Often times the real meaning of teaching gets lost when confronted by antagonists like
- standardized tests
- Common Core
- textbook adoptions
- technology without training
The real meaning of teaching, maybe better said as the essence of teaching is the relay of relevant content to spongelike minds that can will use it to either benefit themselves, society, or both. By the time students reach middle school the desire to learn is largely stamped out of young people.
A conversation I heard recently by two teachers voiced this same observation. While my observation is not new, it does need to be addressed on and at some level such that the today’s students find there place in the world, whatever that might be.
Where Piaget is right
Jean Piaget is right in the stages at which we are ready to learn. What public education has to assume is that every learner is ready to pass through the stages at the same rate and depth. Hence, children move from one grade level to the next whether or not they are cognitively ready to or not. How many times have we not seen the “are not ready” students go to the next grade level despite clear indications both socially and cognitively.
Kids are ready to pass onto the next learning challenge when they are ready. While a student may not have the concept of fractions down, she may be reading at at the eighth grade reading level as is ready to be challenged to write her own short stories and novellas. The readiness to learn is not limited by the grade level but rather by the individual’s desire to do so, and no one person learn something at exactly the same rate.
A new system
There is a lot of talk about education being broken in the States because our scores internationally do not meet the rankings of other nations. If this is really the case then we need a new system. Clearly the desire to learn is being lost by the time kids reach middle school because education is not reaching the student as a person and only as a statistic. Student based education should be about moving the student from one readiness to learn to the next without contrived mastery based on age and grade level. I propose a system that uses looping, grade bands, teaching teams grades 1-12, three levels of school, strong technology integration, a talent based model, and risk.
Can education be reinvented?