Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Teachers I like!

I have been visiting primary school classrooms for longer than I care to think so I know what I like! And what I like is where I see students really involved in researching and presenting their ideas using a range of media about studies, topics, projects,that they are totally engrossed in.

I guess that doesn't seem controversial but it not what I usually see. And don't get me wrong, I am not blaming teachers, they conform to current expectations that a focus on literacy and mathematics will solve all problems. I have always loved visiting the teachers who see these 'basics' as 'foundations' to allow their students to engage in their real work of finding out about what they want to learn about; to develop their own mix of talents.

Educators like Seymour Papert ( an expert on computer education) believes students are being turned off learning by an emphasis on separate isolated subjects. A growing number of educators echo this need for students to be involved real life problems. And it is important to appreciate that this emphasis on engaging students in rich , real and relevant problem solving learning experiences is not new, I have observed teachers using this approach for many years.

The introduction of modern technology adds impetus to the need for realistic learning challenges that integrate both traditional and problem solving skills. In classrooms I like I see all around the walls ( and in computer portfolios) quality examples of student thinking: well designed reports, quality related art, sensitive thought writing as well as powerful reports. Such classrooms reflect the real voices of students, their questions and concerns - and their thinking. These classrooms exhibit in depth work and the teachers believe in doing fewer things well. In such classrooms students 'dig deeper' into all they do, sharing their intelligences and learning important future lessons in the process. They also are learning to make connections between otherwise isolated learning areas and, most important of all, are learning to apply their learning skills to whatever challenges that might come their way in the future.

All too often classrooms I visit reflect an obsession with literacy and numeracy all too often divorced from student reality. I also see too many students filling in time with worksheets of little educational validity. One English commentator wrote that the , 'The evil twins of literacy and numeracy are gobbling up the rest of the curriculum.'

My experience shows that there is some truth in this.

Real life experiences that inspire students is the kind of learning that will solve the problems of disengaged students and also, I believe, go a long way towards closing the 'achievement gap' that has pushed teachers into current conformist easily tested or measured programs.

I like classrooms that really reflect true learners at work doing real things well.
Even better, and rarer, are whole schools creating such powerful learning communities.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All so very true! Students never forget such teachers.