Thursday, January 2, 2014

Red Flags - Students are Trapped

"How many years into the 21st Century will it take us to acknowledge that it is the 21st Century?  The Industrial Age is over.  Let it go."

I have noticed a very disturbing trend in my conversations with educators about education.  When we discuss classroom practices, assessment strategies, etc.. a common theme comes up.  It seems that the main concern is to be sure that there are no loop holes for people who do not "try hard" to earn a good grade.  I challenge you to propose a new teaching strategy that you are going to implement.  One of the first things that another educator will say to you is "what happens if someone takes advantage of that style and just does nothing?"  I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS QUESTION.  Are there teachers saying this that have 100% buy in and engagement.  If I didn't try things that I was afraid a small handful would try to take advantage of, I would have never tried anything in new in my classroom in the past 12 years.......which, when I think of probably true of many educators.

If you are afraid to try something new in the classroom because a couple students might take advantage of it, please slap your forehead and rethink this position.  I think that it is time we start to shift our thinking.

Instead of -->  How can I close any loopholes that some students might take advantage of.

We need to start thinking -->  How can I clear as many obstacles and gather as many resources as possible for all of those students who WANT TO LEARN.  

I think that our education system would flourish if we started thinking of education as:

An opportunity for students to receive a free education where they can use resources to improve and educate themselves so that they will be ready to reach their potential and be as successful as they possibly can be in the future.  

If a student "tricks" me and earns a better grade than they deserve....they didn't trick me. They have tricked themselves.  My life will not change.  They are heading into their future unequipped with the skills I was trying to teach them.

Right now we have every student "Playing the Game of School".  Even the best students ask questions such as:

*  Does this count for a grade?
*  Is this graded?
*  How many points is this worth?
*  What do I need to do in order to get an A?

THESE ARE RED FLAGS.  These are not students asking for feedback because they want to improve themselves.  I wrote about a study I did once in which I asked students if they would rather earn an "A" and learn nothing or earn a "C" and learn a lot.  62% of students, including many very hard working students, said they would take the "A".  I asked them why, and they usually respond that "you need A's to get into college".  Wow!! - check out this article

I think maybe it is time that we try to convince them that they need SKILLS & KNOWLEDGE in order to be successful at college, in a career, in a relationship, as a parent, as a citizen, as a voter, as a person.  

Then, after we convince them that they need these skills, we should start teaching these skills to them.  We should toss out the worksheets that drill students on facts that are completely irrelevant to their futures.  We should start teaching communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, inquiry, altruism, and the passion to be a lifelong learner.

The students are crying for help.......they just do not know what to say.  We have taught them a vicious game called "SCHOOL" that gives them a false sense of what their future holds.  This may be part of the reason that over 50% of students who enter college drop-out and why business owners are complaining about the lack of skills that this generation has.  We need to identify the red flags and then fix the problem they represent.

How can I help?

            Oliver Schinkten
Twitter @schink10
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