Learning to Enjoy Learning Again

Okay, there are many other things I could be doing right now, but as none of them are actually due tomorrow and I have been itching to write this post for what feels like months but has really only been a week or two, I’m going to finally write this.

First off, hello again! I know I’ve done some Innovation Diploma posts, but I feel like I haven’t done a proper post just for me to talk (or write, however you want to see it) in forever. I’ve missed this. Curse you, school! *shakes fist*

And that’s actually what I want to talk about today. Well, sort of.

You see, I’ve been doing a lot in my time away from WordPress: going to school, doing homework, getting a Twitter account for school, doing homework, read a couple of books, doing homework, write fiction, doing homework, read fascinating articles about a variety of subject, doing homework. Are you starting to notice a common thread?

Now, I will admit, I might be exaggerating a little bit. But only a little. Or, if I’m actually exaggerating more than I think I am, it’s only because I feel like all I work on is homework anymore. Well, and work in class, but I don’t think of that as quite the same.

I should probably explain myself.

When I’m at school, I know I have to do work and I expect that I’ll receive it (okay, I expect homework when I get home, too, but hear me out). School starts at 7:45 and lasts until 3:00. That’s 7 hours and 15 minutes. Granted, those 7 hours and 15 minutes are not all spent in one classroom doing worksheets and listening to lectures and participating in discussions, but those 7 hours and 15 minutes are still spent in the same space every day doing work that doesn’t change that much from day to day and certainly doesn’t change much from year to year, excepting perhaps the rise of difficulty, quality, and quantity.

I recently read an incredibly interesting article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/10/24/teacher-spends-two-days-as-a-student-and-is-shocked-at-what-she-learned/?tid=sm_fb&utm_content=buffer532e7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer) about a teacher who shadowed students for two days when she switched job positions. In it, she mentions that by the time she was done with school for the day, she was exhausted because she was sitting down all day long (yes, that is what she actually said; I couldn’t believe it either) and was amazed at how alert the students around her were. However, while she did all of the tests and worksheets and took all of the notes that the students did, she did not have to do the homework, and so lounged for the rest of the day when she got home because she was so tired, despite the fact that she had been planning on recording what she had seen that day.

And that to me is the kicker.

The day I read that article, I most definitely had homework. Actually, I’m pretty sure I had a Chemistry test the next day. But I set that aside in favor of reading the article because I wanted to know what it had to say. When I got to the part about her not doing the homework, I was a little mad because I knew all of the students she had spent the day with were doing it. I was also curious, because I always thought the reason I went home and wanted to pull up Netflix, read a pleasure book, write fiction, go through Tumblr, and just in general not do homework was because I’m a teenager. After all, that’s what I’ve been told for as long as I can remember – the reason I didn’t want to do my homework was because my brain was at a point in development where I didn’t want to be responsible and do the work. But this begged a question: was the reason I didn’t want to do work when I got home really “I’m a teenager and that’s the way teenagers work” or was it “the environment I’m in all day is sapping my energy”?

There was another article I read (http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/march/too-much-homework-031014.html) about how the amount of homework given is negatively impacting teenagers’ health. Not only that, but also how teenagers interact with other people because they are spending so much time locked away in their rooms instead of interacting with their family and friends. In fact, the researchers commented that teenagers were “not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills,” along with having to drop activities and not pursuing hobbies they enjoy (activities and hobbies which, I have learned through my school, could lead to connections, which could lead to knowing what they want to do for a job, which could result in a more diverse work force).

And to bust a few thoughts some people reading this could be having: I take academics incredibly seriously (maybe even too seriously) and I am not alone. Most teenagers I talk too feel the same.

And another interesting thing I learned recently:

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Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 5.59.59 PM

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I actually considered writing a summary of that, but I decided reading it directly from the conversation was more impactful.

So I should probably get around to why I wrote this post…

I don’t like homework (well, obviously; no one does). But I don’t like homework because I think it takes away from all of the other things I could be doing with my life and my time. Homework is supposed to supplement the learning we do in the classroom, yes? Well, I think I have figured out a way to do that in a way that will be more enjoyable for everyone.

At my school, as I have talked about some before, there is a goal of giving students time to do something they want to do when they normally wouldn’t because of everything else expected of them. But what if they didn’t do that at school? What if they made that the homework? So we would have more class time, which would make the teachers (and, surprisingly, many of the students) happy. The flip side is that teachers couldn’t give the homework they usually give. Instead, the students have to go home and do something that they enjoy, but that will also make them learn something and hopefully supplement their learning in some way.

The question this begs, of course, is how do you keep the students who would usually slack off accountable?

In Innovation Diploma, as I have talked about, we do Internals. To keep students accountable, I suggest we do something like this. Each Friday, students would give something like an Internal – but without the oral (maybe just written) feedback – in each of their classes during which they talk about what they did, what they learned, and how that connects with what is being taught in class (I bet it will become a lot more creative than you think).

However, I don’t want grades to be given for these Internals. Instead, I want to use something that is usually seen as negative and to be shied away from: Peer Pressure.

That’s right, students will be doing something because they will seem (and I hate all of the words that are coming to mind right now, so I will choose the best one possible, I’m sorry) “inferior” if they don’t. No teenager (or human, I would even argue) wants to be seen as “stupid” (ooh, I really don’t like that word) or be laughed at. So, if peer pressure is going to continue to be a thing (and I bet you it is) we might as well use it the best way possible.

I am willing to make an allowance for the grade, though, if, AND ONLY IF, students repeatedly don’t do an Internal or don’t use the time given to them after school for something productive. I only want them to be a 100 or a 0 (basically a completion grade).

The thing about my idea is it means that

  1. students don’t have to do every subject every night, but they also can’t simply cram it all into the night before (or, well, they could, but they shouldn’t want to and I doubt it would end well)
  2. they don’t have to spend the entirety of their afternoon and evening on homework unless they want to (and if it’s something they really want to do, then they will)

So to sum it all up, here are a few other notes to think about:

  • The vast majority, if not all, of my AP World History class said they would rather have an hour more of school if it would mean less homework
    • this would result in 5+ minutes more of each class each day
    • you could do this in addition to the homework solution I gave if you think the lack of the typical homework will result in students who aren’t learning as much as they need to
  • In keeping with more time in the school year, I know of several others who feel the same way I do about Summer Break: it stretches on too long. Don’t get me wrong, I love the freedom, but we get to the last couple of weeks and all we want is for school to hurry up and start again
  • Most teenagers are going to take time out of their studies to do what they want anyway, so work with this fact, not against it
  • The “something productive” could be anything: watch a movie/TV show; read a book; write a book, blog post, article, short story, poem, anything; watch TED Talks all afternoon (something I wish I could do more often), design their own fashion line, etc.
    • it’s up to you to decide if it meets the criteria (basically just how it connects with what is being taught in class), but I suggest you be on the more lenient side because while this is partially to supplement the learning done in the classroom, it is mostly to give the students time to do what they want to do without taking significant time away from class time in school
  • Homework on the weekend is torture. That is not a metaphor.
    • leave this time open for 48 beautiful hours of freedom. Don’t give the instruction of doing some sort of work, don’t schedule a test or quiz or anything else they would need to prepare/study for on Monday

I hope that if this was done, and done well, students would start to see more of a connection between classes, build skills for the “real world”, enjoy school and learning more, and have that time to pursue activities and hobbies they enjoy.

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4 thoughts on “Learning to Enjoy Learning Again

  1. Pingback: #MustRead Shares (weekly) | it's about learning

  2. Pingback: The Key to Solving the Creativity Crisis | The Creek Bed

  3. Pingback: The Creativity Crisis Demands School Transformation | Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation

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