#edrev- Part 2, What Can I Do Now?

Part 2? What happened to Part 1? I’ve only read the Education Revolution Prologue! Well, Part 1 is reserved for convincing those that do not understand the need for a revolution-those who believe the steady pace of reforms will save education. I feel it is unnecessary to write Part 1 now, since many of you found this site because of your shared passion for reform.  On to Part 2.

What Can I Do Now?

An education revolution can be daunting. So daunting that many wait to act. Others may wait for a solidified movement to organize before moving forward. You can change, you can start a revolution RIGHT NOW if you want.

One simple tip to get you started- stop giving meaningless work to students. I have been teaching for nine years, and I know I have definitely done this. Meaningless work, from a teacher’s end, feels cheap and dirty too. I am sure students see right through it. Students call it busy-work, or other less polite phrases. In Social Studies it always was… color this map, read your textbook, watch this movie… In many ways those activities are awful. I haven’t had students color maps or watch movies in over 1.5 years now. I teach without a textbook. My classroom thrives. Yes, I have room for improvement too.

Here’s how you can tell if your work is meaningless. If you have to work tirelessly to get kids engaged, or if students fall asleep, your work is meaningless… well, at the least, disinteresting. Kids learn through asking questions and inquiry, not forced coloring of maps or completion of textbook worksheets.

Here is a quick list of ways to make your classroom more interesting:

  1. Allow students to determine the path of their learning. Yes, for a time, forget those standards you want to change. Surprisingly, you can lead students to the standards once you get them engaged. If you start with the standards, you are likely already lost. Promote inquiry and problem-based learning!
  2. Students need to create to demonstrate learning. Authentic assessments are a key. Really, what is the alternative? If you are still using multiple choice assessments, abandon them!
  3. Let students use the Internet and their smartphones for… EVERYTHING! If your assessments are such that students can Google the answers, perhaps you are assessing wrong.
  4. Do not teach and reinforce rote learning. No child, before entering school, ever learned about the world through memorization or flash cards. Why would teachers resort to that in school? This is especially prevalent in language classes. I saw a teacher in my school teaching language using children’s books in English. The students needed to translate the book, then read the story to the class in the language. Perfect. My 1.5 year old son does not know words, but he LOVES books and is engaged. How engaged would he be with flashcards?
  5. Stop working individually, as teachers and as students. Subjects taught in isolation lose authenticity. Where possible, combine classes and ideas. English + Social Studies. Math + Science. Those are natural fits that can be done immediately, with willing teachers. Encourage students to work together too.
  6. Arrange the classroom for problem-solving. How many of the world’s problems are solved in isolation? Why are students subjected to this in schools? Who learns this way? Why do we do this to students?
  7. Stop lecturing. Yes, all together. Guess what? I’ve found most students do not pay attention anyway! If you must lecture, give short lectures in small groups, when the group needs the information. Yes, you might “lecture” 5 different times on the Electoral College.  Guess what? The retention rate will be higher than if you said it 5 times in formal lecture to the entire class. Trust me.

These are a scatter-shot of ideas that you can implement immediately. I will share more as the week progresses.

The point- do not wait to revolutionize education. The students you see Monday morning need a change so bad. Change now! You have the power over so many local, school-centric ways to change. Do not wait for the state or national governments to change to justify the change in your classroom.

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