Reitz High School

Reitz High School
Evansville, IN

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

If We Are All Alike, Then Some Are Unnecessary

The last week in January I presented at and attended the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Florida.  It is always a great conference that is full of educators from all over the world that help to re-energize me in the work I do.  They demonstrate new and exciting tools that they have found, which can be used to increase student engagement and creativity in the classroom.    By the end of each day, I feel like my sponge is full and I just need to digest for a while.  I get totally stoked and cannot wait to share these new ideas with my teachers when I get back home.  Don't worry, I will be sharing many things I learned at the conference in future blog posts.

Well, I said all of that, to set up the rest of this post.  That is the part where I come home and reality begins to set back in.  Does that sound familiar?  I come back, and as you read in the last post, we are still experiencing network problems.  Teachers are frustrated about that, and because of the issues, aren't very receptive to learning new ways to use technology with an unreliable network.  They are feeling "under the gun" for their students to grasp the list of standards or essential skills, so that they will do well on the standardized tests that teacher evaluations are tied to.  The wind in my sails begins to weaken from the excitement I felt just a few days earlier.  It really got me to thinking.  If it takes the wind out of my sails, then what does it do for our students?

In fact, what does this say about the whole U.S. education system?  Why doesn't the majority of students, including my very own daughters like going to school?  Why isn't the youth of America waking up every morning just chomping at the bit to go better themselves and get what is called "an Education?"  Well, would you enjoy getting up every morning to go to a job that you hate?  I apologize for the quality of the pictures below, but I want to show you a few that the 80's generation will recognize.  I graduated from high school in 1989 and I feel this is how my generation viewed the education system at that time.  Check these out from a popular music video.

The Teacher
The Principal

Kids Hooked Up To Machines
The Conform Control (Everyone Should Be the Same)
The Students are in Unison with Dance Moves
Programming in the Essential Skills


Have things changed much since the 80's or are we still trying to produce members of society like the ones depicted in the video?  Are we teaching them that only these essential skills are important?  Are the skills on our standardized tests really essential?  Are educators listening to what the students are interested in learning about?  Are we trying to figure out what motivates our students?  Is it actually possible to learn and have fun or at least make it enjoyable?  In some places I have been, I wonder. 

I recently read a post from a colleague of mine, Tim Wilhelmus called "Why Not Us?"   I highly recommend you read his post.  He discusses that each student is different and has their own way of being in the world.  In return, each student needs something different from us.  This makes a lot of sense to me.  I have two daughters, but the way I help them through problems, issues, and even the way I discipline them are completely different.  What works for one, would be catastrophic if tried with the other.

I have a nightly routine with my daughters where I pray with them and "bless their head," as we call it.  In this process I tell them that I am proud of them, when they grow up they can become any thing they want, and of all the daughters in the whole wide world, I am glad that they are mine.  As educators we should encourage our students to dream and believe that when they grow up, they really can be any thing they want.  Why not, right?  As Tim sates in his article, I want my kids to believe they can make a difference.  I want them to believe they can change the world.  I want them to know that they are unique and there isn't anyone else that is exactly like them.  If two people are exactly alike, then one is unnecessary. 

The mission of an educator should be one that inspires and encourages our students.  We should dare them to dream and get excited about their future.  School should be a place that students want to and love to go.  A snow day should be a drag and not a relief.  We need to put the Joy back into teaching, for the teachers sake and make learning fun for all students.  The time has come to change society's view of education and in the words of Yoda, "Unlearn what we have learned" about what education looks like and feels like.  We need more creativity and entrepreneurs in our world.  We need a little more of the little girl in the picture below.  This is the daughter of a former student of mine.  She wants to be a cowgirl superhero!  Lets produce members of society that will still be this creative when they graduate from high school and can talk about how wonderful their education was and not how they disliked school.  Why not, right?

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