We Need to Stop Pretending…#makeschooldifferent

Let’s stop pretending:

That children don’t know what they want and that they can’t be trusted.  Children are born to learn and do know what they want to learn about.  Why can’t we let them follow their passions?  Is it because we don’t trust them?  Do we think they will play video games or do something else we judge as not worthy.  I wonder if traditional school models create conditions that encourage poor behaviour because we are trying to control the behaviour of other human beings through “classroom management”.  Is it possible to be more democratic; can management of behaviour in schools be collaborative?    Democratic schools exist all over the world and they work.  Maybe we can learn from them.  For those who argue that democratic schools only work for the privileged read this.

 

That we need to group children by age into distinct classrooms with one adult.  Why?  Because it’s convenient and easier.  Why can’t we have a space where children can roam from place to place.  From the garden outside to the science lab to the maker space to the computer lab.  Why can’t we have cosy nooks for reading and day-dreaming.  There is so much possibility if we would only trust.

 

That we don’t need to have more interventions by true specialists for reading.  Are guided reading and short-term withdrawal really enough for students with learning disabilities?  Would it be possible to give them on-going, consistent, individualised interventions on a daily basis for years?  That can’t be done in a classroom or when a school with hundreds of children and only a few SERTS but can we change the ratio somehow?  See how Kenneth Gordon Maplewood school in North Vancouver works.  Why shouldn’t public school children have access to such effective interventions?

We need to stop pretending that we know what is important for students to learn.  Is content really that important?  Are problem-solving, critical-thinking, communicating and interacting positively with others are more important content knowledge?

That schools don’t play a role in creating bullying situations. Is there something about our wider culture and school cultures that set a stage for bullying situations and behaviour?  Is there something we can do about that within a school?  What is it?  Perhaps more study on these issues is warranted withing the school setting?

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Most of all, we need to stop pretending that we can’t do all of this in public education.  Public education is important.  If we change the system will people stop opting out?  In order to do that we need to communicate how things can be different with others.  All citizens need to work together to make it work because it will be messy.  Change is messy.  Learning is messy.  Life is messy.  But life also has the potential to be wondrous.

 

I want my girls to continue to love learning every day their childhood years (and lives).  Let’s work together to change things so that our children continue to love learning.

 

I’d like to challenge @peterskillen  @brendasherry @tk1ng @mrswideen @acampell99 to share the five things they think we should stop pretending.

Killing Us Softly – Standardized Tests are the Death of Authentic Learning

I think the tests are killing us.

Instead of EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) they should be called SCALL (Scrap Creativity and Love of Learning) or LMAOC (Let’s Make Automatons Out of  our Children).

Really.

I won’t even get into the cost of writing the tests, printing them, mailing them, hiring hundreds of teachers to mark them, putting said teachers up in hotels and feeding them…

What’s more important is how the test is used to rate schools, teachers, principals and boards.  And how that rating translates into teaching to the test.  How teaching to the test removes authenticity from learning.

Instead of learning from Finland and their system based on equity, we seem to look to the US – a system based on competition.  Equity seems to be working out better for everyone – so let’s learn from them.

Finland consistently score high on the OECD Pisa test – The US – not so much.   Canada has had a good showing but that may be a thing of the past as we continue to become more and more standardized test centric – at least it seems we are in Ontario.

There is no word for accountability in Finnish.  Interesting.

What really bothers me is what I see.  All teachers have to teach the same reading strategies at the same time.   The joy of reading is lost when analyzing strategies takes over.  See this report by People for Education, ironically it uses EQAO data to show that children’s enjoyment of reading has steadily decreased since the test was implemented.

Writing is so structured there is almost no room for creativity at all.  Every task has to be assessed over and over.  The fun is beaten out of writing.

Old EQAO tests are printed off and used as teaching materials.  It becomes the program.

It’s boring.  It’s not learning how to learn, it’s learning how to beat the test and make your school look good.  Most teachers hate it.  Not because they are afraid to be judged but because it hurts their students.  I’m doing my best to keep it interesting.

I recently heard about the Silkwood School in Australia (I heard about it from Andy at the Green School – awesome place).  Here is a quote from their philosophy of education:

Silkwood’s educational program is uniquely student-centred and developmental.  ‘Student-centred’ means we judge successful teaching by the students’ engagement; ‘developmental’ means the child’s journey from the magic of early childhood to the argumentative world of adolescence is supported by carefully prepared learning experiences tailored to respond to specific age groups.  Silkwood’s pedagogy combines spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical dimensions of learning, offering a truly integrative approach.

That’s what I’m talking about!  Wow.

This is what has to change.  Formal academic education needs to be richer and more dynamic to engage human intelligence.

Please tell me what is happening in your school.  Does the program revolve around the test?

 

 

I won’t let it get me down though.  As they say on Galaxy Quest: