Making it all better: A fourth factor to understanding the problem with our schools
Scripps Howard News Service
At present in the U.S., the nation’s citizenry spends an average of 53 minutes per day engaged in educational activities. Why? Because most of that time is spent passively attending lectures and engaging in discussions. That doesn’t account for every minute spent, but it does indicate that 90% of the time-wasting is happening elsewhere.
After all, it is a common mindset to believe that academic content is more entertaining than it is educational.
A number of articles from sites such as EducationNova.com and Teaching Tolerance.org state that educators deserve much of the blame for this unfortunate disaffection, as they tend to communicate in binaries, causing many students to follow the same set of content’s structure. Like it or not, the decision of the majority is often the final decision for all.
Another factor in the problem is the classic Overruling Teachers in American Schools. Often, a school-based consultant will cite the person in the classroom in order to think that his or her expertise has proven that some new idea is better than others.
In addition, many institutions will appoint a principal or administrator to act as the “gatekeeper” for all ideas, and any outside thoughts are immediately labeled as ridiculous or scientific experimentation. The push toward empowerment and empowerment-for-all is also long gone.
Thus, a lack of curiosity is more dangerous to society’s social health than any number of other forces. However, educators, as leaders, can help.
2) Help empowers students. Don’t try to instruct students to be curious about the world around them. Instead, do everything you can to help them explore and question. This is especially important in middle school, a time when kids should be getting their heads around the world around them. Also, high school is especially important because that’s where we begin the process of helping students think critically.
Kids need some help to have that college-bound, tough-love attitude that leads to professors giving students the information and leaving it up to them to learn the material. Fortunately, middle and high school are great times to develop that kind of child-like, curious streak.
3) Help teachers become curious themselves. We have a lot of blame to go around for teaching, so do us an equally large favor and start educating yourselves in the “why” of it all. Know what makes students ill at ease in the classroom. Have a student explain things like the problem with the textbook that gave her algebraal question wrong? Forgive me now if I don’t respond with, “What book?” But in the next class that lesson was covered by a student who wasn’t familiar with how the book worked. Did that mistake change?
To my mind, the lesson is still valid, and the student that showed no interest in it would still probably do better in the class. I’m not saying a student should object to her teacher’s suggestion, but at the very least students should feel free to ask questions, and the teacher should encourage an interesting-enough world for the student to study.
Don’t just set up conversation. Ask questions!
4) Provide help for learners. When I run my informal role-plays, I feel extremely privileged to have the time to invite the teachers to act as peers with a student. Teachers usually do a good job of providing basic help such as assistance with the textbook or more complex details. They’re also very good at offering extra help if needed, whether they have technical questions or advice about preparing the lesson.
I think students should constantly encourage their teachers to be more curious. Teachers seem to believe the qualities of being curious are a result of a lack of intrinsic motivation, so they treat their own practice like an act of charity, but it’s not. They should practice their curiosity as an ethic, and they should practice it every day.