I participate in conversations on the Association for Middle Level Education’s MiddleTalk listserve. Recently, we’ve had a series of interesting conversations around each of the 9 points in the Forbes article, “Nine Dangerous Things You Were Taught In School.”
Number 8 is “Days off are more fun than sitting in class.”
I caught myself thinking this one might be true…
Most of you reading this know, my own professional work has focused, for a long time, on motivating students. I constantly wonder how many of our problems would we solved if we just put more energy into how to engage students and how to make learning meaningful to them: attendance; behavior; being on task; distractions like technology and social media; achievement; and on and on.
Now in all fairness, I don’t blame teachers for this lack of focus on engagement and student motivation. I think few of us grew up in schools focused on motivation and engagement, and few of us went through teacher preparation programs that emphasized (let alone modeled!) a focus on engagement and motivation. And you can’t do what you don’t know.
That said, I do think now is the time to start building that focus. It seems clear, when I think about the the challenges schools face, like the day-to-day issues listed above. And it seems clear as competition for students is increasing (public schools, private schools, charter schools, online schools, political pressure for school choice, etc.). And it seems clear as I think about the shift from Industrial Age education, with its focus on developing the talents of the few and the compliance of the many, to Information Age education, with its need to develop the talents in all.
But, if we’re going to ask teachers to do what they have not experienced, then we need to support the heck out of them. And not with information. Information doesn’t change practice, teachers need experiences! Send them to schools and classrooms that are doing a great job of motivating students. And share stories and videos of such classrooms. Structure workshops and courses and committee meetings (any school function focused on the adults needing to learn) so that they model the conditions that motivate learners.
And then, maybe, if we do focus on engagement and motivation, being in class would be more fun than a day off…
Agreed, though it can be hard to change traditional school culture. Things like forced silence can really take the life (fun) out of a room. I recently caught myself falling into the “children should be seen and not heard” routines.