I have neglected writing in this space for quite some time now. The other day I noticed that it was the fifth anniversary of this blog (almost a month and a half ago) and felt obligated to post something noting the passage of so much time (not sure why???) The result was this ramble about not much of anything. I tweeted out (is that really a verb?) an announcement of my new post and the following exchange took place….
Now that the inspiration for this post has been established…. As much as I have talked about change here on this blog, in reality, if you walk down the halls of this school, peek into class rooms, I doubt you would see a whole lot that is different now than you would have seen five years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful staff who has done a great job of creating a welcoming and challenging learning environment. We have have teachers who use Twitter (although it has died down a lot this year), create engaging assignments where students connect with many resources and ideas using social media, and work VERY hard to make themselves better every day. Our school does what schools are designed to do quite well. We deliver the required content and prepare our students to demonstrate their progress so they can move on to the next stage in their development, whatever that may be.
To me, schools in this country are stuck in between the demands of accountability prescribed by the federal and state mandates and the need to fundamentally change to meet the needs of learners in a world that is very different than a decade ago. We parse every moment of the day to fill it to the core (common), with the meted information our students are expected to master as dreamed up by a board of experts who know best (sarcasm intended!)
We cannot ignore that our students need so much more than what the system has made us into. Technology has made it possible for our schools to be so much more than they are. Technology allows more students to be creative, connected, and inventive. Although we still have a long way to go, information is more available to more people than ever. In order to capitalize on this phenomena, we need to design our schools in such a way that time passed is not the measure of proficiency. Skill acquisition and problem solving need to replace worksheets and regurgitation. If school is the only place we ask people to do a certain task (like fill in bubble sheets), we need evaluate the efficacy of doing so. We need more communicating, more time spent in deep consideration of concepts as opposed to shallow attempts to “cover” the material. Help me be bold. Help me change what cannot continue. If schools don’t change we will be replaced. Kids can be trained to do better on the test more efficiently than we do it. So lets us quit preparing them for the “test”. Let us prepare them for life.
(To my teachers: Please do not take this as an indictment of what you do daily. You people are everyday heroes! So many times you reach through the reality of what we are asked to do and truly inspire our kids to do amazing things! We are doing some pretty amazing things with the canvas we are asked to paint upon. The target of this blog has never been “us”. It has been a running dialogue with myself. To challenge myself and others to continually look for ways to make what we do better for kids. If anybody has improving to do, I am the first in line.)