Believing….

Believing in what you do…It is pretty important don’t you think? Do you believe in what you do? Does what you do have significance to you? To others? Having been an educator for 21+ years you would think that I have figured out that what I do is important or that I would have moved on to something different. The fact is education is my passion. I am lucky, going to school is what I do and I look forward to it everyday. There are days that I experience unpleasant things, but I do not find what I do for a living unpleasant. That is just it, I find that the work I do makes (in a distant second to my family) life worth living. I could not feel this way if I did not believe in what I do.

Recently I read a couple of blogposts and an article in Time Magazine, that have me thinking about passion, students, what is important to teach, and where we are going with education reform. Karl Fisch posited in his post Do You Believe in Algebra? that we really need to move beyond the one size fits all approach to school. I agree that not all students need to know everything we are requiring in our standards based approach to education. Where does passion fit in? Where does learning how to make a difference fit in? How many of our students go on to get a degree in math? Science? We need to focus on skills! As I think back to my days in public school, it may be the time elapsed, but there is very little that I had to learn that I still use today outside of reading, writing, and working with other people. High school was information based when I went to school. I can remember cramming for tests, but I have little to no recollection of what it was I memorized.  It was gone days after the test I suppose. Unfortunately, high school is still information based. Sometimes subjects are still taught as though the only place the students can get the information is from the lecture or reading the text. If you have read The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, you would think that education is about to become as relevant as analog photography. Information is everywhere; teachers and schools have to realize that if information is the end goal of what they do….the passenger pigeon just might fly through the open window, because both will be living in the category of no-longer with us.

America’s story is one of innovation. The world has imitated us and our culture for the last century and they continue to do so today. If we have concluded that our schools are no longer working and are not preparing today’s students to compete for jobs and create the next generation of innovations to fuel the American dream, why do we propose to do more of the same in our schools and measure it with an ever stronger magnifying glass? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results! Dare I say we are acting quite insane? It is time to fashion something new. A system that is not oriented around subjects, tests, grades, and seat time. It needs to be a system organized around passion, skills, relationships, creating, and problem solving. It cannot look like or act like an assembly line. Humankind has moved away from a labor intensive, knowledge acquisition/creation based economy to an information rich, creativity based economy where non standardized thinking and productivity are prized. Schools must evolve along with this phenomenon.

George Couros posted a blog some time ago titled, Why We Become Teachers in which he argues that we must fashion our schools around passion not subjects. Students come to us today more likely to be uninterested or unable attend to school as it has been done for the past 100 years. We don’t have to explain it. I am quite positive we don’t have identify the factors that have caused this phenomenon, but if you have worked in a school for any time you know this to be true. Students are harder to “hook” today. They are not as willing to “jump through the hoops” that is schooling. If you walk into a class room and see a majority of kids engaged today it is either because the kids are motivated by working to together or by a presentation that is put together by a passionate educator using multiple approaches to grab the learners. Students will gravitate to a teacher that demonstrates caring and interest in his/her students. In order for schools to work there has to a belief among the students that what they are doing matters. That the learning and acquisition of skills has significance outside of the classroom. It is hard to create this environment where all students are held to the same set of standards. What is meaningful and significant to one student is not to the next one. The most important part of education is the make sure those students today become as flexible in their learning as possible and to know that learning is not a part of life, it is life.

I believe what I do is important, and working to make education better is my passion. It makes going to work everyday a labor of love. The students should feel the same way.

10 thoughts on “Believing….

  1. I believe in what I do… most days. I think the problem is that it becomes very difficult to believe in what you do when nobody else seems to. For the most part, students don't seem to care much about anything that happens in the classroom. They just want their quick grade and to be on their way. The education system and seemingly society as a whole seems to attach very little value to me or my efforts. When I sit back and really evaluate the atmosphere that teachers work in, the number of teachers who leave the profession after only a few years doesn't suprise me at all. I mean, I feel like I'm a pretty good teacher, but when I look around for evidence of it, I have a hard time finding it. I often feel like a musician playing for a crowd that really doesn't even like my style of music. It doesn't matter how good I am at singing show tunes if nobody in the crowd likes show tunes.

  2. I think maybe the problem with education is that it doesn't reflect how people really learn in the real world. It never has, but, as you stated, kids were more willing to jump through hoops back in the day.

    In real life, if I am interested in learning about something I have a true interest in, I can just read about, watch videos about, research about that one thing. But in education, even higher education, a student is forced to study a lot of other stuff along with what is of interest.

    But I wonder…would the population become really, really ignorant if everyone was just allowed to learn about what interests him or her?

  3. Hard to balance that and societal expectations for what they think education should be…especially with standardize testing. The problem is we have LOTS of people, politicians, and experts to diagnose the problem…but no one who can give us a solution. I think educators as a whole see a need for reform and we're willing to do what we need to to fix it…just need someone to tell us how instead of pointing out all the problems in what we've chosen to do with our lives…

  4. Nathan, you are right. It is hard to find value where no one else sees it. You and the rest of the staff do a pretty good job of bringing each other along during rough times. We (I) have to do a better job of valuing what we do. We have a very hard working staff that cares about kids. The kids have not changed. The teenage years have their unique challenges and sometime I think the adults forget what it is like to look at the world through the students view finder. Try to remember what it was like to be in their shoes. My suggestion, always push them harder than they think they can go.

  5. Pam, Good question. Does school just slow us down? What would society look like without universal education? I don't know about you, but I not sure I like how it would work out.

  6. Amber,
    You are right. There seems to be no end to the number of critics who can point out what is wrong with education. Easiest job in the world…anyone can be a critic! Problem solving on the other hand is much harder and usually is not constructed with made for TV soundbites. I think the solution is different for each community and school. I grow ever more fearful of the solution that may be handed to us…the current direction is 180 degrees from where I feel we need to be going!

  7. I agree that teenagers today are the same as they ever were, to some extent. In some ways they are very different even than my generation of just over a decade ago. These kids don't remember a time when all the information in the world wasn't at their fingertips. These kids have an entirely different social experience than any of us had, so their expectations of school are different. My biggest frustration is that I see placing today's students into the current education system as trying to pound square pegs into round holes-they simply don't fit. As long as we try to educate 21st century learners using 19th century models, students will be unreachable, and as a result, teachers will continue to feel valueless. The thing that really bothers me is that nobody really seems interested in solving this problem. Anytime we talk about change it starts big and ends up with, "Maybe we could cut thirty seconds out of passing period to make the classes long enough for 'project-based-learning'." The fact of the matter is that those with the power to make real change happen are so far removed from the reality of the classroom that they can't possibly see a real solution. Further, those in power believe that the best thing to do is keep and increase their power by making more rules. What we need in education is less rules. Teachers need to be given the same professional courtesy that other professions recieve and be allowed to trust their training and experience to provide students with what they need. If we were able to provided students with what they need, many issues in education would evaporate. Most problems stem from the fundamentally flawed practice of forcing useless tasks and information upon students.

  8. So, I looked over your last 4 or 5 blogs, and all of them deal with the negative issues of education, how we are failing, and why we should change, ect…. I totally agree, something needs to change. I wonder what effect it has on our staff, or the other people who read it. Maybe your next post should be about the good things that are still happening in education. I

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