My son has a friend who stops by and collects him on the way to school every morning.
I usually enjoy my passing conversations with Michael, because I usually enjoy the insight gained from our conversations.
Usually, I learn about what is going on at their school. I may even glean some information about what my teenage son is actually thinking, apart from the grunts and groans that I usually receive. Occasionally, Michael may even say something that brightens my day a bit.
Last week, however, was a completely different story. That was when Michael informed me, “School is Jail, Mrs. C.” Now, that threw me. I’ve always loved school. I’ve loved school so much, that I have made it my life’s business. I don’t love jail. At least I don’t think that I love jail. I haven’t had many experiences with jail, so let’s say that I don’t love the idea of jail. I especially don’t love the idea of an eighth grader who feels like his daily bike ride to school is a trek to the local jail house.
How many kids feel that their daily school experience is more like incarceration than inspiration?
What can we, as educators, do to change this view? I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I have a couple ideas to get started:
Make school more like summer vacation, only for all kids.
Forget the summer slide and look at the joyful side of experiential learning over the summer. I’ve watched the benefit of the unplugged summer vacation for the past two years. My own children gain immense benefit from leisurely days spent exploring to classes that help them engage in a new hobby. Kids love long library visits, outdoor education programs, swimming lessons, baseball games and time to play. There is value in the learning of properly guided summer vacations. I know that not every child has the opportunity for some of these experiences, so can’t we make our school year more like this, so children learn the value and joy of experiential learning?
Teach and encourage kids to think creatively and solve authentic problems.
Put aside the worksheets, workbooks, drill and kill, lectures and any other boredom inducing pedagogical practices. Encourage students to solve authentic problems in collaborative groups. Engage students in creative, divergent thinking. Ask questions that require students to think about and use the knowledge rather than regurgitate facts. Emphasize the process and the joy of learning over “covering the content.” Slow down, dig deep and your children will be prepared for life, let alone any standardized assessment thrown their way.
I have a feeling that I have barely scratched the surface on this topic. I may have to post School is Jail, part 2 after I think about it some more.
What are your thoughts?