As I was listening to the radio the other day, I heard a call exclaim how glad they were to be entering their final year of school. Excited to be done, the DJ’s response caught my attention: “Then what? Your excited to be finished with the best years of your life and to go to a job everyday!” As a teacher I feel the excitement of school being out for summer and hear about student’s desires to be “done” with school. We have all heard the Alice Cooper’s anthem School’s Out for Summer.
Is school being out forever something to celebrate? Sure it is great to celebrate the accomplishment of graduation and moving on to new challenges but the end of learning? Most people want school over to get “into the real world”. Isn’t school part of the real world? Now that I am in my mid-forties reflections of school bring back the fondest memories. When will you only work 40 weeks out of the year again? Heck I wish I could JUST be a students again.
Students fail to see how school connects to life. They see it as a right of passage that they all have to get through. School has many similarities to jobs. Show up on time, complete task by deadlines and be respectful to your co-workers and boss. Luckily for students school is different than most jobs in that it is ever changing. Each year different boss and co-workers. During the day different subjects are tackled. Only professional careers look similar, most jobs are more mundane. The school year looks very different than most job years. Schools have more breaks and planned time off. Most jobs only have 2 weeks of vacation the first year and make new comers work holidays and weekends. So why are students in such a hurry to get done?
Society has created schools to be a task that has to be completed. Forgetting that being educated is a life long task. Grade levels have been arbitrarily created to match up with ages not knowledge level. Students see school completion as being an adult not being educated with core knowledge. When a person starts any job they start with a training program and mentors that mimic school. Our society needs to shift how we look at school, we need to focus on life long knowledge growth rather than school being out forever! Are we ever finished with learning? When my students ask this question my answer is “You are finished learning when you are finished living!”
As I took a walk this afternoon with my kids, I couldn’t help but notice how much garbage could be found along the roadside. As I stopped to pick up the first item, my wife who walks daily said “I usually pick up stuff on the way home.” By the time we reached our school a quarter mile up the road I had a handful of trash and had left plenty of pieces behind. Do we give a hoot anymore?
Being a child of the late 1970’s I remember Woodsy being on every Saturday during cartoons. It seems people today spend more time driving around looking for a good parking space than picking up trash. Over my 17 years as a classroom teacher it has astonished me how much trash can end up on the hallway floor by the end of the day. I ask students to pick it up frequently. The most common retort is “I didn’t drop it!” Well no but somebody did and it needs to be picked up! Our world is covered in trash, If you take a moment you can find it everywhere. Cigarette butts by doorways, plastic bags stuck in trees, bits of paper stuck in the grass.
A friend of mine recently posted this during his recent trip to Bolsa Chica State Beach in California. This is a challenge everyone in the world should take! We should take 10 minutes and pick up trash once a week/month. Think of what a difference this could make on our world! Just think about walking into your school or place of business, what if we stopped staring at cell phones and pick up trash on our way? Eventually we wouldn’t find trash on our short walks. Our youth haven’t heard Woodsy’s message from the 1970’s but they can see it modeled from us everyday!
Since seeing Anthony’s post, I have pick up trash everyday. Usually when walking through a parking lot. This is what I found yesterday in the Dollar General parking lot:
Sure some people stare at me as I pick up trash or pull plastic bags from the trees. Hopefully it inspires others to do the same. Here is the challenge that I hope goes viral:
Pick up trash, Take a picture of what you pick up and post to social media with the hashtag #trash and your commentary about it. Include as many others as you can in this. It could become contagious! Schools could take one period a month to clean their campuses and post pictures to inspire others.
Then maybe every waterway will have a trash wheel like this:
This morning I was doing my daily Facebook feed scan, A friend of mine had posted a link to the calendar for the up coming school year. I clicked the link wanting to see how my children’s district matched up to the district where I teach. I figured the link would take to a calendar filled with dates of breaks. Instead I was greeted with the following paragraph:
I was shocked! “Feel free to mark your calendar as one of the most dreaded days of the year for teachers and students” Really!! Way to show the community how teachers are committed! and telling students they should dread the start of school? This is not the way a newspaper should report the school district’s calendar adding typical stereotypes to the simple reporting of a calendar! Patch you should know better! After quickly checking the site I noticed the same introductory paragraph was used to share all of the districts calendars for the Patch reading area. What does this say to the readership?
By proliferating the stereotypes of teachers and students it hurts education! Readers will assume that teachers dread day 1 because they are lazy. When in fact most teachers spend weeks if not their entire summer working to make the first day of school (and all 180 after) special! Teachers are excited for the new beginning that the school year brings. Parents will pass the dread to their students after reading the Patch calendar. “Johnny I know you don’t want to hear it but school is coming!” Might be a common conversation at a dinner table. I challenge the Patch staff writer to attend a final day of school in Macomb county. At my middle school students were crying, not wanting to walk out of the building because they were sad the school year was over. Many not knowing what their summer will bring. First days of school are exciting, full of promise and energy not dread.
“And feel free not to feel guilty about marking it as one of your favorites.” What? The start of the school year is a day full of guilt for parents. Whether they are dropping of a kindergartner for their first day of school or seeing a senior off for their last year. YES, Parents should feel guilt. They are handing off their precious child for their education. Many parents ask themselves; ‘Is my child ready? Did they slide during summer or did we do enough?” Should a newspaper be expressing this much opinion when reporting a school calendar?
NO! These types of stereotypes are expected in films and on TV. There is no place in journalism for using them. Schools need to be free of stereotypes, teaching the diverse population that attends them. A simple calendar report like this makes our job infinitely more difficult. For parents it makes schools like a day care system. For students it makes school dreaded. For teachers it devalues our hard work and jobs.
Dear Media: Do your job, report the facts with out stereotypical commentary, it will help us all in the end!
“But the teacher said most of the kids who fail the test don’t know the formulas!” Griffin exclaimed as he focused on writing a series of 4 geometry formulas down. I wanted to focus on how to solve the problems, but Griffin was concerned with memorizing the formulas. Is this where Griffin’s valuable learning time should be spent? Do engineers have all their formulas memorized? or can they Google it?
When I first started teaching I though it was important for students to learn (memorize) everything. Now I think differently. As an adult I don’t always have formulas on recall mode in my mind. I like to look them up to refresh my memory. For my students I list all the formulas we have been working on at the top of tests, along with a word bank for reference. I feel if it can be Googled, I shouldn’t assess it. I want my students understanding how to apply their knowledge, not regurgitate facts. In today’s world everyone is walking around with Google in their pocket.
Schools need to rethink how we assess in the secondary level. Students can do so much more than just site facts. Asking what the chemical symbol for gold (AU) is not going to measure anyone’s intelligence or tell if they are meeting a science standard. A better question would be: What family of elements is gold (AU) most likely to bond with? With a periodic table a student could show their understanding of elements. Assessments must move away from recall level questions up bloom’s taxonomy towards creation.
Sadly most standardized test are stuck in recall mode. Our society is stuck in a pre-google notion that recall equals intelligence. Recall is just a muscle that if given enough exercise it can be impressive. Many of our students can recite sports teams rosters, quote movies or sing the words to popular songs, does this make them intelligent? No it makes them have information they value. Our students need to learn how to apply ANY knowledge. If I were creating a standardized test, I would want everyone to start on a level playing field. Giving test takers all information needed to solve the problem. Then give space and time for a solution to be found. Instead most test measure recall skills from what might have already been taught.
If a assessment question can be Googled to find an answer, it is not a good question!
“Why do I need to know this Mr. Bloch?” a student cries out from the side of the room. I answer the question carefully to the middle school science class. “We need to know how sunlight is converted into food that we use for energy.” “Why?” he exclaims again, “I know food gives me energy and can Google photosynthesis so why?” Conversations like this happen regularly in today’s classrooms. Teachers present knowledge and parts of their class don’t care to learn. Roughly 1/3 of my students display apathy to learning new things. When was the last time you needed to know the in’s and out’s of photosynthesis?
Growing up I didn’t question what I was learning, I just knew it was required to move forward so I learned. So did most of my classmates. When I was trained as a teacher, I learned what to teach, how to teach the material in engaging ways, how to manage disruptive behaviors, how to adapt lessons to students with learning disabilities and how to assess learning. I never learned how to make students thirsty for learning. Is that a teachers job? Yes, but without the help of a society that places value on education it can be very difficult. Society judges schools on their test scores, these scores require the students to want to learn what is needed. (What these tests actually measure needs to be addressed in another blog post. )
Teachers need to focus their instruction on the art of motivation! We need to engage students in their desire to learn new ideas. Reading “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess opened my eyes to this just over 4 years ago. Now their are a slew of incredible teacher written books that address the idea of creating thirst in our students. Our students see the power in knowledge but they can Google all facts. Students need to see that applying knowledge to new situations is what separates individuals and grants power. When looking at the top 10 skills needed for workforce in 2020: communication and collaboration are the most critical skills are students need for their future. For the past 4 summers I have spent countless hours rethinking HOW I teach to make my students PARCHED.
“What are playing on your phone?” a familiar voice rang in my ear as I sat in the back of a Boy Scout Meeting. I looked up to see Gabe, a 15 year old, who was bored with the scouting activity. “I am reading an article, see?” As I turned my phone towards him so he could see my screen, his face soured, “That’s no fun, why bother reading unless it is for school?” I probed further to understand, “You don’t read for pleasure?” “For pleasure? Video Games, Movies, Youtube that is pleasure, reading is torture!” He scoffed. I have heard his sentiments echoed in my classroom many times. Is this the opinion of most of our youth?
I remember books being my escape as a child. They allowed me to travel the world and see amazing things. Books were so much more than words on a page, they were movies that played in my mind. Vivid with colors, details and emotions. Nothing was better than sitting outside under a tree or crawling under the covers with a great book. I recall the first time I saw a film that was based on a book I read: “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls. I was in fourth grade. I remember being excited since I knew the story. Then being a bit disappointed because the Hollywood version of the book didn’t match up with the film that played in my mind when I read the story. Too this day I struggle with watching films based upon books because the book is ALWAYS better. Good books draw you in, Great books hold you there so that you never want to put them down. Why doesn’t Gabe see this?
It seems that books have been replaced with other forms of media. It takes less time and effort to watch the film. Does the next generation understand they are allowing others to tell the stories from their perspective or interpretation. Should we show students all the versions of Romeo and Juliet or Robin Hood (or heck Spiderman) and then have them read the original book (Play or comic) to figure out which film connects to their vision? I see the death of reading in my own children. My boys don’t dive into books like their sister. While Grace curls up on her bed reading daily, the boys resist this urge. They are more visually stimulated by film/TV.
Is it access and quantity of film versions that drives the move away from books? Or is it the speed of delivery? Or is it schools that have required reading lists? What ever it is, adults need to model WHY we read. It isn’t just for school and to gain information. Most of us started reading for FUN! The best movies around are made by us as we read a well written book.
“Why didn’t you let me know you were at my house last night?” Griffin’s friend asked as we walked into the scout meeting. Griffin had stopped by the night before to get signed off on requirements for his first aid merit badge by his dad. “Where were you?” Griffin inquired. “Downstairs, asleep! My summer awake hours are 8 pm to 6 am.” As a parent listening to this conversation I was stunned that parents allowed their children to live this way. I asked a few questions. He explained that during the summer he plays Call of Duty with friend online at night. If he is up during “normal” hours he gets bored. Lucky for me Griffin thinks staying up all night to video game online is crazy.
As I reflected on this conversation, I got to wondering what my students are doing this summer. Before school got out, I surveyed my classes about what they were looking forward to during summer. Many responded with “TV, Video games or Movies.” Aren’t these things that students can do year round? Some did share about camping, sporting or trips to see family. A few responded with “Nothing”. I guess I am lucky, I can spend most of summer at home with my kids. They read, write, and explore many things. This week they spent 3 days at Stony Creek Metropark attending a nature camp.
Our students need sumer activities to stimulate their minds, challenge their thinking and keep them busy. Yes, children need to have voice and choice in what they do. They need free time to explore on their own, but they also need structured time. Time to explore new things. Time to be challenged. If children only choose what they want to do, how broad will their experiences be? Some children love trying new things but others resist. Children need to be pushed into trying a variety of activities out. Often they find something new they enjoy! My son Gavin didn’t want to goto nature camp, he told me he would rather spend quality time with “Netflix” but he learned he likes making! After building a catapult he said: “Dad can I make a Robot?”
Society needs to make sure their are plenty of opportunities for students in the summer. Students should not be allow to just sit at home with screens as sitters. Many communities have camps at their churches or schools that offer this opportunity. Hopefully my students are taking full advantage of their summer! I will be tagging all my children’s summer learning with #summerlearningfun on Twitter and Instagram. Join me in shedding light on how our youth should use their open summer time to learn independently.