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Monday, March 28, 2011

Is There Something We're Missing?

Have we been distracted from the real issue in education?

It seems that in the education sector, there are always new issues that breed new initiatives. When an idea is presented at the right moment, it can garner interest and speed to those who write policy and guide action. Whether the issue is using technology, preventing bullying, engaging boys in learning, differentiating instruction or raising achievement data; something is always on the horizon lingering as the next focus-fix. There is a multitude of issues in education that can be the source of funding, time and professional development - which one is the most important?

The point of the video is to draw a parallel to the current educational climate. Maybe all the aforementioned issues are the way we have distracted ourselves from what our true focus should be...student happiness.

How well does someone learn when they are unhappy compared to when they are happy? Now, focusing on raising student happiness is not an easy task. Perhaps the students in your class need basic needs met (i.e. food, shelter, safety) and providing snacks, consistent personal support and genuine interest in their lives, is the way you will improve student happiness and mental well-being in your room. Maybe your class needs hands-on, tech-based activities and assignments to feel engaged, improve their sense of self-worth, and therefore, feel happy about their accomplishments in school.

Whatever the specific need, your students will connect, produce and internalize more if they are enjoying their time in your classroom and value their place in your lessons. Some of our students come from horrendous family situations and brutal living conditions, your sole purpose in teaching should be to provide a safe and "utopian-like" environment for every minute they spend with you. After all, these are the students who look forward to school as a place of order and also an opportunity for distraction.

All of identified issues in education have value. But, how might the success we experience as teachers to our students change if every lesson we deliver was precluded by deliberate thought about how students might enjoy what they are doing? If they find happiness in something, they will attach to it - that's your motivation.

Let's expose the gorilla and have some fun. The students probably won't see it coming - and they surely won't forget it.


CoffeeChug said...

We are missing the fact that education in America needs to change. It is time to stop teaching kids in a factory mode institution and begin to teach them as individuals. Move them along at their own pace. What other aspect in the real world holds one back when they are ready to move on because of their "age"? I constantly try to find ways to let each kid in my class move along when they are ready and it is tough to do within the parameters put into place.

nfinney said...

So great to hear. There are many things we can do within our classroom practice in providing extensions to push the ceiling - not just pad the middle - of our student achievement. With a more liberal approach to the curriculum delivery lots of possibilities exist to reshape the way our students not only meet expectations, but more importantly, exceed them according to their own needs and abilities. Check out my post "Is Special Education Special Anymore?" for more age-related discussion when it comes to school groupings. Thanks for the personal connection to what is an important issue!

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