Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Of Mistakes and Kids These Days (Or...They're Going to Have to Know it When They Graduate)

I'm surprised CONVERGENCE is not a more popular buzzword in education reform circles.  Or perhaps it is and I am standing outside the circle?

Just about everything I have been reading lately, or that others are sharing with me online or within my district, has to do with one of 3 strategies for improving education:  (i) focused and specific instructional skills and leadership behavior, (ii) developing deep and sincere relationships with our students and parents, and (iii) preparing our students with the skills needed for success in our modern society.  You can't, it seems, reflect on one without having the others creep into the picture.

I like that.  It makes sense.  Approaching all three provides focus on basic skills, and support for taking a less rigid and more fluid approach to educational programming all at once.  Just enough mixture of loose and tight, built on a very solid foundation!

Two TED talks one these topics have inspired me.  Neither Diane Laufenberg's message, nor Chris Lehmann's message, are earth shatteringly new.  For me, they are effective reminders, however.  They have the potential to be transformational for us, too, if we can elicit the instruction they promote in all of our secondary schools. 

HIGHLY relevant learning opportunities will create HIGHLY engaged students.  Period.  Expecting the kids to change to meet our inadequate schedules and structures doesn't work.  That's pretty clear to me.  When they graduate, they won't be asked to reduce fractions to lowest terms.  Sure, they are likely to have some performance expectations, but assuming we do a good job delivering our basic curriculum, they will be OK.

We need to step back, let the kids step up, and be willing to let learning be messy.  Kids these days don't have poor work ethics, as I hear frequently.  Rather, they are different.  Their makeup is different, their experiences are different, their worldviews are different, their expectations are different.  Find a way to align with their needs, I believe, and we will see as much work out of them as any generation has ever given.  AND....what inspires me about the work they will give? I believe this current generation of students has the potential to be the most socially conscious group yet...

I've embedded Laufenberg's talk below.  It is 10 minutes.  If you are interested in hearing what engaged students do, watch it:


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