If You Can’t Imagine It, You Can’t Make It Happen

I sat through a meeting the other day, listening to educators discuss the merits of not accepting zeros on missing or late assignments vs. “it’s too much work to follow up with kids, so I’m giving zeros anyway. Plus, I have to teach them to be accountable.”

Regardless of how you feel about this “hot topic” or any of Ken O’Connor’s work, I think it’s important to look more carefully at WHY kids aren’t doing their work in or out of the classroom. Personally, I feel a lot of kids aren’t just behavior problems. I think they’re bored. Bored out of their ever-living minds.

When they walk in the door of their school, they are required to “unplug.” How many classrooms still look like the straight, orderly rows that existed 10, 20, 30 years ago? Even if the classrooms aren’t orderly, how many teachers are willing to give up their role as “knowledge provider” and become the guide that assists the students in their self-directed learning? As soon as those kids walk out the door of their school and go home, they plug back in. They become creators. They become developers. And they learn in spite of what happens at school.

I’m not saying that all schools are like this… or even every classroom. But I do think there’s a huge dilemma in American education where the almighty test score reigns, and teaching to the test has become the rule. Kids who know how to play the “game of school” will perform adequately, but imagine what they could do if given a chance to move outside that game. And those kids who don’t play that game very well could wake up to a whole new world of learning. That’s really exciting!

Will Richardson just posted “Waking Up With a ‘Cognitive Surplus.'” Read it. Then go read Clay Shirky‘s book and book blog. Everything my measly little brain has tried to express in the last two years is right there.

I really think that we, as educators, are smack dab in the most exciting and phenomenal of times. Think about the possibilities! Imagine where you might be able to lead kids… or even better… where they might be able to lead you! If you’re not excited about this, I’ll be blunt. Maybe it’s time to consider another career. Our kids can’t wait for you to catch up or buy into what they are doing. They need our guidance. They need boundaries. They need to know how to be safe. But that other stuff we think we need to teach them? They can find that in about 10 seconds. Help them analyze, evaluate, synthesize it. And then allow them to grow with it. Can you imagine it???

I hope so.