A Present Worthy of our Children

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) Photo by David Truss

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Photo by David Truss

Most of us go through our day as educators and see things we’d like to tweak here and there: maybe a different strategy, a better schedule, a different technology. For me, I’d like to see a transformation of the way we do things. I see us as still looking so much like centuries ago –still preparing our students to be compliant, factory-line citizens rather than problem-solving creators that the world of today and tomorrow require.

1.  Space: sure, many of our classrooms have changed from using desks to using tables. I wonder why we even do this. How many adults work at tables, crammed into a small space with other adults. Is this a place that we would be comfortable working? I work best on my couch with my legs propped onto my ottoman, for example. Not everyone is like me, but if we are to meet all learning styles and prepare students for life, should we have more alternative seating than just tables and chairs.

Additionally, our classrooms are still, well, classrooms. They are rather restrictive with space. The hallways waste so much usable space that could be used.

2.  Speaking of hallways, most public schools insist that students walk in silent, straight lines. I wonder what we are accomplishing with this. If we taught them to walk on the right side of the hallway, and speak softly, they wouldn’t be disrupting classes. I can’t help but think we would accomplish a better goal.

3.  Curriculum: when will we revisit what students need to learn. When Google can tell us every fact out there, we need to teach thinking, problem solving, creation. Everything we know about school truly must be revisited. We are losing our students and time by teaching concepts that they don’t need to know and won’t ever use. I believe that we could be making so much better use of time in school.

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The Lives that our Students Live

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Real life is often the opposite of school, but does it have to be? What if school learning mirrored the skills that students need for life rather than being something so vastly different?

That would take some real change in our current school structure. New tables and new technologies do not make a twenty-first century school (ugh, how I dislike that term). Making the shift from our teachers covering material to students uncovering material is certainly a daunting one at times. It seems like we have been talking about integrating the subjects and students learning through the process of PBL for so long and yet, it is taking us in the world of education a long time to roll out these concepts.

I look forward to continuing the forward momentum in education of making our schools look more like life –the life where they live, so that learning is authentic and students enjoy the process of creating, thinking, and problem solving.

To Homework or Not to Homework?

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As I began my elementary teaching career, I was unsure about how I felt about assigning homework…. but in the interest of upholding school policies, I gave it four days a week to my itty bitty second graders –and I held them accountable if they didn’t complete it. I began to believe that homework was an important part of every child’s education. I gave it four days a week as a second, fourth, and fifth grade teacher; by the time I started teaching eight grade, I had changed my tune, though. Now based on my experiences and all the research that I have read, I have completely altered my thoughts on homework –especially in the elementary years. Now don’t get me wrong; when I taught little ones, I didn’t give much homework. They read, did some math practice, or spelling work depending on the night. It was all in the name of responsibility I told myself. By the time I taught older students, middle school, I wanted the projects to be completed in school for many reasons: 1) I wanted to assess what my students knew rather than than what their parents knew, and the best way was for projects and writing to be done in school; 2) middle school students have very busy lives between sports and other extra-curricular activities; I needed to plan around their other seven classes so that they didn’t have a ridiculous amount to do on a given night.

I don’t have children of my own but sometimes watch the evening routines of my friends and laugh (or cry) to myself. I see how exhausted children are by the time they get around to completing work; and how frustrating it is for parents; I begin to understand why they give in so often to hinting at answers or even going so far as to do homework with their children –gasp! What is the purpose of homework? As elementary educators, this is something that we have to carefully scrutinize. Responsibility? Practice? Higher-level thinking? To prepare for the next day’s assignment? Family projects? Could we give our students time during the evening to read with their families?

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