Friday, April 3, 2015

Adjust the Learning to the Child, Not the Child to the Learning

Yesterday, our Assistant Superintendent John Simpson, share this video with the teachers in our district. It is must-see viewing for everyone who teaches or works with children in any capacity. The very first line, "School sucks!" may offend some people initially but when you see the rest of the video, you see that he offers many examples of how kids are not being properly served by schools. You quickly realize that for those kids, he is right; school sucks. In many cases, things are getting worse for kids. As many districts morph into a culture of "testing on steroids", more and more kids are LEFT OUT of learning. The testing culture is the wrong road to go down and yet many blindly speed down that road without thinking through the repercussions of their actions. It is shameful.

The boy in this video talks about every child's genius. Melissa and I talk daily about the genius in every kid. Our challenge as teachers is to unearth that genius and nurture it until it grows strong and sturdy. Kids are good at so many things and their confidence grows exponentially when we find that expertise and develop it. So much of the kids' expertise is not related to what we do in schools but IS RELATED to what they will do with their lives. The school is disconnected, not the child. The child will find a place in the world, based on their genius and expertise, regardless of their schooling. The challenge for us is how to re-engineer schools to allow the kids to identify and develop that expertise in school.

If schools become more and more irrelevant to students' lives, there will be less and less need for traditional schools. We will see different kinds of schools pop up, ones that are engineered to nurture the gifts of each child. We must find out what motivates a child (and ALL children are motivated) and move that child down that path. For example, if a child's real passion is architecture, then we should tailor that child's schooling around that passion. Indeed, this child will find meaning in his/her life working in architecture. Why wouldn't we want to help make that happen? 

Schools have standards. We talk about "teaching the standards" all of the time. We have developed those standards over time and feel that they are the essential things that kids need to master. Are they? Must a child whose passion is architecture really master the standard:   7.4 Analyze how a drama's or poem's form or structure (e.g., soliloquy, sonnet) contributes to its meaning. Why don't we build standards that are more relevant to this child's passion and have them work toward those standards? No child is standard. We must honor this diversity of genius and adjust learning to the child, not the child to the learning.

We say that every child is unique but we don't necessarily treat every child as unique. The learning is standard and the testing is standard. It is up to us all to remedy this disconnect so that real, meaningful learning can occur for every child. Only then will every child discover their own genius.

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