It was brought to my attention in World Studies class today that changes should be made. Students agreed, but there was a strong sense of doubt that any changes would be implemented. Who would be the one to start this revolution? How does one go about changing education? How do you change anything at all?
After an intense Google search session, I stumbled upon an article entitled A New Way of Teaching by Professor Peter Taylor. He encourages independent learning, peer collaboration and development of learning communities, and a simpler system with a greater sense of integrity.
I genuinely believe in the benefits of independent learning. As I’ve mentioned publicly before, I have learned more from researching for this blog than I have learned in some classes all week. If I set my mind to it, I could search and dive into topics that no teacher has ever taught me, WITHOUT waking up at six in the morning and lugging my book bag onto a crowded bus to school.
Peer collaboration, however, is quite a touchy subject to me. Is working in a group with a partner that works slower or faster than you do really beneficial to either party? Community, though, might be the greatest tool a student can use. It will be, anyway, once we can differentiate between the two concepts.
As for a simpler system, maybe it will be good to eliminate those unnecessary topics and arbitrary grading systems. But who is to say what unnecessary even means? Which topics are or aren’t necessary?
It is possible that very little of your high school education will matter when you grow up. I probably don’t need to be able to graph a parabola to be a psychologist when I’m older, or a Social Studies teacher, or a novelist, and I don’t think I’ll need it to leave a legacy. But someone might. Someone might grow up to be a professional parabolist or major in the field parabology, and who am I to stop them? So I sit in that classroom, graphing my parabolas, because someone might need that someday.
I can’t tell you how to teach, but I can tell you what I think from a student’s perspective.
Engage your students with lessons that provide for every type of learner. Hands-on projects, guided note-taking, in-depth discussion, Socratic seminars, visuals, videos, songs, any medium you can think of that gets your point across. Experiment.
Connect your lessons to something students know about already. Compare and contrast. Make your lessons mean something.
Encourage “Divergent Thinking.” Open your mind to new ideas. Accept that students aren’t always wrong. You might be looking at the next Albert Einstein.
Learn from your students. You might find that they have plenty to teach you.
Build a community in your classroom. Encourage collaboration, without stuffing children into groups that only restrict your student’s growth.
Don’t categorize your students. Don’t decide that one student is “bad at learning” and another is good. Everyone is a good learner. You just might need to push them a little farther.
Push your students to grow on their own, as well as with your help. They’ll thank you someday.
Accept that your students aren’t stupid. They are inexperienced. So give them experience. Help them grow.
Teach your children well.