Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Unwilling to learn?

Guest post by Lisa Cooley - Cross posted at The Minds of Kids

In most of today’s public schools adults feel so strongly that the standard subjects that have been taught for a hundred years are so crucial that no matter how different the world is today and how achingly indifferent kids are, they must learn it. Covering content is more important than learning. This idea is supported by the testing culture -- or perhaps the testing culture is actually doing the driving. So we design clever ways and means of getting the information in. Differentiated instruction, finding learning styles, teaching with multiple intelligences, rearranging tables and chairs in the classroom, unpacking standards, letting kids choose how they will learn a prescribed subject so that it can be “assessed”.... sound familiar?

All these methods are supposed to serve as shoehorns; ways to ease the information into kids, past that rock-hard wall of not giving a damn, into their brains in some form that they can access it (at least long enough to take a high stakes test).

But in the meantime kids are catching on as Marc Prensky shared in his article Engage Me or Enrage Me. Prensky points out that many of the kids we are trying to drug for non-compliance, don’t have A.D.D., they’re just not listening because they know what we’re trying to impose upon them is irrelevant for their success.  We now have a generation of students who are mad as hell and they’re fighting back. They are doing so by talking, throwing things, not listening, talking, leaning back in their chairs till they fall over, chewing gum, texting, skipping classes, taking bathroom breaks, and talking, talking, talking.

We adults are stumped! We must create rules for discipline and behavior, ban and block the tools for learning that they love, restrict their freedom of expression, and any other way we can think of for capturing them, holding them still and making them learn what they really really don’t care about. (What does this remind you of?)

And we are still so sure that if we allow kids to take the lead in their own learning, they will stray off to worlds unknown, frightening, dangerous. We MUST control what they learn.  There is in this system a willful ignorance of the facts: that true learning can only take place when the motivation comes from within. And there is a fear of taking a leap of faith: that if kids learn what they love, they will also learn what they need.

Let’s put down the burden. Just set it down and walk away. Make schools places where the first job of adults is to discover who these kids are, and provide support, time and resources to help them become the people they want to be.

Their futures are more important than our outdated ideas.  Let’s stop making learning hard. Let’s stop making schools into battlegrounds where the will of teachers is pitted against the will of students. Can’t we all just get along?

Let’s put teachers and students into productive partnerships, where trust and respect is at the core of the relationship; where teachers use their expertise and experience to guide and facilitate the learning that is most meaningful to students. Imagine the joy in our own hearts as we watch our kids work hard at stuff they love! Imagine how free we will all feel!
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