What does a typical school day look like? Get to school on time, go to class, sit quietly, do your work, write all your answers down, listen and take notes, leave at the end of the day, do more work when you get home. This sounds pretty routine, and is exactly the model that Ken Robinson was arguing against in his “Changing Education Paradigms.”
In a recent MIT study, researchers identified two categories of work that have been in a fairly consistent decline since 1960. Those are the jobs that are defined as routine and manual. The jobs that have been growing are the non-routine tasks. Those are the tasks that require problem-solving, intuition, persuasion, creativity, situational adaptability, visual and language recognition, and in-person interaction.
In our school improvement plan we say that engagement and inquiry should be in the forefront of our planning. I believe that it is much more important for our students to know how to ask the right questions, and then how to find the answers themselves, rather than simply answering the questions we ask. In the book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler said “The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write. The illiterate will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” This applies to education just as well as it does to any other part of society.
I think that as teachers, many of us think that our classroom should somehow resemble the classrooms of our childhood. When I first started in education, I thought it was a good thing for my students to be quiet – especially when my principal came in the room. Now I don’t feel that way. When a classroom is silent, my first reaction is “are they taking a test?” Collaboration and problem solving rarely involve silence. I’m not saying that it should never be silent in a classroom. There’s a time and a place where that is necessary. However if we are trying to meet the concepts of the Best Practice Model, should it be silent most of the time?
Reflect on your own classroom. What does your class look like most of the time? What changes have you made, or will you continue to make, in order to help your students be ready for the non-routine tasks of their future? In the comments share some of the things you’ve tried before, or share something that you feel like you want to try soon.