"What's wrong with school? Why don't you get more excited to be here?" I had to ask. I wasn't sure I wanted to know, but I had to ask. Knowing I will be going out and trying to inspire educators to make the world, or at least their world, a better, more engaging, more meaningful place for students, I had to know what we were up against. So I asked some kids: What's wrong with "school"? Their responses are bulleted.
- At least 55% of the information I will never use in real life
Now I'm pretty sure this number came out of nowhere, but the point here is that these students felt that MOST of what they were being taught was irrelevant to daily living. We have one of two problems here:
1. They're right.
2. They aren't being shown how what they're learning IS relevant.
How can you remedy that? Is your content irrelevant? Are you presenting it in the right way?
- Teachers are mean with no reason - not understanding something is not reason to yell
I don't have an argument here. I think this is pretty meaningful. Haven't you ever been frustrated trying to learn something? My husband tried to teach me to golf. He tries to be really patient, but sometimes I know he gets frustrated. Just because I'm not understanding the correction he's trying to help me make does not mean I'm not trying to make the correction. Come at it in a different way. Have somebody else tell me! Because eventually, you're going to get mad and I'm going to shut down. And that doesn't help anyone.
- Not enough creativity - I get bored. We get bored doing the same thing every day.
One of the things that has really hit home with me from reading #TLAP this summer is the idea that just because you may not be super passionate about a certain topic, doesn't mean you can't make it exciting. And when you can share excitement and passion and enthusiasm about something, your students are going to want to get in on it.
I'll be honest. I'm guilty of this. I tried not to do it often, but I will admit it did happen. There were some topics that I wanted students to be familiar with but that I just wasn't that excited about. Once in a while that meant we used the chapter in the book - section by section, took some notes, a test at the end, and moved on. It happened less and less the longer I taught, but I'm embarrassed to admit it happened at all. So I want to share a different example, too.
I hated Econ. It was the subject I was least excited to teach to my students. So instead of working through the book like we did the first year I taught, so I ordered Thomas Friedman's "The World Is Flat" and began teaching that. We tied in the Iowa Core in some very different ways than a traditional economics class, but my kids got real-world views of the job market, the type of education they were receiving, where new markets and technologies were taking us, and what that meant to their future. And I was a better teacher because I found a way I could be passionate about the topic.
- Teaching the same old thing, not updating lessons for modern students
With all of the amazing tools and opportunities available to us via technology I am baffled by the number of people teach just like it was done 30 years ago - or worse, 100 years ago. Start small. Make a commitment to try one new thing this term. I have faith that you can do more, but at least try one.
- Not allowed to make mistakes without penalty - If I try and fail, I shouldn’t get in trouble
Failure is how we learn! Have you ever had a lesson fall flat? Did you get fired? If you did, that sucks. If you didn't, which I'm guessing is much more likely, remember that and offer your students the same kind of mentoring and suggestions and critiques and scaffolding that you were offered to improve your lessons.
- We are all individuals - don’t compare me to others
In our world of high stakes testing that's all we do, right? Compare how Iowa did to how Massachusetts did? How Waukee did to how Johnston did? How Bobby did to how Susie did? But when is the last time you learned something exactly the same way and at exactly the same pace as your colleague? Or even your sibling or neighbor?
- Be patient!
These are kids, and they are growing up, and they are learning, and most of the time they are doing their best while trying to find their place in the world. Cut them some slack once in a while.
- Trust us
Remember to give your students opportunities to try. They might fall sometimes, they might miss the mark, and they might even make a poor choice. But when they know that you're trusting them to be great - to do their best and to make good choices, they usually don't want to disappoint you. You get the respect you give.
- We don’t always like to write papers - we like to create things and do projects!
We all know writing is important. But if we don't give kids the opportunity to create, what will there be to write about? Let them get down and dirty with the content. Let them make their mark on the world - and then let them write about it. But don't just have them write about it, have them publish it; share it; use it; read it - anything to get their voice out into the world about what they've created; learned; mastered.
- Take the time to develop a relationship with us - encourage us, get to know us
Very few things will take your farther in your efforts with your students than taking the time to get to know them as individuals. And if you can take what you learn about them and turn it into a lesson that inspires them to do something great, you will have created a life-long learner.
These kids are smart. They had a lot of great advice. Which parts will you listen to? I wish I'd asked this one day 1 in my classroom. Try and use it in yours.