Friday, April 30, 2010

Leave the learning to the kids!

Education is too important for adults to take so seriously - such seriousness kills the creative spirit that is every child's evolutionary inheritance. Schools , like doctors should at least do no harm! Progress depends on first imagining possibilities.

As Einstein said,'Imagination is more important than knowledge for knowledge is limited whereas imagination embraces the entire world stimulating progress giving birth to evolution'.He also said it was a miracle that children's' sense of wonder was not crushed by modern schooling.

School are increasingly looking like organisations dedicated to the standardisation of children.Teachers have been infected over the past decades with a range of pseudo scientific management processes to ensure all students learn - what their teachers intend them to learn. Standardisation and formulaic teaching is the name of the game.Creativity and imagination are not really valued -and this will worsen with the introduction of the National Standards. And who know where the standards will take us!

The spirit of creative teaching is being lost. Once such creativity, by both teachers and students, was a feature of many New Zealand classrooms.

We need to value childhood for what it offers us - to remind us of what many of us have lost. Being childlike is a valuable trait. Free of imposed conceptions young learner are able to see clearly for themselves and in the process create their own unique minds.

What they get up to may seem irrational to our adult 'trained' minds but children's imagination is what the world needs. It needs to be protected and valued not shaped by teacher's intentions, success criteria, endless testing, so called best practice, heavy handed feedback, feed forward and next steps teaching. All left over thinking from failed industrial age thinking. The future demand creativity in every sphere and particularly in teaching. Teachers, it seems, are now the most over controlled professions of all.

We need to encourage wishful thinking in our children, encourage them to have ago , try things out , enjoy their 'mistakes' as information for their next time. After all this is how Google works with it's staff. But what would they know - have they done their mega research on old ideas?

Young children are idealists ; they like dreaming of new possibilities. These attributes are the best predictors of future success not the narrowing down of intelligence by imposed standards no matter how sensible to academic adults they seem. We need students who can ask good questions and who can engage in good discussions.

All the wisdom does not reside at the Ministry or in university education departments - teachers can learn more by just watching their students, and by providing the necessary conditions and providing encouragement - this is a creative art in itself. In such an environment( as at Google) a engaging curriculum 'emerges' with teachers and learner learning together.

All too often schooling restricts children learning capabilities and narrows their view of what could be. And all too often a fear of trying new things becomes the norm - and a fear of experimentation. Children soon learn to sink down to the level of teachers expectations measuring themselves by the wrong criteria.

Creative teacher believe that all kids want to learn and see their role as providing supportive and challenging learning environments -once again as at Google.

By being too heavy handed we are under-estimating children's ability.We need to stand back and involve ourselves lightly. We need to observe and listen to notice appropriate times to assist. Socrates is still a state of the art teacher!

If we could truly develop creative schools then we would have a better chance of developing adults that are open to new ideas, able to make the world a better place. We have plenty evidence of what alienated and uncreative school failures can do.

For a new creative age we need new ideas-and only creative schools and teacher can achieve this. We need students who know how to explore and how to think about issues that they see as important. In the future successful people will be those who use their minds well - who know how to ask the pertinent questions for a living. Those with a well developed sense of imagination will have the currency to thrive in the future.

Being creative is all about being comfortable with the unknown -and this is the essence of both science and the arts. The future is search for the best questions not past best practice answers.

As country we need to develop a cutural disposition to encourage innovative thinking and risk taking.

The Ministry of Education ironically taking us back to the failed certainties of the past -and too many schools seem set to follow.

Now if they were children they would see clearly the the Emperor has no clothes.


marlene campbell said...

How refreshing to read a post reminding us of the obvious! Have you sent this to MsTolley? Oh, no of course not evidence shows the Minister does not read material that says anything but "1 in 5 students leave school not reading and writing" Blah Blah Blah! And also that comment.. Many schools seem ready to follow and make clones as an education goal. Why are the NZ principals not rioting? Why are so many so called educational leaders sitting on their hands and nodding nonsensically at Ms Tolleys political propoganda? What happened to educators having a spine? Thinking critically and expressing total abhorrance at this political nightmare for future students.NZ education system and the new NZC gave our students a real chance at cutting edge innovative education, before it even got oxygen in it we have National's national Standards!Where are the advocates for kids, creativity and innovative curriculum that was community designed? Would the real educators please stand up?

Mike said...

Marlene (and Bruce),

I am not rioting because I know that I would be burnt-out and not get the nation-wide change I want. One school at at time. Don't follow the nodding or hand sitting principals you mention. Keep your own school true to NZ's real educational values and other will follow.

Too much noise being made about what not to do won't get what we should be doing happening for our kids.

Roll on in the spirit of Beeby and Dewey or spend most of my time thinking about Tolley? I know which I am choosing.

Best wishes

Bruce said...

Great to hear from you both. Thought you would both be watching the Highlanders beat the Waratahs. It pays not to give up!

I know there are innovative principals still out there who will keep up the resistance. You are right Mike - keep thinking about inspirational teaching and resist getting dragged down by the propoganda of the ice queen.

To misquote G K Chesterton, 'If a thing is not worth doing do it badly and get on with what is important.

Anonymous said...

Do you think that Kevin roberts is saying that here?

He certainly isn't advocating National Standards - he's advocating creativity.

Bruce said...

A great video clip. Exactly the same message. I am a great fan of Kevin Roberts. His emphasis on ideas, creativity, insight and foresight, not information , research and data is spot on. Everyone should view the clip - just google Kevin Roberts utube.

Jody Hayes said...

I'm sure I can do this ... call it 'student voice'... meant to be building this!

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