I have always talked about the importance of not boring students with droning lecture. (See the lethal weapon of teaching.) It is so much about them and so not about me. I've already graduated from high school and college. I don't have such a tremendous ego that I need to hear myself talk 5 periods a day for 50 minutes.
It is about changing lives and seeing excitement kindled on the faces of students!
Here is what Casey, one of my ninth graders, said today over at the 33 wikis article about our wikispace:
I think wikispace is a good way to collaborate ideas. The feel of working together with other students bonds peers together who are striving for a common goal-making good grades and developing good study habits. It opens the doors for exceptional achievement and a shared atmosphere of learning. We can help each other and strengthen each other's weaknesses.
I feel as if the classroom has become more than a dull teacher-talks-the-whole-time-and-everybody's-asleep experience. We are truly learning about the Internet and all we can do with it-leaping firsthand into technology that will be useful to us. Wikispaces have been a large part of our virtual learning experience.
Engagement is more important than ever!
I was saddened as I read today in the April 17th Time Magazine's Special Report: Dropout Nation that the United States dropout rate is actually 30%. For Latinos and African Americans it is 50%. The author of the article, Nathan Thornburghthat, spoke words that struck my heart:
“Dropping out of high school today is to your societal health what smoking is to your physical health, an indicator of a host of poor outcomes to follow, from low lifetime earnings to high incarceration rates to a high likelihood that your children will drop out of high school and start the cycle anew.”
If smokers sued the tobacco companies and won will dropouts do the same to the educational system?
With our ability to innovate, we have lost the ability to engage our kids. We can write video games that keep them fixated for hours but cannot keep them learning for a 50 minute class period.
The blame game begins! I was always taught, however, that when you point a finger there are four pointing right back at you! Each person has a responsibility to the teenagers of America.
Even at a private school, I've seen parents who say, “I can't do anything with my child, that's what I pay you for.”
What? Something is wrong with a scenario when a parent abandons responsibility. A parent would never leave a child alone in the woods. When a parent abandons their interest in any aspect of their child's life they are condemning the child to either fail or leech of society forever. Is it any wonder kids don't want to move away from Mommy and Daddy when they are 26?
Loser communities will blame someone else. The federal government. The funding. The something. But guess what, every item of blame has one thing in common. I'd kill to have the funding of a public school. We get 70% of what it costs to educate the kids at our school from tuition — which is around $3300 per student. The remainer we make with auctions, bake sales, barbeque sales, etc. We're always selling or cooking or buying something. It is tough. It is a sacrifice. And yet we churn out kids who averaged an 1190 on the SAT last year.
Yes, I will grant you that we don't have the broad spectrum of kids that a public school has. I for one have always seen the need for public, private, and homeschool. We are a nation of choice. We are founded on democracy. We are founded on a type of people who don't make excuses.
When a farmer sees that his field has some disease or other, he doesn't sit there bellyaching! A farmer gets up and figures out how to get rid of hit. He walks through the field. He consults experts. He works till midnight if he has to, doing what it takes to get his plants healthy again.
It seems like we have a lot of folks criticizing the field and not enough in the field. There are too many adults behind desks and not enough adults in the classrooms with the kids in desks.
Decentralization. Empowerment. Streamlining. Delegation of authority. These are the things that rejuvinate American business…can't we learn something and send it to our classrooms.
Centralization. Bureaucracy. Paperwork. Centralization of authority. These are the things that stymie creativity, responsibility, and enjoyment.
Perhaps we should stop pointing our fingers at people and start pointing our fingers at structure. How have we organized the education system? How much authority do we give teachers? How much discipline do we expect out of our kids?
If there is one thing I know about students, they do what they are expected to do and what they are held accountable to do. Some give more, but not usually. It is more than dress code.
It is about adults leaving adult communities and loving and working with that mad teenager who drives down the street with the music playing at 11 pm. It is about parents not buying alcohol for their children and their friends. It is about people in corporate America taking time to read with a kid or mentoring a teenager.
And goodness sakes, it is about not giving up. Stop making excuses!
I have gotten troubled teens in my door. I've worked with students with sometimes severe learning disabilities. I've worked with the disrespectful and the behavior problem. It is about not mass producing kids and accepting a 30% failure rate. It is about getting up and doing something!
As a teacher, I can't do much about how much money comes into the school. I can not do much about making parents be involved. I can not make sure that a student is not beaten when they go home. I can not make sure that they do not drink on the weekend. I can not protect them from harm at midnight and I can not make sure they eat breakfast during the summer.
Let me tell you what I can do.
I can make my classroom an exciting place to be. I can make it a place of unexpected twists and turns where students are encouraged to think. I can make it a place where they can socialize with one another about educational topics. I can love every kid that comes my way.
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