This is a response post to my friend Anya’s response post (found here) to my previous post. That’s confusing, but if you’re keeping up with the conversation, it will make sense.
I think she miss understood a little of what I was saying, so I’ll try to clarify that. I agree that we need to find a way to get everyone more involved with and excited about their learning, as she and I have often talked about, so when I say that not everything needs to be “fixed” I’m just stating that taking away the old ways that don’t work for everyone isn’t necessarily a great idea because there is a reason those methods were started in the first place, but that doesn’t mean new ideas shouldn’t be put on the table.
I’m still not explaining this very well, but I guess that means I just need to keep typing until I get it right.
I guess it’s a little bit like the Tomato Sauce Theory (TED Talk link here). There is no perfect solution, so you need to have multiple solutions. Think about back in elementary school when they gave different options for a book report: you could do a diorama, you could do a summary, you could do a painting. There were options and then we reached a certain age and those options were taken away.
I once saw a picture of the desks students have as the grow up. It started with preschool and those desks that are practically tables (and in some cases, are tables) where there is lots of room to spread things out everywhere. Then there was a picture of an elementary school desk, slightly smaller, not as much room to spread ideas out onto. The desks continued to get smaller all the way through college when the desks were about the size of binders. What happened to the big desks? What happened to the space to spread everything out go? In essence, where did the room to be creative and make mistakes but simply push them aside to come back to later go? Because you know what, I don’t think it’s the fact that our minds change that we grow less creative. I think it’s the fact that school, teachers, our parents, and the general adults in our life start telling us that there can only be one right answer. There is no room for mistakes or other options. We can’t go back and change something we already made because time only moves in one direction: forward. We have to get it right the first time. For the sake of the short time we have on this earth. For the sake of the grade. For the sake of our reputations. For the sake of doing well in life. For the sake not disappointing someone, anyone. Ourselves. Our parents. Our teachers. And all of the other adults in our life.
And that makes me sad.
That makes me disappointed.
In myself that I haven’t changed it yet. In society for creating this world of necessary perfection or total ruin. In the adults for not remembering that helpless feeling of growing up and not knowing where it’s safe to put your foot.
Those of your that follow my blog know I finished the Harry Potter series a second time earlier this summer. At the end of the 5th book, Dumbledore brings Harry into his office and tells him what happened, what his plan was in the past and what it was in the future, and what was going to happen next. And there was a particular thing that Dumbledore said that stuck out to me during this second reading. I don’t have the book near me, so I can’t quote it exactly, but Dumbledore basically said, there is an excuse for the young to not know what it is like to be old, but there is no excuse for the old to not remember what it is like to be young.
And I think that’s really powerful because sometimes I think adults forget that we, as kids and students, don’t know all of the answers and are going to mess up, which is why the saying is “Hindsight is 20/20” not “Foresight is 20/20.” So, if you’re an adult reading this, think back to when you were in high school. The pressure is on to get good grades so you can get into a good college so you can get a good education so you can get a good job. Teachers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends of your parents, that random co-worker of one of your parents, all telling you what to learn, what to say, how to study, make good grades, add a lot to your college resume, read, become informed, play at least one sport, do a couple of extra curricular activities, ooh that would look good on your application, keep your room clean, stay organized, help around the house, volunteer, we don’t have the money, shouldn’t you be studying instead of going out with your friends?, you have a test tomorrow (yes, Mother, I know), are those really the friends you should have?, how dare she give so much homework!, go to bed!, don’t complain about being tired after you were up until 3 (doing homework because I had practice until 8:30), are you eating enough?, put that book away and do homework!, get a job!, what? You’re done already?, it counts now, you don’t have time to relax!, don’t mess up. Every second of every day for 4 years. School work over the summer, which you always thought would be a time to relax between the stress of the 9+ months of the school year. Late nights. Early mornings. Hard days. Busy days. Tears. Sweat. Blood. Stress. Anger. Sadness. Worry. Repeat.
But I digress. This post was supposed to be about different options for different students.
But I already addressed that, didn’t I?
Don’t you remember what it was like when you were a teenager and you didn’t want to be like the students around you? You were going to change the world, so why should you be doing the same work as someone you didn’t think would? But what if that person did change the world and you didn’t? What if that person became globally famous and you’re only neighborhoodly famous because of your amazing brownies? Is it because you did the same work, day in and day out? Did they do it differently? What if you had choices? What if you chose different ways of learning? What if? Would you both be famous? Would neither of you be famous? Would you have had a better education? Would you have made more of your education?
I don’t know, and I don’t know if you know, but it’s fascinating to think about, isn’t it? How one little thing, or big thing in some cases, like a choice could have completely changed the road you’re on. How having a choice in what you learn could alter the person you are today. How having that chance to be more creative, more innovative, more individual, could have made you something more.
But maybe you are famous and you’re happy with your life. And then, maybe you’re not famous and happy with your life. But doesn’t that student get to have a choice? Shouldn’t they get the chance to read a book that will completely alter the way they look at the world? Shouldn’t they get the chance to share their dreams, thoughts, feelings, world, with you in any way they choose? A poster. A PowerPoint. A paper.
What if summer school work wasn’t about preparing students for the next school year (and I mean, technically the previous school year should have done that and if it didn’t, I think it’s time to go back to the drawing board and figure out a way to make sure it does)? What if when we came back to school, what we learned over the summer was something about ourselves? What if that presentation you’re going to make us do at some point in the first few weeks was about an adventure we had, something about ourself that we discovered, a funny story about dumping our cousin into the lake? What if it wasn’t about what you wanted us to learn and instead about what we wanted to teach you? Those first few weeks are about learning each other, anyway, so why should we have to do that over something many of us aren’t remotely interest in?
Maybe I’m the only one who has noticed, but I think a happier classroom is one in which the students make the choice for themselves than one in which the teacher makes the choice for the whole class.
I could keep going, but I think it’s time to pass the mic back to either Anya or Marisa and let them have their two cents (sorry, Anya, I don’t think I did a very good job of answering what you wrote), but just remember,