Monday, September 10, 2007

Some thoughts on Changing our Practices

From David Warlick at 2 Cents Worth in response to a posting from Doug Johnson yesterday about the number of jobs he has held. David really gets at what teaching is going to mean in the coming years: learning how to learn and unlearn, and knowing how to teach yourself to do things. People often state that they can't keep up with what is going on out there because it changes too quickly. To combat that, we need to focus on knowing how to decipher meaning, teaching our students to pull out what is important, and teach them that learning is not, and should not be, something that happens solely in school.

In my efforts to understand what the labor department’s projections and my work experiences mean, within the context of school reform, I ask myself, “How did I learn…” play guitar (bass & Banjo) and organ? I taught myself! write software? I taught myself. code web pages? I taught myself! self-publish a book? I taught myself!

The schools that I attended in the 1950s and ’60s tried very hard to teach me how to be taught. I believe that this is one of the shifts that we have to achieve as we try to retool classrooms. We need to do less of..

teaching kids how to be taught,

and instead,

teach them to teach themselves.

I think that the point is not that everyone is going to have 10.2 jobs between the ages of 18 and 38. Many of us will only have one job. But how many times will that one job change? 10.2 times? Perhaps not, but when it changes, who’s going to teach the new skills?

We need to stop teaching literacy, and teach learning literacy.

We need to stop teaching literacy skills, and teach literacy habits.

We need to stop thinking about lifelong learning, and instead, work toward every student leaving our schools with a learning lifestyle.

We need to be willing to take every piece of furniture our of our classrooms, clear the walls, burn it all, and start all over again. The world has changed that much.

Anything less is an insult to our children.

Cross-posted at TechDossier


Bach said...

Patrick, I too read David's post and liked it from a theoretical perspective.

I always try to predict nay-sayers comments as it helps to strengthen my counter arguments.

Let me pose those questions to you:
-What do these new teachings look like in practice?
-Can you prepare kids for high stakes testing in NJ and elsewhere while still getting them ready for the myriad of jobs they will have? (Are they naturally mutually exclusive?)
-Does success on standardized tests show aptitude to learn skills for these multiple jobs?

and the big one that I have posed before....

Is the purpose of school to get students ready for the world of work? I argue, no. I think the purpose of school is the encourage students to do, read, see, and learn things that they wouldn't do if left to their own adolescent devices. For example, if left to me, I never would have read half the "classic" novels I read in high school, watched classic films, read the NY Times, or gone to certain museums. Now as an adult, I am glad that I was pushed to do those things. It has made me a more rounded person.


Barbara said...

"We need to be willing to take every piece of furniture our of our classrooms, clear the walls, burn it all, and start all over again. The world has changed that much."

I issued a similar challenge to my staff and on my blog back in August. Interestingly as I walk around the rooms for the most part they are all set up the same as before...
Maybe because we just can't envision what else we might do with those 30 bodies...maybe because we are still textbook dependent...maybe because we still need to go 1:1
I tried to direct reading and ideas for change over the summer but had trouble getting engagement. now that school is started everybody is is a vicious cycle!

PS Patrick I am following you on Twit if you want to add me I am Duckie

Patrick Higgins said...


Let's take testing off of the table for a minute; if we are creating classrooms where writing is used to create environments that foster reflection, creativity, and collaboration and extending those pursuits out of the 40-50 minutes we see them each day and into their daily lives, we are creating classrooms that have no boundaries. You ask a great question when about what these classrooms look like, because so often we read what they should look like if all were perfect and money spent wisely, but we are never given examples of teachers that are truly fostering environments where students are engaged, even enraptured by their own learning. Warlick points to teaching children how to teach themselves, and I think that classrooms may not be set up to do that just yet.

My theory about testing, even when I taught 8th Grade English in a high-stakes district in Bergen County, was that as long as I gave them reason to write on their own, made it an experience they did not dread, and promised publication on a large scale, they produced and were proud. It was a natural by-product of the environment we created that they did well on tests.

What is school for? In my early days as a teacher, I used the tagline: Schools aim to create successful citizens of a democratic society. However, as I get older I don't know if that is the true reason for schools to exist. Where are we without our schools to pass on vital traditions, teach socialization skills, and as you say, keep children from their own adolescent devices?

Personally, I loved school for the same reasons you state, and still do. When I see kids immersed in books like Jude the Obscure, something I wouldn't even have eyeballed on my own, I am hopeful that they too might find magic in some place they never knew existed.

Joe Mahoney said...
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