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.