Sunday, June 7, 2015

Maybe I've flipped out...a few thoughts on learning

There are all sorts of mindsets that work against a healthy approach to learning. These are well-documented because we've heard our colleagues complain about them before. "Students nowadays don't know how to...." or "These kids are so..." But this post isn't a rant against students. That is completely unproductive. Learning is a natural part of being human, and the problems students have with learning has a lot less to do with them, and a lot more to do with us.

So what are students thinking?

Just wanna get out. I just want to make it till the end of the day and till summer vacation comes along. Sorry but I hate school.

Love to hang out. Not too interested in learning or anything else school has to offer...except, I like to chill with my friends. And school is a great place to grow my social life.

Spend my days checked out. I have interests, but they aren't in school, so my mind is wandering all day long thinking about my side projects. I'm rarely interested in my classes.

I would love a hand out. I understand school is important (at least my parents make it seem like it is), but I really want my teachers to just tell me exactly what to learn and when to learn it. Don't ask me to think for myself. Just tell me exactly what's on the test. If I don't learn, you didn't teach me anything.

I'm a standout. My self-worth is all tied up in my class rank and my ACT score. I focus way more on my grades than the process of learning, and I am constantly comparing myself to others to massage my fragile ego. I am great at playing the game of school.

You say I constantly act out. But school constantly reminds me of everything I'm not good at and makes me feel stupid. I get very little support at home, so I find all sorts of ways to get attention at school.

And then there's keep out, make out, and pass out. Use your imagination...

Elements of these descriptions aren't a big deal in themselves (all kids, and adults, have their lesser moments), but they become harmful when the pull of these thoughts is greater than the pull of learning.

To create learning that is truly meaningful, we need to create learning environments that are truly irresistible.

School should be a reflection of the world on the outside and not feel like some sort of weird institutionalized alternate reality.

Let's do work that matters to students and makes a difference in our communities.

Let's view students as more than data points and stop acting like it's the end of the world if every student doesn't master every standard.

Maybe if students truly have a love of learning when they leave our schools, that is what is means to be college and career ready. Better yet, let's call it "life-ready" because a meaningful life is more than college or career.

Why shouldn't students be co-designers of their own education?

Perhaps students have questions they want answered, and school should be a place where they can pursue inquiry they find important.

School shouldn't be a place where students feel like "education" is being done to them. Learning is the work, and students should be actively engaged in the work.

So I guess my overall point here is, if we create schools that work better for kids, we'll probably have far less of the poor learning mindsets we struggle against. Whatever it takes, it's time to create authentic, student-driven, inquiry-based schools.

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