As of late I have been feeling confused and not so optimistic when it comes to the education world. I have to take a step back because it was not too long ago that I was reading and finding information that shared a different aspect of education where I suggested education needed to make change. Perhaps I am a complainer and have not come to terms with it. I hope that is not the case, but I have been known to argue that schools are
- slow to change and overall a pretty conservative business
- when we do change, educators tend to not be happy because we are quite rigid in our viewpoints of what we think will work or not work and often times not change because we know best!
One of my solutions in being proactive goes back to some Twitter chats I ran last year. In order for quality change to happen we must work on the mindsets of everyone involved.
According to research students will spend 30% of their waking time in school from K-12 which is equal to around 13,000 hours of time (Jensen, 2005 and 2009). This is a huge amount of time! Are we making the most of that time in school?
Disengagement does not happen right away. This is something that develops over time. I look at the different states of excitement for my own kids. My three year old wants to go to school every single day even though she only goes twice. She loves school and cannot wait to share everything. My 7 year old loves school. She plays school at home and is excited. Yes, she does not like homework and struggles in some areas, but overall it is a positive experience. She is not as pumped as she was before, but the excitement in there. My 9 year old is losing steam. He is losing that love for learning and school. It is spilling over to other aspects of life. As a middle school educator how do we work to bring the passion back? Just recently I was teaching in an 8th grade classroom and it was touch to get them to show excitement. It was as if they have been beaten into submission to sit and wait after all the years of the education factory. At what point do students start to lose the love?
The answer is there is no right answer! Some love school until middle school. Some always love school. Some lose the love early despite all the interventions. As educators we have to work on engagement and prolonging the disengagement piece for as long as we can. I am not so sure that is a focus as we are stuck on assessments, literacy, and math to the point of overkill.
Engagement means we have to work on three levels. We have to look at the emotions, behaviors, and cognitive engagements in the learning environments. As educators we tend to probably have one of these areas that we excel at, but we have to remember the other elements. It is tough, but if we can work to infuse all three into our classrooms perhaps our scores will go up naturally.
We need to take a look at our schools and hold some serious conversation about our rooms. Do we have these elements and if not, then where are the resources and help to make that happen? We cannot only question, but we must provide support for teachers to improve their craft. No matter if you have been teaching for one year or twenty years we can always improve. Starting with mindset and engagement might be the first step in improving our classrooms and instructions, not a common core textbook with mandated day to day teaching lessons. Have more confidence in who you are hiring and let them shine!
We need to start to find ways to develop a growth and academic mindset in educators, students, parents, and all the other pieces involved in education. I have a path and now it is time to dig deeper. I think that my next goal is to find ways to help educators work on their mindsets.
Perhaps an even deeper question is the real conversation over what exactly is it that we want from our schools and are we making that happen?
Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the brain in mind (2nd edition). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Jensen, E. (2009) Teaching with poverty in mind: What being poor does to kids’ brains and what schools can do about it. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development