We are seeing a real dichotomy in education these days. Thanks to social media we are exposed to teachers, at all levels, doing wonderful things with their students. We’re seeing students doing incredible things that they have chosen to do – not because they are completing an assignment that they have to do.
We are seeing images of happy and excited people from gatherings of educators at edcamps, conferences, and webinars. And we’re also seeing students in these images. Students – outside of the normal school day!
Then there is the reality of schools being labeled as “low performing.” And students dropping out of school because they perceive life will be better with their gang family or, sadly, because they need to provide for their family. The images we see are of unhappy and, often, angry students.
Between the two extremes lies the average school in the average district. And, at the average school, teachers are pressured to meet certain test requirements. To meet these requirements they must follow a strict curriculum with every day mapped out for them. They don’t dare deviate from the course. The strict curriculum is designed by “experts” who know that teaching a certain topic in a certain way will guarantee the average student will succeed. And by succeed they mean pass the state test.
But there are INCREDIBLE things going on all over the world. Students are going deeper in their learning. Student attendance rates are improving. Students are, (gasp), having fun and are enjoying learning. If students are attending classes and having fun in school then maybe, perhaps, their scores on state tests might just be improving! What a crazy concept!
Schools are having success. But there is this little statement that stakeholders in schools hate to hear – it takes time. We saw it at Manor New Technology HS. My first year our scores in math were not good. There was hope that I, the “Old Math Teacher,” could suddenly make things better. But what was lost on all of us was the fact that we were doing things differently. Our students had to learn how to learn and our teachers had to learn how to help students learn in this world of project based learning (PBL). The superintendent and principal bought into the idea of “Trust the Process” and the teachers had incredible support and autonomy. We could try new things, and fail, without a huge to do about it. And the school’s scores started improving.
All it took was time and the willingness of stakeholders to allow things to not go well so that we could figure out how to do it right. States and school districts have got to be willing to take risks and try new things with their students. Even though things might not immediately improve. Are you willing to try something that excites students? Are you willing to try something that increases attendance rates? Are you willing to try something that keeps students from choosing life without school? Are you willing to give it 3 to 5 years? Are you willing to see test scores, possibly, stagnate or even go down? All we ask is for you to Trust the Process. Because, you see, it takes time.