly line construct as their premise. Get as much information out to students in the most efficient way. They were established before TVs, computers, Ipods….etc. High school units are still based on “seat” time. Today’s high school students are pushed from class to class based on a rigid time schedule. In effect they are sent from room to room to learn fact or perform tasks that are rarely related to what they did the hour before or will be doing an hour later. Very often they are engaged by the same technology students were exposed to fifty years ago. So much has changed. Schools have changed so little. High schools are content driven. We are still divided up by departments and those departments are islands in and of themselves. Math does not work with Social Studies, English does not work with Consumer Sciences….etc. Today, content specific knowledge is rarely the only asset an individual will need to succeed. Although content knowledge is still essential, other skills are identified by employers as essential for today’s students and they include:
1) professionalism/work ethic;
2) teamwork/collaboration;
3) oral communication;
4) critical thinking/problem solving.

These skills require less of a concentration on content emphasis and more concentration on processes. Problem based approaches that force students and their teachers to concentrate on process based skills as much as the content area knowledge are what we need to concentrate on. Curriculum must be redefined to reflect these needs and assessment must measure skills growth. We must move away from the one time, high stakes test that emphasizes to much content and not the skills needed for success!

2 thoughts on “How to stay relevant

  1. I agree and disagree with what this says. First, I think in our school, departments are working much harder to make relevant connections to other departments. The perfect high school project allowed students to work through many areas and had them questioning how the project related to English. Mrs. Propst is working with her students to develop how the different beats of music affects brain development. There are many examples at Paris High School that prove the teachers are working to make a change.

    I do agree that the way schools are set up nonverbally tells students that they should not think about English once the bell rings to end English class, and if teachers are not assigning homework, students really don’t have to think about English outside of the English classroom as well. But, I do think most teachers are doing their best to help their students make connections to be successful once the graduate. I also don’t think it is just the high school institution that is broken. However, until a school’s worth is no longer based on a test score, I think we are forced to teach our students the basic information so they can compete on the test and compete for college entrance.

  2. Mr. Meister and Mr. Doughan:

    You both make excellent points about adapting our classroom instruction to the 21st Century.

    I just read an article in The Council Chronicle of The National Council Teachers of English entitled, “The C’s of Change.”

    The article implies that we are stuck in a 20th Century Time Warp. Essential skills, according to writer Lorna Collier, are abilities to evaluate and analyze information critically in the 21st Century. Collier believes, and I agree, that the C’s of Change that students need today to be culturally literate are creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, self-control, and comprehension. I see these skills exhibited every day in my yearbook/journalism classroom as students comprehend new software and collaborate, communicate and critically think to create pages. Their self-control and ability to see the big picture is crucial to all the other C’s of change.

    Teachers in my school here in Georgia, who wish to use technology or other methods to create these changes in learning; however, are often hindered by budgeting and NCLB in the process.

    Perhaps with a new presidential cabinet in January, the vision of education can be brought up to 21st Century necessary changes. Until then, as educators, all we can do is use what we have to the best of our ability and come up with assignments that challenge students to use those C’s of change, and hopefully, with that there can be a better blend of all subject matter.

    Amy Burk
    Cross Keys High School
    Atlanta, GA

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