Please Share My Passion For Education!

Monday, June 17, 2013

What are you teaching? Why?

"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it"
          - George Bernard Shaw





I have discussed my frustrations with the overflow of content being taught in schools and the lack of 21st century skills, or life skills, being taught in my Learn On blog:  http://schinkten.blogspot.com/

This got me to thinking.......What do I want my students or my kids to learn in school?  Why?

After thinking about this for a long time, I have decided that these are the things that I believe that students should be learning at school:

1.  The ability to Learn.  I cannot emphasize enough how much I think that students need to "learn how to learn".  This always reminds me of the famous saying, "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime". In education, way too many classrooms emphasize the obsessive cramming of content information (partially due to ridiculous standards and benchmarks).  Why?  Quiz these students 3-months later.  1 year later.  5 years later.  They will not remember any of these facts.  Why not teach them "How to find these answers".  Then, in 3-months, 1-year, or 5 years later, when they have forgotten all of the facts, they can utilize the "process" of learning and look up the answers.  Way too often we assume that everyone knows how to do this, which I believe is because most teachers are good at this.  In my experience, most students are terrible at this.  If you teach them this, however, they improve VERY quickly.  What a great skill to have.  Then, when they are older and ready to learn specific content, in any area, they will be able to

                                                                                                          
                                                   



2.  Enthusiasm and Passion - Without this, I am not sure anything else matters.  This is like spending thousands of dollars fixing up a car and adding all the best parts, only to realize you have no money for gasoline and are unable to drive the car.  You are not going anywhere.  From a logic perspective I considered rating this #1, but I think that learning how to learn may be more important, even if we have to trick students into doing it.  What percentage of the students in your classroom are truly excited to learn and show up, listen, participate, and work hard simply because they are passionate about the topic or enthusiastic about learning?  If you subtract the % that do not care, the % that perform well because they were programmed that they need good grades in order to succeed in life, the % that do well because they listen to their parents who tell them to work hard, and the % that are just respectful and do it because the teacher (an adult) told them to, I am not sure you are left with many students.  I believe that we all need to take a deep breath, take a big step back, and figure out how to motivate these students to become more enthusiastic and passionate.  You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.                        
                          




3.  Altruism and Empathy - I want students to understand how they fit into to the "big picture" and understand that their actions impact everything around them.  I would love for students to "want" to cure diseases, help those with diseases, desire to end world hunger, help preserve the earth, innovate in the area of sustainability, recycle, respect thy neighbor, open doors for others, help someone pick something up if they drop it, donate to charity, etc.....  This gives students PURPOSE!!!!  Which Daniel Pink explains is one of the main intrinsic motivators.  I do not understand why we do not teach these skills more in school, or use our "learning time" to do more about this.  Why do we keep making little Styrofoam models, packets of worksheets, and signs we throw away, when there are millions of important issues out there to be solved.  Get involved!  Get the students involved.  Solve them!!!!  Please!

                                             



4.  Concepts Crucial to Life - I do think that content is important, but not they way that we teach it.  For example, I do think that it is important to understand how plants survive and thrive.  We need to know that they need water, light, proper amounts of carbon dioxide, nutrients, etc...  I think it is important to understand these concepts so that our future generations understand how to garden for food, grow plants to support birds & butterflies, realize why preserving our forests and trees is so important.  I DO NOT think that it is important that we progress them through the necessary steps to understand the Calvin Cycle, Photosytem II, the chemical composition of Adenosine Triphosphate, etc...  If they want to know this or decide to go into a career which involves this, they will be able to learn it at that time when they are more mature, determined and ready to learn this.  In a perfect world, however, they will be excellent at learning.



5.  A realistic and real-life perspective of what is to come - Instead of selling every student in class the "false dream" that if they go to college they will be wonderfully successful people, we should teach them what life is really like.  College degrees have become so much less valuable.  A college degree used to guarantee you a job, but now this is far from true.  In this grandiose "You Must Go To College" campaign, we have essentially sent the message that every job in which you do not go to college is useless.  Mechanics, custodians, factory workers, secretaries, stay at home moms, customer service workers......are they useless?  Far from it....but when do we start educating them from kindergarten on instead of preparing them for college starting at age 4, when they may never end up there.  When do we start requiring students to understand the wide range of possibilities, what bills and payments are like, how to fix up their car or home, how to care for plants, pets, children, etc....


So.......................................

So what is the answer to this?  I do not claim to have all of the answers.  I have been implementing some strategies that I believe strongly are steps in the right direction.  In co-founding and working in a PBL, interdisciplinary, hands-on, real-life, altruistic program titled Communities (http://on.fb.me/11Gshck) , I have had the unique experience to see this begin to work.  The results have been amazing and as soon as my own kids are old enough, this is the education I want them to get.  Many people are still skeptical and doubt this can be done, but as I quoted in the beginning of this blog:  "People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it".


In the meantime I have two challenges for anyone:

1.  Start implementing totally autonomous Com-Passion Based Learning in your classroom for 20% of the time.  Read more about this: http://bit.ly/12DGrRu   Many people ask, how can I afford to give up 20% of my class time with the students.  My reply is; How can you afford not to?

2.  I challenge any professor, teacher, expert to a game of trivial pursuit in which I get to use the internet and you do not.  If you really believe that facts, facts, facts, facts, facts is what we should be teaching our children, then show me how good you are at it.  I hope I win, because I will donate my money to a good cause.

Please respond with any feedback, questions, suggestions, concerns.  I am a very open-minded person and I am not afraid to change my mind or opinion on something.  Maybe there is something I am missing......but maybe there is not.  Let's talk!

Keep in touch!

Oliver Schinkten
oliver.schinkten@oshkosh.k12.wi.us

Twitter:  @schink10




1 comment:

  1. Ollie,

    You wrote: "Way too often we assume that everyone knows how to do this, which I believe is because most teachers are good at this. In my experience, most students are terrible at this. If you teach them this, however, they improve VERY quickly."

    This is true to a good degree. We quickly label kids as "digital natives" because they have "always" had this technology available to them. But, not all kids have smart phones, and many who do simply know how to text and tweet. Searching for good information, not quick information, is much the same as developing the ability to find information in the "stacks" at any large library vs. simply using Encyclopedia Brittanica.

    How do we create activities, projects, community engagements that actively engage our learners and teach them how to find and USE relevant, vital information?

    ReplyDelete