Resisting the doom, honoring the intent

A few things have happened recently to motivate me to try to connect the dots in my fuzzy picture publicly.  Not sure where the public part comes from but it’s there and I acknowledge it.

In the course of my reading this week I came across a variety of links which spoke to me on a deeper level.  Beyond simply agreeing with the author, I felt gratitude, relief, connection, and concern among other things.  The common thread has a lot to do with us as learners, educators, adults, parents, etc. being honest with ourselves about what education is and does; what it could and should be for our kids.

The most recent one is a post by Will Richardson,

which reminded me of what I know so well already: learning comes to those who seek it and those who get into it do so with the intent to get something out of it: answers to their questions, a link to take the interest further, a connection that puts something in perspective…

Before that I read a post on Why We Need New Ways of Talking about School by Paul Barnwell:  In a nutshell, he lists three terms which in many ways sum up the conceptual traps in which education has become mired: College and Career readiness, Achievement gap, and Data.  Read the whole post. It’s important.

This one just hit the spot and in my comment I wrote:

In this moment I can only express my sincere gratitude for the caring voices I have found here. Our children and our students deserve better than what we are generally offering them right now. They are so much more than aggregated data points and while we as individual teachers may be in a position to mitigate the harshness of many of the prevailing messages, our systems, policies and structures can make it very difficult to succeed on that account.  The conversation above gives me hope that progress is possible and that momentum for positive change is gathering.

And if that weren’t enough I went to see a movie by an Austrian filmmaker entitled: Alphabet. It is a documentary that works from Sir Ken Robinson’s premise that schooling in its traditional form is robbing children of their capacities for divergent and critical thinking, creativity and a host of other positive qualities we tend to espouse as 21st century skills. 

So much to remind me that school seems to be a thoroughly insufficient response to just about everything that matters to kids…

And yet, I work in a school. I see children day after day. I shush them in the hallways. I insist that they follow directions, rules, me… And I also listen when they tell me about the tooth they lost at lunch, and I coach them on how to make that overhand throw go even further, and I tell them how proud I am of them in the way that they learned a new game so quickly. I get to participate in their learning.  I’m more than a spectator.  I create spaces for learning to happen.  I offer opportunities for kids to discover what works and what doesn’t.  I do love teaching and I cherish my students. 

It’s easy to get carried away with the sense that all of it is wrong and going further in that direction. We’re doomed.  But we’re not. If we’re raising questions, we’re not doomed. If we’re providing the individual care that each student deserves every day, then we’re not doomed.  If we look at the system and see that it is wrong, we can correct it by taking a stand of whatever dimension and showing our kids: “We are not doomed.”

My own learning from the posts mentioned above and the comments that follow has been significantly enriched.  My connect-the-dots projects are steadily gaining in complexity as a result. 

There’s hope. I’d do well to hold onto mine. And share it.

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