The “Back to School” signs are in full force on multiple fronts including advertisements, social media, print articles, radio and television. I couldn’t help but notice the preponderance of titles aimed at parents who may need support getting their children excited about going back to school. The fact that we have to entice young people back to school should be a warning signal. Unfortunately, there are too many who believe that school doesn’t have to be enjoyable, after all, not everything in life is enjoyable.
There are always some who love the routine and predictability of school. They have done well, fit the mold, followed the plan and achieved the subsequent rewards, i.e. good grades, certificates and other tangible payoffs. They blissfully abide by the constructs of forced schooling. It’s what they are used to, what their parents are used to and what schools and our society tells them they must do to succeed.
In schools, we learn to comply or we fail. Sounds like fun right?
Learning in school is contrived, overly scheduled, forced and regulated. None of these conditions are conducive to learning, yet we willingly convince our children it’s in their best interest to do so. We believe we are good parents when we send our young people off to school everyday. We start the pep rallies months before they are old enough to go, just in case they exhibit signs of resistance. Parents can be the best cheerleaders.
It apparently doesn’t matter that almost every psychology course that teachers take in their educational preparation track, clearly outlines the importance of relevance, meaning and self-direction in the learning equation. This also proves true in brain research and various learning studies. While teachers find this information helpful, they often seek the practical nuts and bolts application in their classrooms. Studies don’t bridge that gap very well.
What actually happens in the classroom is drastically different and is most often not the fault of the teacher.
Someone else decides what, when and how students will learn. Someone else determines who succeeds and who fails. Someone else decides and predicts a child’s strengths and weaknesses based on a designated grade level curriculum. Deadlines and expectations are a constant threat with frequent evaluation and reporting as a means to ensure progress. Even if a teacher wanted to allow for self-directed learning, the system is not designed to function that way.
Encouraging exceptions to this norm do exist as a recent article by Kerry McDonald explains below.
Different and effective models of learning are edging their way into the mainstream public schooling world and they are long overdue.
I am a firm optimist and believe that all things are possible. When a critical mass rallies around the freedom to learn, great public schools can happen. Many brave teachers are rallying the troops even now.