Why Do We Hold Students to Higher Expectations Than Adults?

crossons:

This is a very well said observation. As a parent, I see that my kids need these breaks, yet school doesn’t give many – and certainly not in a way the kids can control. Breaks are on the school or teacher’s schedule. Why do we expect kids to always follow the adult schedule?

Originally posted on Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension:

I told one class today that I was not there for their sheer entertainment.  I didn’t raise my voice, nor did I yell.  I simply stated it and asked them to step it up, to show engagement, to show me that what we were doing mattered to them because I could tell they were checked out and it made me unhappy.  And then we continued on with what we were doing.  Just another moment teaching 7th grade.

Yet, as it popped back into my mind, a seemingly insignificant moment from my day, I now see what a missed opportunity it was.  Not for another lecture, but instead to realize that these are kids that I am teaching.  Kids that we hold to insanely high expectations every single day.  Every single day, we expect full commitment in every subject matter.  We expect passion.  We expect interest.  We expect a willingness to…

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FAIL!

Anyone in this education 2.0 world knows the theories that gaming brings out a whole different approach to learning. My kids recently watched a TED talk (I think by Jane McGonigal) about gaming not actually being a waste of time. :-)

IMG_1953Here’s a screenshot from a popular game my kids play. I don’t even know what it’s called, but I do see them trying over and over and OVER again to get past certain levels. While failure at school means a bad grade and the implied NO COLLEGE FOR YOU, failure at these games means pick yourself up and try, try again.

My daughter worked for six weeks to get past one level. She just kept trying different strategies and approaches. Talk about scientific method. Try one way, if it doesn’t work, try another until you get it to work. Was she frustrated? Sure. Did she give up – nope. She kept coming back until she figured it out.

I admit it cracked me up to see that FAIL! screen come up over and over again. It just so strongly flies in the face of the traditional approach to education. This tenacity of trying over and over again is never rewarded at school. I know the practical reasons, but I don’t like the outcome and what that teaches kids.

iPad Music

My daughter, a soon-to-graduate senior in high school, is taking a well-deserved change this last trimester. We purposefully encouraged her to cut back formal high school learning (which she eagerly accepted) and instead, to set up a trimester learning about things she wants to in ways that work for her. (Perhaps I will blog more on this plan in the future.) Less homework and less structured activities has not, as I feared, led to a rampant increase in Netflix.

One of her goals was to increase time at the piano. She’s no longer taking formal lessons, but loves to play on her own and work through piano and vocal pieces.  She’s been playing over an hour a day – which never would have been possible with a super busy high school schedule. This is good not only for her as a musician, but good for her mind and soul. It’s good for creativity. It feeds an area of her that is not met in formal school

pianoipadI heard her playing something this morning that I didn’t recognize. As I walked into the living room, I see her with her iPad on the piano. She found an app that had guitar chords and the lyrics for hundreds (probably thousands) of songs. She was taking this info and playing them on the piano. She was having to refresh her music theory skills to remember all the chords, figure out the melodic line and then make the songs more complex by changing the chords.

Definitely a worthy learning experience, and a lovely accompaniment on a Sunday morning!

Rising Testing Opt-Out Movement

The Opt-Out or Refusal movement is gaining traction. According to this article by Laura McKenna in The Atlantic, nearly 5% of students in some districts are refusing to take the tests.

She relates a personal story about students becoming part of the movement. Of course kids are going to ask parents to let them miss the test. This is excellent — as long as students know why they are refusing the test. It’s not to have a morning off. It’s to let decision makers (which usually is not at the district level. It’s at a state and national level) know that students want education that does not fit into a standardized test.

Students AND parents need to be part of the conversation about testing. It is not up to the companies that profit from it, and who do you think has better access the legislators?

These protests should also serve as a reminder for decision-makers that parents and students are stakeholders in education policy and that community outreach must be part of any reform.

Then, too, they must justify WHY we need the tests. What do they prove? What benefit do students gain from them?

Legislators should not be the ones making the decision alone — or with the testing companies.

Learning without Testing? Can it be so?

I’m taking another MOOC – big surprise! It’s about Content Strategy – one of my favorite concepts. It’s not a class about education – it’s a professional development class, with content that directly relates to the work I do.

Quote from the first lecture:

Since it is for professionals, there will be no grades and no tests. It’s not a college course. It’s a program for you as a professional to master, and then be able to use what you learn here and take it back to work. It’s knowledge that will improve your effectiveness….

Yes, you really CAN learn even if there are no tests or grades. Imagine that.

SRA – Individualized Reading

Nostaglic post from Audrey Waters about the SRA Reading Cards of my childhood.

First, Audrey Waters is awesome. She is even far more snarky than I am, and for that, I love reading her stuff.

Second, this post traumatized me! But, caused me to think.

Waters talks about the SRA program through the concept of personalized learning. She brings up B. F. Skinner’s “programmed learning” concept. Yup, that’s definitely what it was/is (I guess it’s still around).  I totally see her point here: kids were often “rewarded” when they finished other work by getting to go to “THE BOX.” You read, answered questions, and checked it off, “DONE!” Then, on to the next one. Step by step.  There’s no creativity, no freedom of choice. I can’t remember the questions about the reading, but I’m sure it was basic, low-level reading comprehension.

She points out it’s often strong readers who loved this program, not the kids who struggled and were always reading the orange (or blue or green – whatever colors were the easier cards.) I can see that, too.

Box of SRA reading materials, ca. 1973. Image from an ebay posting.

Box of SRA reading materials, ca. 1973. Image from an ebay posting.

I see all this, and will look at SRA in a new light. Yet, I loved the SRA Reading program when I was a kid. LOVED. I mean it made me very happy to get to do SRA reading. Why? Because, for me, it was personalized. I got to go at my own pace. It was torture for me to sit through reading classes in the early grades. I had been reading on my own since I was three. Reading with a class caused me tremendous anxiety and frustration. I just wanted to READ. Not hear other kids learn how to read!  With SRA, I could read as fast and as far ahead as I wanted, instead of getting told to stop reading ahead. Admittedly, this was something I could do very well and it got me strong positive feedback. So, why wouldn’t I love it?

I see her point, and look at the website, see that they now have a digital version! One potential positive with the digital – maybe – would be that kids who weren’t enthusiastic readers wouldn’t have to show everyone what color they have. It’s possible. And, the kids who liked to read far ahead, they can do that, too, without being teased. (This never happened to me, but it did to my son. It is just as traumatic as seeing you’re behind.)

Thanks, Audrey, for that trip down memory lane!

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