Tag Archives: slides

Does This Sound Like YOUR School?

This is the worst time of the school year for me.  

That’s because we are in the middle of the long slog to the End of Grade Exams — a series of high stakes tests that, at least here in North Carolina, are used to rate and evaluate everyone and everything connected with public education.

What’s crazy to me, though, is the VAST majority of the content assessed on our end of grade exams — particularly in social studies and science — is content that can be Googled.

(click here to view image and credits on Flickr)

Slide - Taught In Schools

Need some examples?

My students will need to know the difference between intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks, the difference between longitudinal and transverse waves, and the impact that density has on both light and sound.  They’ll need to be able to name both the male and female parts of plants, explain the difference between atoms and elements, and identify chemical and physical properties of matter.

They’ll be asked about the reasons for the seasons, the reason for eclipses, and the reason for tides.  They’ll have to know the layers of the earth and the characteristics of habitable planets.  They’ll see questions about the focus and epicenter of earthquakes, the compressions and rarefactions in sound waves, and the lens and cornea in your eyes.

Should I keep going?

Now don’t get me wrong:  I understand the importance of having foundational knowledge about essential content.  It’s impossible to make new discoveries when you have no basic understanding of what’s happening in the world around you — and while it’s POSSIBLE to Google darn near everything in our required curriculum, it’s also incredibly inefficient and time consuming.  Fluency with core ideas matters.

But it’s also important to understand that by tying high stakes tests to mastery of basic facts, we are fundamentally changing what happens in the science classroom.

As a teacher, I’m forced into making a decision between spending class time on wondering and investigation and collaboration OR spending class time covering as many basic facts as possible.  Choose the former, and I’ll have students who are better prepared to be the kind of inquisitive scientists who make important discoveries that change the world.  Choose the latter and I’ll have students who are better prepared to pass our state’s standardized exams.

I know what you are thinking, y’all:  Why can’t you do both?  Why can’t you integrate inquiry into classrooms where students ALSO walk away with a solid understanding of basic facts?

The answer is you can — as long as the list of “basic facts” that kids are expected to know is manageable.  And at least now — in North Carolina — that’s not the case.  Our essential curriculum is massive and unmanageable.

That has to change.

#trudatchat


Related Radical Reads:

Making Room for Uncertainty in the Required Curriculum

Walking Moral Tightropes ISN’T a Reform Strategy

How Testing Will Change What I Teach Next Year

 

Kids Need to Run.

One of my favorite things in life is connecting with old friends who have challenged my thinking.  That happened this week when Carly Albee — a fantastic teacher in Western North Carolina and a part of a cohort of teachers that I traveled to Denmark with almost a decade ago — showed up in the comment section of my recent post on fidget spinners.

Carly dug my notion that kids obsessing over fidget spinners can be a valuable source of formative feedback for teachers, but she pushed my thinking even further when she wrote:

(click here to view image and credits on Flickr)

Slide - Fidget Spinners

Carly’s right, isn’t she.  Our kids DO need to run and play and cover their fingers in sand. They need to feel the sun on their faces and breathe fresh air and stumble through the grass.

They need unstructured opportunities to explore and to wonder and to think.  Better yet, they need a chance to build stronger connections with one another by exploring and wondering and thinking together.  And most importantly — particularly in a week when our President repudiated scientific consensus by walking away from the Paris Climate Agreement —  they need to build stronger connections with our Earth.  It’s hard to appreciate our planet when you spend half of your life looking at it from behind a window.

Are those opportunities a regular part of YOUR school’s bell schedule?  

#theyshouldbe


Related Radical Reads:

Good Teaching > Fidget Spinners

Our Dreams are Simple:  We Want to Go Outside

 

The Key to Learner Agency is Ownership.

One of the central themes rolling through my mind over the last few years has been the difference between learning and schooling.  The simple truth is that they AREN’T the same thing.  Learning, I think, depends on agency.  It happens when WE own the answers to the five questions that drive every experience:

Learning > Schooling

But here’s the hitch:  In schools, students RARELY own the answers to these questions.

Instead, teachers determine student groups and the curriculum determines the topics to be studied and the order in which those topics will be tackled.  There’s often no clear connection between student interest and required topics — and demonstrations of mastery are defined in advance, designed to do nothing more than make assessing and comparing student progress easier.

That’s schooling, y’all — and it is destroying the kids who sit in our classrooms.

When we strip away ownership over every learning experience and create highly scripted spaces where kids are never given the chance to set their own direction or examine their own interests or answer their own questions, we create passive students who are dependent on others for direction instead of active learners who are developing the skills and dispositions necessary to be the change agents that our world needs them to be.

Students have no real capacity to act when faced with unexpected situations because while they may know a ton, they’ve never been expected to take action independently.  Learners, on the other hand, are comfortable in uncomfortable situations because they have been setting their own direction over and over again.

Any of this make sense?  More importantly, what are YOU doing to introduce elements of ownership and agency into your day-to-day instruction?

_____________

Related Radical Reads:

What Kind of Students is Your School Producing?

Here’s What We Have to Stop Pretending

Where Have All the Beautiful Questions Gone?

What if Schools Created a Culture of DO instead of a Culture of KNOW?