I remember being a student. Waking up early, catching the bus, waiting for the morning bell to ring, filing into a classroom where the teacher closed the door behind us, only to open again for occasions such as bathroom breaks, lunch, and recess, until the end of the day, where once again the door was opened. I remember being scolded for talking during class, spending recess inside with my head on my desk for trying to observe what others were doing on their assignments, and trying to memorize a bunch of names, dates, and facts for recall at a later date. Sound familiar? I bet if we were to survey a variety of people, of all ages, they would be able to relate to these recollections. Not that these events are all bad, many times I deserved more than just a loss of recess, and all that memorizing had made me appreciate my memory even more, even though it is quite short. Nonetheless, many teachers are following the same path. I have had this conversation with a colleague of mine, and both Jeff and I believe it has to do with a level of comfort. We grew up, as did our parents, with this same model. We were taught in a similar fashion to that of our parents, and by most accounts it has seemed to work. After all, look at me… I made it, so why can’t the millions of others, why can’t my children?
Times have changed. Education, for the most part, has not.
Students have changed.
For the past fifteen years I have taught middle school students. In my short time in education, I have seen a dramatic change in students. Students are no longer attending school because they want to. They attend school because of some extrinsic force, such as that of a parent or a law. What would happen if this trend were reversed? What if the force that made students attend schools became intrinsic? What would happen if students came to school motivated to learn, with a desire to work together to accomplish a task, to seek out the advice and wisdom of professionals? What would happen?
Do students really need to learn and memorize vast amounts of content when they can find it on their phones faster than we can find it in a book? Or should we be developing critical thinking skills in these students by allowing them to direct their own learning, allowing them to collaborate, to solve, to design, to build, to fail and try again?
What if schools change?
What if teachers change?