Part 1: Preach Like Brother John
"No generation in history has ever been so thoroughly prepared for the Industrial Age" - David Warlick
I think it's safe to say that the industrial times ended at least a couple of decades ago, but the U.S. Educational System ("The System") is still at it: working hard to pump out generation after generation of Industrial Age Superstars. I mean, Henry Ford would be proud. Perhaps, he'd hire them on the spot too.
Problem is we don't need any more Tin Lizzie (no offense to Henry's Ford Model T) builders. This age is a time in which information has become a speed of light fast product, communicated efficiently, and available readily via computer technology. And, it calls for the Elon Musk-esque Tesla Innovators and the Let's-Build-a-Human-Colony-on-the-Moon-Tomorrow-Because-We-Can Visionaries.
We need our students to be creative in solving relevant problems; appropriate to the times we live in and using tools and skills they will actually need to use, or at least be able to figure out, when they venture out into the "real world." This can only be done through transforming our teaching practices and how we approach the learning process.
So… My Teacher Homies… What follows are the 3 Practices You Can Start Right Now to Change the Educational Status Quo (and they are not all about technology):
1. Preach like John Maxwell.
2. Be like Taylor Swift.
3. Tell students to be like Mike.
Preach Like John Maxwell.
John C. Maxwell, a world-renown author, speaker, and authority on leadership, teaches us to “invest in people daily.” According to John, “investing in people” involves listening to them, encouraging them, respecting them, developing their abilities, and helping them succeed. Sound familiar?
While the above actions might not have been listed on the job description when you applied, they are the bulk of what you do as a teacher. In fact, I believe that they make up the most important and rewarding aspect of the job. There is simply nothing better than the satisfaction of knowing that you (yes YOU) are changing the world when your students are learning.
So, invest in the Human Beings you interact with (aka Students) Not The Content Standards daily. And while this might be a tough one to digest, because learning standards were pretty much tattooed on your brain since your initiation into the teaching cult, you will love the results. I envision you sipping hot cocoa under a warm blanket on a cold January night sporting a smile while reflecting on this. One night... Why not tonight?
If you feel I’m dissing the standards, relax. I am not telling you to abandon the core, content, academic, curricular, or whatever standards you are mandated to follow. In fact, I believe that they’re okay. My beef is with the fact that the so-called “learning standards” have very little to do with the learning process, which is what I believe all teacher-prep programs should spotlight and all teachers emphasize in their classrooms.
Let’s google: “learning standards.”
The highly revered in the academic field source, Wikipedia, defines learning standards as “elements of declarative, procedural, schematic, and strategic knowledge that, as a body, define the specific content of an educational program.”
The Glossary of Education Reform (sounds official doesn’t it?) describes learning standards as “concise, written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education.”
Honestly, I did not bother to look past the first page of Google results on “learning standards,” but everywhere I did look they can be distilled to “Knowledge” and “Ability To Do Something.” And, while I appreciate knowing the destination, because it is extremely important to know where you’re going before you set off, a flippin’ map would be nice. Just saying...
I view the learning standards as a framework that allows me to write goals and objectives for students. Having goals and objectives, and telling students about them is extremely important. In fact, I wrote about it in my article on objectives: Want Students To Learn? Don’t Just Tell Them What You Are Teaching. I just think that because of the official rhetoric the standards come with, many of us educators worry so much about “covering” all of them and getting through the entire curriculum, that we often forget to teach the students how to learn all that stuff.
Most of us teach the “stuff” well, but I know that I myself have forgotten on more than one occasion (like a million times) that the true purpose of education, thus my purpose, is to educate human beings.
This involves investing in each student’s inner mind, by myself learning how this mind operates, and equipping it with the cognitive and metacognitive skills necessary to be successful in any subject, any endeavor, any “thing” it takes on now and in the future. And that is what this party is all about!
It involves teaching learning approaches, problem-solving methods, and study skills. It entails explaining and exemplifying strategies for effective and meaningful learning, fostering creative outside the box thinking, encouraging risk-taking, and training students to really believe that failures are just necessary stepping-stones to their progress and ultimate success.
Oh, and by the way: None of these things can be taught in one shot; they have to be repeated, reiterated, and reinforced over and over and over. For free resources, including the student learning reflection and approaches to note-taking, problem-solving, and studying I use with my students to help them focus and achieve more success, visit my Free Resources page.
And while I am intentional about doing it the right way now, I know that there are many dedicated teachers out there, who lose sight of what it truly means to educate students (aka human beings) when faced with the pressures of producing lean mean test taking machines.
But no more.
We’re all doing this, ‘cause we’re real like Taylor Swift (but that’s my next post).