Sunday, June 9, 2013

Why do students go to school?

"You better check yo' self, before you wreck yo' self."
                                                          - Ice Cube

"How many points is this assignment worth?"
"What do I need to do in order to get an A?"
"How many points off will it be if.........?"

If I hear these comments anymore I am going to barf.  I have been growing increasingly skeptical as to why students are even at school.  It seems that every class is comprised of two main types of people; those who do not buy into the system and do not care about school, and the "grade chasers".  What if you removed grades altogether.  What if for every assignment you explained that it will be a unique and excellent opportunity to "learn" and to "better prepare yourself for the future"?  What would happen?  The "grade chasers" would be baffled.  They would continue to ask the three questions that I listed at the beginning of this article.  

Why can't school be like this.  I understand that back in the day (Industrial Revolution) that we were purposely trying to mold humans into "rule-following", start & stop at the sound of the bell, cookie-cutter, robots that could work in our factories, but those days are over.  We need innovators.  We need people thinking outside of the box instead of plodding along gathering 3.75 grade point averages that tell them absolutely NOTHING about their ability to survive in the real world which is nothing like the "game of school".  

Why can't school be like this?  Forget grades. What do they mean anyways?  I am so perplexed when the majority of parents are satisfied or grateful at teacher conferences when their student has a "88%" or a "94%" in Biology.  What does this really tell them, though?  In a world in which almost 50% of college freshmen do not return for their sophomore year, in which the unemployment rate is astounding, in which antidepressants are being prescribed at alarming rates, what are the schools doing to give students a valid and reliable analysis of their potential in the real world?  What in the heck does a "88%" in Biology mean?  As long as the parent sees this number, they do not care about their child's collaborative skills, their communication skills, critical thinking skills, creativity, passion and enthusiasm for learning, motivation, etc....  They only care that they "played the game" and passed the standardized tests.  Congratulations!

Why can't school be like this.  Where did we go wrong?  I wish that school was looked at as a free opportunity  for students to enter into buildings, surrounded by professionals, in which they have the unique opportunity to learn as much as they can and get assistance in becoming the best person they can possibly become.  I wish students were hungry for knowledge.  I wish a student could say "I could care less if I got a "C" in this class because I learned a ton" (which I found out through surveying this year is not true.....they would rather get an "A" and learn nothing!).  How do we recreate this culture?  I think that there are several parties guilty for this mess.  The unwillingness for the system to change (politicians and lobbyists), the fair % of teachers that inundate students with irrelevant and boring work that does not help the student progress in any way shape or form, and society for not demanding that we change.

In the meantime, is there anything you can do?  I believe so.  Provide relevancy to work.  Explain the "why you are doing it" to everything (instead of saying "because I am an adult and I told you so").  Give the students autonomy and let them get passionate about learning.  Teach 21st century skills.  Replicate the real world and give students a glimpse into what skills they will need in the future.  Create a culture of enthusiasm to learn.  I have two suggestions:

1.  Implement 20-Time or Genius Hour.  This has worked wonders in helping to motivate students, increase their respect for education, and increase their enthusiasm to learning.

2. Constantly be the motivator.  Challenge students to keep learning, keep learning, keep learning.  School just ended, unfortunately, and the students' brains now lay dormant for three months.  I tried to challenge the students to learn over the summer with ideas such as:
     *  Continue implementing sustainable environmental practices (the unit we ended with)
     *  Create art from 100% recycled material and share it via our Google Document.
     *  Read a book or article and give a review via a Google Document we started.
     *  Learn how to computer code.  I have about 5 students working collaboratively with me on learning html programming right now.  Awesome!!!!!  I am the guide by the side because I know nothing!
     *  Create a YouTube video with a positive message and try to get 50,000 hits over summer.
     *  Stretch yourself.  Go to events or places that you normally would not go (farmers' market, museum, park, concert, etc... and share via a Google Doc we created)
     *  Etc..........

If anyone has suggestions on how to change the culture of education......please comment and let me know.  I am working hard to do so.  I will give my heart and soul to help any student who is intrinsically motivated and wants to become the best person they can be.  Each year, more of them are starting to surface.  I love it! 

For the rest......"You better check yo'self before you wreck yo'self", cause going through school without a purpose, is bad for your health.

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