What Matters Most in Education?

Relationships matter most in education.    And in life.

 

I’ve been back from unplug’d 2012 for just about a week.  I’ve had some time to reflect on the experience, new relationships, old relationships, work & life.   And, it always comes back to relationships matter most.

 

What I hope will stay with me after unplug’d 2012 is the willingness to be vulnerable.  Vulnerability is something I really struggle with, as do many other people.  Just read some of Brene Brown’s research on vulnerability.   Even at unplug’d I struggled to open up.  I was afraid I wouldn’t measure up to my colleagues there, so many fantastic educators who have accomplished so much in their schools.  My fears of being judged seem to be always lurking below the surface, waiting to be proven right.  But I did it, I opened up.  I shared a piece of myself and of my past with my writing group.  Soon it will be shared with the world.  And it was good.    The theme of our group:

 

You are not alone.

Photo by Ben Hazzard

None of us are.  We are all connected to one another in so many ways.   If we only take the time to listen.  If we open our hearts to what others are saying and feeling.   The photo above is of our writing group.  I am so fortunate to have met and bonded with these people.  From left to right:  Alan, Karen, Me, Rod & Kelly.

 

So my focus this year will be developing strong, trusting relationships with my students and colleagues.  Nourishing my relationship with family and friends.  Unplugging more often so that I can really connect.

 

Yes pedagogy and technology are important.  But relationships are what really matter.

 

Photo by A. Forgrave

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: