Sunday, October 17, 2010

Look Deeper, Listen and Watch More Intently, Collaborate and Learn

There are so many people who seem to focus on school reform these days. Some of us are growing weary of those who take a deficit view of the situation and make major non-educated assumptions about what learning and teaching is or should be. Many of those who are speaking the loudest have very little direct contact with the day-to-day lives of teachers and students in schools. And yet, people are listening and believing that the state of student learning is hopeless and that education in our country needs a complete makeover with intricate ways of monitoring and measuring.

I worry that there are reformers out there that set their sights right over the tops of the our students’ heads. One might wonder if children actually live and learn in our current school communities. Too much focus is placed on scores, data, and deficit thinking. Imagine gazing across a beautiful ocean and never thinking about what wonders lie beneath. What could we discover just below the surface and what wonders would we find if our gaze had the depth to look beyond the surface? We need to put our students back into our line of vision and take the time to know and respond to them as unique learners. There are many teachers and schools who value the learning lives of students. But for others our children seem to be lost in the crowd. They seemed to be swallowed up by the negative perspectives of those who think they know what our schools need.

We only need to walk through the halls of our schools to know that children need to know someone cares about them, that there are people who believe in their potential and that learning is about inquiry, discovery and passion. Teachers are engaging students in thoughtful inquiry and giving them opportunities to develop knowledge as well as the behaviors, skills and attitudes they will need for the future. However, these are not easily measured so many are blinded by the data produced when we only measure those things that can easily be measured. Wasn’t it Albert Einstein who said, “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Let’s think about what we value. Stamina, curiosity, persistence, choice, collaboration and passion are all important to me. I don’t really care about measuring them. I care about making sure we are giving students opportunities to learn them successfully. Let’s prepare them to be independent, passion-driven learners. Let’s create learning environments where all students can learn.

Maybe I’m expecting too much. Some folks seem to be deaf to the voices of our children. Positive school reform should begin with less talking and more listening, especially to the symphony of wisdom that comes from our students. Every child’s voice has power and wisdom. Let’s all be very quiet and listen to our children and then act on what they tell us about their learning. Let’s be positive and hopeful about our children’s future.

photo via Flicker by Pink Sherbert Photography