My take-away from the article and the different videos is pretty simple: everyone knows we are educating wrong, but everyone is staying very theoretical about how to solve this problem. Our disciplines (subjects) are important, but they are stifling. Our education system educates out creativity, but creativity is needed to be successful. We need people to be willing to be wrong, but we created a system in which an ‘A’ are everything. People are only motivated intrinsically, yet the education system does not offer intrinsic motivation.
It is very clear to me what our education system is doing something wrong. Apparently, it is very clear to everyone. Now, here is the tough part, how do we fix it? As long as teachers jobs are based on test scores and college admissions, how are we supposed to “unschool” our students and keep a job?
President Obama released a video in which he discusses that he believes the American education system is “testing” too much. He agrees with Mobley; teachers need to inspire, motivate, and move children forward. Yet, he still feels that there should be some kind of test or standardization. This video was released three weeks before Massachusetts, the strongest ranked state for education in the Union, decided to drop the Common Core and the standard state assessment that went with it. We need to do something to change, but the country’s most recent innovation is clearly failing.
I don’t know how to change policy, but I do know how to change my classroom.
Traditional Learning: I agree that traditional methods don’t work, on the other hand, my middle school students are not yet empowered enough to drive their own learning. I find that a combination of frontal and project based learning creates an environment where they can look to me as a guide, but they know that I don’t have all the answers. If they want to know more, I can help give them the tools to enable them to find out for themselves.
Creativity: I don’t think we need to “unlearn”, I agree with Ken Robinson that we are training students to be non-creative thinkers. I find that when I leave assignments open ended, students come back with the most interesting ways to demonstrate their learning to me. I gave an open ended assignment where students needed to tell me the theme of “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare, with three supporting examples from the text. They could not write a paper or create a slideshow. One of my students creates a 3-D “Theme” Cube, with quotes and explanations on various sides. Another pair of students, whom I usually consider weaker in reading comprehension, created a Jeopardy game. They were so fluent in the text during the game that I was blown away.
Permission to be wrong: Finally, I find that giving students the permission to be wrong is so important. In order to do this, you must be honest with them about your own mistakes and failings. One of the common sayings in my class is that, “Even teachers make mistakes.” I feel this creates an environment where they know it is okay to experiment and try new things. I recently started using Quizlet to give our weekly Vocab quizzes. On week two of the new quizzes, the pre-made quiz I used had the answers hidden inside the definitions. I didn’t proof it close enough and gave it to the students. They were fascinated when I explained that I had made a mistake. I wanted to try this new format, but it was clear that I would have to be more careful in the quizzes I chose for the future. In doing so, I empowered them to take a chance, try something new. In order to create a synthesizing and creative mind, we must be willing to explore and experiment. It may not always work out, but you won’t know unless you try.