Friday, January 15, 2016

Supporting Teachers with Creating Magic

Education has faced recent criticisms from all angles and stakeholders and for good reason. Students in many schools speak of boredom, disengagement, and lack of learning.  Parents have also chimed in expressing dissatisfaction about student preparedness for college and the 21st century workplace.  Why is the typical education for most students, and specifically those in public education, not meeting the needs? Why do schools continue to operate in a traditional sense regardless of changes to the world and its societies?

In my honest opinion, there hasn't been enough attention paid to what students really need or care about.  Most students today can find exactly what they need to learn in terms of content from just about any technological device.  Any student knows this and can tell you they don't need to spend hours in school being told information or content by teachers and textbooks.  Education has been slow to integrate technology effectively and efficiently which has left most institutions of learning in the wake of a sailing ship.

I recently ran across a wonderful TED Talk by Christopher Emdin titled, "Teaching Teachers how to Create Magic." Although the talk is nearly 3 years old, it should be required viewing by all stakeholders in education, especially at a length of under 7 minutes. Chris makes many great points by starting with the idea that teachers continue to be educated in forms that haven't changed for over 100 years.  How can we expect teachers to teach differently if we aren't teaching them differently?  If you'd like to view the full talk, I highly recommend pausing your reading and doing it now.

What I learned from Chris as a teacher coach and professional learning facilitator in public education is that students need to be engaged by relevance and real-world connections. If we as educators are asking students their opinions about topics such as immigration, climate change, future preparedness, design opportunities, efficiency in manufacturing, and more, we will be pleasantly surprised by their responses. Could it be that the days of learning from a textbook in rows where we all are expected to take the same test and regurgitate the same information are over? It's a question that should be floating among all humans on the planet.

I'm clearly not opposed to assessing students and evaluating the data for instructional decisions and evaluation purposes.  I am however, entirely opposed to students becoming a number that is listed on a statistical display and used for making decisions on educational policy or instructional direction. We are all human beings and each one of us has different needs, wants, desires, and passions. These are the qualities from which true desire for learning comes from and if they are continuously neglected, we will end up with a deep void in the learning capacities of our world.

"Teaching teachers to create magic" is a true art but not one that is unattainable. There may need to be some rebuilding of curiosity, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking skills for educators as they have been completely ignored in professional learning for years throughout education circles and institutions.  However, once the dust is shaken off, I truly believe that anyone who is a life-long teacher is also a life-long learner and nothing is more exciting to learn about than that which drives our own interests.  If students are given opportunities to bring their own experiences and interests into the schools while learning the necessary skills and content, I think we will be pleasantly surprised at the results be it a formal assessment or an individual representation of learning. 

In conclusion of this first blog post, I encourage all parties involved in any educational institution to transmogrify their approaches to learning and seek to create magic that is entirely destined for the students served by any institution.  Only then will we see the greatness of learning and inspiration that is possible in our schools, especially those offering genuine learning free of charge. Let's create MAGIC! 

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