Put yourself back in one of your childhood classrooms – at the beginning of the day what was it that your teacher always said? If it’s anything like my childhood experience, it was something like “Good morning class.” Then what would happen? The whole class would respond “Good morning…” And what happened if you weren’t loud enough, or respectful enough?
I think we all have lived that situation – and I may even have been guilty of fulfilling the teacher role (as recently as the first day of school… THIS YEAR!!!). But here’s the question, what are we teaching with that call and response open to the day? It’s mostly about teaching obedience. Traditionally, the common school was built to prepare children to become the factory workers of the future. Implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, schools taught students to be obedient, to hold a little back, to do the work assigned and nothing more.
So that brings us to the bigger question: What is school for? While some of our students may consider a role in manufacturing, the factories of today are way different than the ones of the early to mid 1900s that led to this factory model of education. Many of our students will not be heading down the path of manufacturing, so that factory model of school definitely doesn’t apply. If you believe that innovation is going to keep happening (and why wouldn’t it?), then we’re preparing our students for an ever changing world! That is so different from the traditional model of school as a factory. In an excellent TED Talk by Seth Godin, he gives 8 examples of things school should be doing:
- Homework during the day, lectures at night – flipped learning
- Open note and open book all the time – if it’s important enough to memorize, it’s also ok to have to look it up
- Access – any course at any time – programs like Kahn or MOOCs can achieve this
- Precise focused education – not a one size fits all model
- No multiple choice – life isn’t multiple choice
- Experiences instead of test scores – learning is focused on the experiences that take place inside (and outside) of our classroom
- End of compliance as an outcome – while compliance may be needed at times, it shouldn’t be our end goal
- Cooperation instead of isolation – the ability to work with others
I could go into more detail on each of these, but I can’t do any better than what Godin did in his talk, so if you’d like to know more about any of these things, check out that TED Talk here.
So here’s my answer to the question “What is school for?”: I want our students to be equipped to go out into the world and make something that has an impact on their lives and the lives of others. And I want them to know that if they get stuck, to ask for help and support. While we might not always have all the answers, hopefully we can help our student to find the answers.
I’m curious to hear your answers – for you, what is school for? Share your thoughts in the comments below!