How I changed education in my classroom
I did not change education on my own, however it took a mind that was not worried that “this isn’t what school is supposed to look like”. I was an unusual school teacher, I would be an unusual corporate employee too. I am a normal if not a little uptight artist. A real artist that makes and sells art. An Artist that sees what is new and novel in the world and riffs on it. I look at what is out there and I had my students make and do this kind of thing too. That doesn't seem so innovative. In the educational world that is earth shattering. Even in a progressive PBL school it was on the edge.
Most teachers teach what they think they have to. Most teachers now days do not really know their subject area, they are not Masters and how their subjects relates to the real world. Some teach from the book, others come up with projects that the students never complete. These teachers, do not plan, they do not do the project themselves first. I know there are a million rationalizations why the teacher shouldn’t have to do the assignments that they ask their students to do but that is bull shit. If you are offended by this, stop reading, go back to your classroom and continue to do half ass work with your students. If your admin you do not want to hear your teachers are not doing what they are supposed to do, stop reading. The worse part of this is that you did not pick up on the fact that there is no real learning going on, just talking. I have seen the classroom “Chat” happen all over the world. To learn you must do and use the skills, medium or techniques. Just talking is not learning, talk is cheap.
The thing is if you are going to teach out of the book, do it. If you are going to teach PBL, you need to plan, that is doing something you know, love, were trained to do and are charged to teach your students. Then have your students do, and show their work.
Everyone has to learn on their own path, I am not suggesting that everyone learns the same way. I am say DO WHAT YOU LOVE! Show the students what you did, have them do it, and they will do or make something cool. In doing they will: think, plan, research, make, critique, revise, improve and show other people what they have learned by transforming their knowledge into action.
You can buy a binder and fill out worksheets. Or you can use what you know to teach your students, like Socrates, Aristotle, Michelangelo, Newton, Rembrandt, Edison and every other master has done. Yeah those guys are all dead white men, but it doesn't have to be. Just all that beautiful honest educational relationships that they had with their proteges died when the factory model of education came to the world. We all know this about the factory school model but too many of us can’t walk away from it. Why? Scared, cautious, worried, uncreative, lazy, teachers and administrators that don’t spend real time in classrooms or that don’t want to deal with teachers all being different. If you think that every teacher needs to be the same and all the students learn differently, you have a problem. If admin doesn’t understand this they should go back to traditional schools or corporate world or maybe quit. Everyone needs to follow their passions and take a chance. It will not look the same, everyone will be different and that is what we want. Americans in the twenty first century are the content creators not the factory worker. This book will show you how I got there, with my students, for 17 years.
What are you an expert in? Do that with your students. Oh, you are not an expert, become one. You are basically asking your students to become an expert, you need to as well. You don’t need to be perfect. Just try, get some critique and show your exemplare to your students. It is was more powerful to them than a rubric. Rubrics set the ceiling, exemplars set the floor. I said that.
If you are not willing to show you are not perfect how can the students feel comfortable taking chances. I can’t spell, my grammar is shit but I am writing a book, sticking my neck out, trying to help you and your students. Not fluffing my ego, to look “Perfect”. This is a sticking point with a lot of teachers and admin. Students, Parents and the community want perfect teachers that do not make mistakes, and that is impossible. Own your mistakes and learn from them. Richard Farson Phd, psychologist and meta designer always encouraged people to look at their failures not their accomplishments. He said you will learn more from you mistakes than what you got right. Embrace the same habits of mind that you want your students to have in your own work.
Here are my Habits of mind in the classroom, these are what worked for my, find your own!
- Look for cool ideas.
- Make something.
- Show someone, have them critique your work.
- Follow their advice. If it’s better, great. If not command Z.
- Define the steps.
- Show all of this work to the students. (They will see how much time, effort and love I put into their assignment and they will make it their project)
- Exhibit their work.
This seems simple and it is and it isn’t. You do and show, then the students do and show, there you have it. There is a lot that comes up everyday. That’s fine as long as you work with the students, be present, talk to them, find out what they need to be successful and they will be. When a teacher starts to disengage, leaves the classroom, gives pollyanna side assignments like daily journals, vocab words, quick writes this tells the students that the project is not important. It also shows that the teacher doesn’t believe in the project. I think it could also mean that the teacher misses that attention from the class. My suggestion is skip the low hanging fruit, focus on their students and their work, help them make and exhibit a great, complete project, not a polished turd. (John Santos)