Sunday, May 12, 2013

Educators are in the Human Business

Over the past two days, I've watched 2 videos that have me thinking and picking out patterns--especially through a learning lens:
The first is the viral video of Jeff Bliss, a sophomore at Duncanville High School in Texas, venting at his History teacher as he was being kicked out of class, for not igniting passion to her students and for not engaging the students enough (my favorite line was essentially, "stop teaching us packets").  Although he could have been more respectful, his message was very clear, and the physical setting seemed very typical of the situation, with the teacher seated behind her desk and the classroom in rows of desks.

The second video was Sir Ken Robinson's latest TED talk on escaping education's death valley.  He, as he usually does, speaks very candidly about our country's supposed ADHD epidemic, and says:

“If you sit kids down, hour after hour doing low-grade clerical work, don’t be surprised if they start to fidget.”


“Children are, for the most part, not suffering from a psychological condition, they’re suffering from childhood.  And I know this because I spent my early life as a child.”

He goes on to advocate for a broader based curriculum that doesn't just emphasize reading and math, but includes the fine arts as well--as someone married to a fine arts teacher, who has researched the benefits of arts education vastly, I could not agree more.
It made me wonder if Jeff Bliss (and so many other students across the country) are suffering from low-grade clerical work in our nation's schools.
Ken Robinson goes on to provide 3 ways to improve our schools:
*Individualize teaching and learning.
*Attribute a high status to the teaching profession—recruit high talent and invest in professional development for teachers
*Devolve responsibility to the school level instead of the national level

This provided some interesting reflections for me:
*I teach in a district where personalized and individualized learning is our largest initiative.  This can be intimidating for teachers...but, these two videos make it evident to me that this is where we must be traveling.  We can no longer educate students in the same way we did during the Industrial Revolution--our world certainly doesn't operate this way any longer!
*To quote Ken Robinson, "Education isn't a mechanical system, it is a human system about people who are either learning or not learning".  Its so important to remember the human/relational side of education!
*As a future school administrator, the last part of Ken Robinson's talk effected me the most--he said, "The real role of leadership in education is not command and control, but climate control, and creating a climate of possibility.".  We, as educators, are in the human business--relationships matter, and school leaders must work hard to create climates where teachers can dive into these relationships and inspire their students with personalized learning experiences.  This is what I heard from student Jeff Bliss's words as he was being removed from class, and this is what our 21st century students need and want!

**I do not want to come across critical of the Duncanville teacher--even though I disagree with the classroom climate that was shown in the video, I only have seen 1:27 inside her classroom, which is certainly not enough to judge as successful or not.