Sometimes change happens slowly and sometimes it happens in a flash. Schools are notoriously slow. In a world that is moving from flash to flash, we’re slugging along in a system that can’t possibly help our kids adapt.
And I’m not talking about technology. They already know how to do that better than we do. What they need to do is want to come to school to learn about themselves, each other, and the world. They need skills to create useful and beautiful things, and to learn to communicate effectively and respectfully.
In high schools, non-attendance is at epidemic levels, and most of the kids who are there attend because they are driven by competition to do well or to get an exam exemption. This isn’t to say they haven’t left their homes in the morning – they do. And often they’re wandering the halls looking for friends to connect with or end up somewhere else just hanging out.
Why don’t our schools help them fill this need to connect? To others, to ideas?
I think it’s because teachers are required to stifle their own passion in the name of standardization. If I had the autonomy and time to create my classroom and curriculum in ways that I know – through experience, study, and instinct – will get the kids fired up about ideas and meaningful work, I guarantee your kids would want to come to class.
The education system is tired and ready to crumble under the weight of too much bureaucracy. Too many years as a disconnected, piecemeal factory model. Too much history in streaming kids by social identity.
What it does have right now is your attention and hell of a lot of possibility. I see light beaming through the cracks in the foundation, and that’s why I will be voting no to this latest contract. I can’t let myself pass up an opportunity to effect real, true change. If this contract goes through, we go back to slugging along grinding the gears of a system that isn’t relevant anymore. The kids know it and we know it.
This moment was not won easily, and it won’t come again soon. Maybe not in our lifetimes. If we seal up the cracks in the foundation we’ll get by, but barely. And our kids will continue to disengage and our teachers will go back to resenting the top down initiatives and meetings and meaningless data collection. And everyone will take their place as cogs in the wheel when what they yearn to do is feel something real.