Why I Hope More Schools Are Keeping Kids’ Educational Pathways and Curriculum Lean and Mean
I’ve never really seen the classroom focus totally on achievement. No child is given an opportunity to discuss what they’ve learned, how the presentation connects with the topic that it’s about, and whether the information learned has any lasting value. Instead, most students seem to focus on how they did in the class and how the material was reflected on a standardized test. This happens across school, as well. For some reason, these days, it’s not uncommon to find classrooms where the general academic focus is rarely present. Instead, they are usually focused on social skills, self-awareness, knowledge, and even problem-solving.
How do you know that this type of classroom is more focused on character? Because one set of lessons is all about the character of the student. The teacher gives the class a wide variety of scenarios to play out, including issues that parents or teachers have with kids, as well as getting the kids to respond to age-appropriate questions, putting in enough effort, or avoiding sexual violence. Of course, these lessons are conducted in a respectful and safe way, but I’m sure this sort of instruction would never be handed to some students who would benefit from it the most.
This type of classroom is designed to build character in students. But does this classroom mean that students have to want to go to this school? I’m pretty sure that some are just fine with existing at a school that focuses mostly on tests, but I think this type of classroom could absolutely raise students’ aspirations in life. It could lead some students to think seriously about how they want to be remembered by their generation – what they would like to do with their lives. Wouldn’t a person with an outstanding academic record want to study at a school that did this kind of thing? I know that some of my high school friends only decided to go to school at my school because of it, even though I’m their school. Without this type of school, there would have been no reason for them to want to come and visit from my high school in the first place.
In my school, every first-year student gets a “social studies schooner,” in which he or she takes the life boat ride with her or her professor for a brief period of time. Our teacher essentially acts as a former student, coming back and talking about their experiences. Every time we get on that boat, we’re learning about the kind of support they got in their careers. We’re getting that information from other people who have done those things. We’re getting that information from people who went to school with them. It makes me wonder how someone would feel if their teacher was giving them insight into another way of doing their life. Would they ever look forward to every term or every semester? Would they want to come back to the school that they’re at now? Would they want to go and “pay it forward?”
According to some research, the single biggest predictor of future success in life is actually how much you want to learn. Of course, there are various factors other than luck that go into determining future success. But having a strong desire to learn early on in life can make it much easier for you to learn later on in life, and it makes life easier for you to see that it’s OK to ask for help. And having a strong desire to learn can really help to improve your grades. The sad thing is that even though it’s such a fact, schools often tend to forget this when developing student pathways and curriculum. I hope that in the future, more schools will be able to build motivation for kids early on. And I hope that schools will build a strong sense of character in all their students. One example of a school that’s doing this is Futures Education, an after-school enrichment program in New York City. Their curriculum is filled with tasks and activities that make an amazing difference in students’ lives, like teaching them the letter “X,” giving them a chance to play an instrument, and helping them improve their memory. It’s all designed to equip them with the necessary skills to survive in the working world.
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