The end of the semester always finds itself here too soon for many, too late for others and too full of work to enjoy for most. Students who are stressed out as they are given summative assignments all due within the same couple weeks, asking to prove their worth and counting on their energy reserves.
We are all caught slogging it out.
When did learning and education come to this? Is this what learning has become?
The arbitrary timeline of achievement and success says that you better be in lock-step unless you want to be left behind. You better be rolling at the same speed as everyone or you just might be rolled over.
Watching students walk through the hallways with their bags filled to capacity, their eyes with bags under them, only builds my apprehension for this time of year. Let the real farce begin.
Students have been told, “There’s no chance for you.” The calculation of the numbers leave them with nothing, but a feeling of failure, a confirmation of their self-worth.
Dragging themselves across the finish line can not be what we want for our students. A reminder that we don’t understand the nature of being a learner, about the time and peace that is required to engage thoroughly in material that challenges us.
It happens every year and it doesn’t make sense. Why do we want our students slogging it out, rather than positively passing on to another focus?
I like change. I like being fluid. I cringe when policies and procedures of which I don’t agree are forced upon me. I feel suffocated when things feel static. I can admit it. But do I have a problem?
I was taken to task the other day in an e-mail by someone who had read a series of my blog posts. He went on to call me a “change monger”.
He asked, “if there was anything about education that I was happy with?”, saying that I should “stop complaining”, and that “I’d probably never be happy” and “I’m one of those people who only wants change for the sake of change.”
These charges made me reflect on what I’m looking for in education, in my thinking, in my community.
Am I being fair to education? Am I looking for too much change? Why can’t I be satisfied with the small change that is happening? What does change provide me that static ideas don’t?
In the words of Isaac Asimov, “The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”
If we aren’t constantly trying to change, what are the consequences?
I subscribe to a feeling of always striving to become better. I subscribe to the idea that no thought should be discouraged because it is threatening. I subscribe to the notion that I don’t have the right answers and so I should continue to look for others.
If that makes me a “change monger”, I’ll wear that label as a badge. We need to change.
Are you a “change monger”?
On Friday, I got a chance to sit down with a group of teachers and administrators who have their eyes on the future. We are all in the development of the Futures Forum Project, which is a pilot project that we are bringing to the WRDSB.
There are many things at play at these discussions. A few of my reflections:
1. Any time the idea of technology in the classroom is bandied about, I feel that the razzle dazzle of the technology sometimes overwhelms. This happens in two ways; either we think we are being innovative when we are really doing the same thing we’ve always done but put a new flashier cover on it; or when we worry about teaching the tech skill over the real life skill. These problems came up many times throughout the discussion. How then can we take this opportunity to create the “classroom of the future” (although in the future their shouldn’t be a classroom)?
2. I think this is an opportunity to tear down the walls. Totally. Too many times we were reminded about the politics at play. We need to be successful (whatever that means?) so we can scale it. We need to ensure we can maintain status quo in every other grade, so we can’t go too outside the box (despite agreeing that the box is limiting opportunities to learn). We choose education over learning (structures like periods, bells, attendance, etc is not being considered as an element to the classroom of the future).
3. It is great to be in a room where teachers are actively looking to get better. All involved, regardless of how far they are ready to push, each person in the room wants to get better and see students learn better. Love to be part of that group.
4. The idea of power came up often. Who has the power in the classroom? Who should have it? Who should decide what we do? How we do it? What does a functioning, effective classroom look like? Are teachers really ready to give up power in the class?
5. I am ready to fail. I posted before that I am afraid this will be successful and I will be seen as a puppet. I don’t think that is my fear anymore. On Friday while listening I heard many people express their ideas of success and fear of failing. While reading, The Talent Code, I recognize that I am ready to fail. I’m even ready to fail BIG. That’s sometimes what it takes and I’m ready to have my name associated with a major failure, especially if that brings us closer to a real answer.
6. I got more paper handouts at this session then I’ve used in all my classes so far this year. I’ve e-mailed everyone involved to see if we can change this, but for a project leaning towards the future with everyone technologically savvy how is this not a priority and the first thought?
7. Product is emphasized over process. Because we are so caught up in the idea of evaluation and marks, we plan the product students are to produce without planning, explicitly, the process of teaching. This is going to require much thought as to how this will be achieved.
The project is now well on its way and the time is clicking by, ever so quickly. I am excited, energized and processing loads of ideas after this meeting. Here’s hoping we keep pushing the boundaries and make something truly revolutionary happen.
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