Creating real, relevant, and relatable lessons might mean giving up some teacher control to dialogue with students about what they want and need to be successful. However, if you empower students to share their passions, perceptions, and progress in a deeply meaningful and personal way, your lessons become more creative and imaginative, and give students an opportunity to lead their learning. (Edutopia.com)
Reading an article on Edutopia about keeping learning real, relevant and relatable, all the while thinking how much time do these people think teachers have? In my US History classroom, if Lincoln is not dead by winter break we are going to have a serious time issue. When students are able to explore their personal interests as it relates to a topic they will retain more. They will learn. However, there is an assessment at the end of the year and it covers ALL of history. Teachers do not have time for a week-long exploration of a single topic. This is the area where I desire improvement. The learning environment needs to be more student oriented, but how do I get them to explore and learn the topics I need them to in the time that we have? It is a dilemma no matter what class you teach. American education is so caught up in the standardized testing requirements that real learning is being pushed by the wayside.
This is a problem in the k-12 classroom, and in the world beyond required learning. Students are entering the workforce without the required skills to think, problem solve, and contribute to the professional environment. So many choose to blame teachers. Yes, it is the teacher’s responsibility to prepare students for the 21st Century working world. However, stop and think. Do teachers really want to teach to a test? Is that really why teachers chose their profession? No. Absolutely not. That test at the end of the year is a force to be dealt with. One cannot teach whatever. There are standards to be met, content to be covered. The pressure for students to reach benchmarks and expected growth is tremendous. There are those who push for teacher effectiveness to be measured by these growth measures. The expectations are unrealistic and the statistical maneuvering is tremendous. Value added components are not enough to guarantee a fair representation of student learning and growth. Learning has become all about the numbers.
It does not work. Learning needs to be about students. Students are tracked by their age. Why? Why are they not tracked by ability? Why should a student who is capable of junior year work be restricted to 8th grade curriculum? Why is a student in 8th grade with modifications for 2nd grade work? A teacher in a classroom of 33 students with 11 IEPs, 11 accelerated learners, and 11 general ed students is pulled in so many directions that none of the 33 students can be truly educated on the level that they need. If you think it doesn’t happen, you are wrong. It happens everyday in classrooms across America. There are students in 7th, 8th, 10th grade who have the ability of 2nd or 3rd graders. There are students in the same grades who are capable of work on a collegiate level. All in the same class. How is ANYONE supposed to be successful?
Even when you take ability level out of the scenario, you have discipline issues to contend with. That is a whole different problem that needs its own post.
If America wants to improve industry learning, we must first improve the opportunities of young learners. Just think what would happen to American science, technology, and industry if learners were not restricted to their age group, but allowed to move forward with their ability. How much could we accomplish as a nation? What would that do for business? What would that do for medicine and the scientific community?
Just something to think about.
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