Like many families, mine spends part of every evening re-hashing the day – sharing experiences, discussing current events, solving the world’s problems, and arguing whether the X-Men are actual super heroes.
Earlier this week, during a discussion about school, my daughter blurted out:
I really don’t do anything at school. I’m asked to learn stuff that doesn’t mean anything to me in ways that are incredibly boring.
She and I have had this discussion before. She plays the game very well – straight A’s, great test scores. She knows the rules. And the traditional view of school would suggest that because she has a nice GPA she actually knows something. But every time I hear about worksheets, answering questions at the end of the chapter, or high school students reading out loud from the textbook to one another, I’m not convinced. Research is telling all of us that these sorts of instructional strategies don’t impact long-term learning.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working together with a variety of different teacher groups in a variety of different places. But all of the conversations have somehow shifted back to the same basic compelling question:
What does an effective teacher look like?
It’s a great question to ask. We’ve always paid lip service to professional development and learning but it seems as if only recently has the question been taken seriously. The Common Core literacy standards for history and the newly revised Kansas history/government standards are demanding more from our kids – and from us.
So I started thinking about things we can do to get better as social studies teachers. Not stuff organized by our administrators. Informal sorts of things that can make us more effective. I came up with ten. I’m sure there are more but ya gotta start somewhere.
What would you add? Subtract from the list?
So what does a liquid network look like?
- Start by having a conversation about the themes of A Clockwork Orange and A Brave New World with your college-age son home for the holiday break. Realize that the topic has morphed over into brain research. Reference Steven Johnson’s book titled Mind Wide Open. During Mind Wide Open conversation remember that Johnson’s latest book, Where Good Ideas Come From, also references brain research and collaboration.
- Continue the conversation later on historyfriend’s blog post about creating a community of scholars. Reference Johnson’s Good Ideas book. Do search for link to book. Instead, find a TED talk by Johnson about his book. Listen to the TED talk. Suggest video to historyfriend.
- Share discussion with face to face office colleagues and online network. Gather more ideas about how best to organize classrooms for collaborative learning. Realize that these ideas would be perfect for your upcoming cohort session of 40 middle school teachers.
- Walk away smarter because son, Johnson, historyfriend, Amazon, TED, office colleagues, and online friends all combined to help you develop a new idea for how to organize a Teaching American History meeting.
As my only daughter, Erin has to put up with my often expressed frustration with the current education process. Too much sit and get. Too many lectures. Too many worksheets. Not enough critical thinking. Not enough problem solving. Not enough authenticity.
As a junior in high school, she often echoes my frustration. It was several years ago, as an 8th grader, that she became a bit more vocal about it. She was heading out the door on her way to middle school and wasn’t too excited about it.
But bless her heart, she attempted a bit of humor to lighten the mood:
I’m off to change the world, one worksheet at a time.