As hard as it is for me, or any classroom teacher for that matter, to spend time away from the classroom and leave our charges in the hands of an albeit qualified and well-intentioned substitute, I took advantage of the opportunity to participate in this professional development day. And like most PD days, I walked away with something that will change my teaching for the better. I love to learn. I love to be exposed to new ideas. I love to sit in a room with other educators and discuss our practice. It’s transformative. This day was no different.
“The best 7 hours” -- this is the phrase from the conference that resonated with me.
In fact, I picked my son up from school after the workshop and asked him, “How was school?” This question sound familiar? We all ask it when our kids come home from school. From my daugher, the answer is always filled with highs, lows, laughter and stories. For my son, the answer is always, “What do you think? It was school.” His answer comes with snark, sarcasm, bitterness. Granted, he is a teenage boy, so he isn’t nearly as verbose as my daughter, but, nevertheless, it makes me sad he doesn’t enjoy his time there.
This day, I pushed for a little more information. I asked, “Is school ever the best 7 hours of your day?” He looked at me and rolled his eyes. I continued. I shared with him that this question came from my day’s experience at a workshop, and the presenter reminding us -- the teachers -- that we should strive for this for our students. He responded, “Why would they do that?” More snark. He’s a tough audience.
Our kids today are part of a new generation. I know, we hear this all the time. But this workshop forced me to think about what this means? And it dawned on me that this “new generation” is one that can’t even compare to my own. Whereas we have lived through the birth of technology innovation and have learned, and potentially even embraced, it as an add-on to our lives, our kids are tech-innate. Technology IS their lives. They know nothing else. They don’t have any idea what it’s like to have to go to the library to get an answer to something. When my kids don’t know something, they “Google it.” Their world is information rich; it always has been. Since day 1. The learning of knowledge for them isn’t the end product, because knowledge is everywhere.
Our world is no longer about what we know -- it’s about what we DO with what we know.
Our kids today want to DO. They want to use this abundance of knowledge. The want to create, to invent, to act. We all know they still need to “learn” in order to “do,” but the learning no longer has to be straight facts; rather, it can be patterns, creativity, collaboration, higher-level thinking processes, strategies, skills -- imagine, even, the power of their learning how to be curious.
If these were the traits of our local schools for EVERY PERIOD, EVERY DAY, then I can guarantee my son would love school. He would be doing. He would be active in his learning. He would see the connection of the content to his life; he would see relevancy and purpose. He would begin to think about his future and actually start designing it.
This isn’t a teacher issue -- it’s a system issue. And a system is hard to change, but it’s going to have to if we are going to inspire our kids for life beyond high school -- college, career, community -- and to inspire them to dream for a better world.
My hope is that our schools begin thinking about the seven hours they have and begin dreaming big. Remember the old KFWB mantra -- “Give us 24 minutes, and we’ll give you the world”?
Imagine the power of having seven hours -- the world would only be the beginning.