Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reshaping High Schools - Is That Really Possible?

I got to work this morning, started my laptop and sat down to read the newest issue of Educational Leadership (May 2008; Vol. 65, No. 8) from ASCD. The entire issue is on reshaping high schools. I'll be honest with you - I read the articles and a real passion for change was ignited.

Then I began to read new blog postings and came across a posting from Dr. Scott McLeod of Dangerously Irrelevant, So What if Schools Don't Prepare Students for the 21st Century?, who had also received and read the same issue. Scott helped to bring me back down to reality - which is not a bad thing.

Scott helped me to realize that everything that is said in this issue has been said before - many times before. He has several references in his blog (which I highly recommend you read...) to past "nay-sayers" of education and the direction education has gone/is going. It really helped me to understand that, and I feel especially in education, we like to do a lot of talking and not a lot of doing.

Please understand I am not saying this to encourage educators to throw up their hands in frustration and become educator hermits. I am saying this to encourage action. Understanding theory and having those conversations is very important, but words without actions are just words.

How will this time - maybe - be different? It will be if the teachers make a stand. This change has to be one teacher at a time and those teachers have to be 21st century teachers. These teachers understand that learning is student-centered and not teacher-centered. These teachers understand that it's not what we teach (always), but how it's being taught. There is a need, at times, for curricula at the basic level to change, but there are fundamental things that will always need to be taught. 2+2 will always be 4 and you will always spell the word cat, C-A-T.

Again - I am not implying that curriculum is infallible, but more often than not I feel it's the instruction part that can use the most change. Making the move in the classroom from "it's all about me (the teacher)" to "it's all about them (the students)".

Be the change! Make the difference!


Scott McLeod said...

Great post. Some questions for you...

If our country is doing fine as is, why would teachers change from what they're doing now? What's their reason/incentive? Who cares if it should be about the students? We say it's about the students, but has it ever really been about the students in a substantial and meaningful way?

coach said...

so i'm wondering, do you think people read articles, in this issue of EL, like "Creating Excellent and Equitable Schools" or "Lessons from LEading Models" or "How We Reinvented the H.S. Experience," and the policy reforms described (& happening) at the school level just wash over the reader as, that's nice but what would i do to make that happen at my school or district? i hear what you're saying about rhetoric, and i find that frustrating as well, but i do think there are some real examples in this issue, i just wonder if examples make any difference. what do teachers need / want to feel like they can change the status quo?

21st Century Teacher said...

Scott - great questions! :)

I think your point about the country doing "fine" almost makes my point for me... ;) Our nation doesn't just want "fine" they want excellent. If "fine" was okay, then teachers wouldn't need to change what they're doing currently. I would hope that most got into teaching (though I do realize not all) because of the students so making students' learning experience better would be their reason/incentive. I am not naive enough to think that's true fact, probably very little. I would think a good reason, though, would be, in the long run, making it about the students may make their job easier. The put the ownership of learning onto the students and motivate the students to learn and, more often that not, learning may happen without the teaching having to pull teeth to make it happen. Please do not misunderstand - I do no think teaching is an easy job, especially when done correctly, but kids excited about learning are a lot easier to teach than those that think of it as a chore. :)
Generally speaking, up to this point, it may not have benn about the students in a substantial and meaningful way. Until recent (and I use the term "recent" very liberally when speaking about education and the past 100 or so years...), the focus of teaching has been on the teacher. It was the norm for it to be about the teacher and not the student. That doesn't mean that teachers didn't care about their students; however, teachers were led to believe that if they were doing all the right things and the students still weren't learning, that learning probably couldn't happen. In the past, education wasn't as much of a priorty for people because if you didn't do well academically, you could always go back to the farm and excel. Not so much anymore...
Now that I have written a book...I probably should have just posted again. :) Thanks for your questions and making me truly think!

21st Century Teacher said...

Coach - I do think that examples make a least for me personally. If I know whatever I'm trying to accomplish has happened and is possible, I am more motivated to make it happen. I think teachers need support on a daily basis. To me it's like going to summer camp - you go and feel all pumped up and motivated and then get home and nothing has changed and, eventually, you fizzle back to what you were prior to going to summer camp. In my profession, that happens more often than not. My goal - get them fired up at "camp" and then continue to give support so that the transformation happens in the classroom. Great question, though - anyone else out there have thoughts or ideas about what teachers need/want to feel like they can change the status quo?