April 28, 2011

Divergent Thinking

Mr. Robinson makes some very interesting arguments during his speech challenging the way we educate our children. His observations question the current system in place pointing out the reasons for its many inefficiencies and how it fails our students. Having listened to this type of rhetoric before, I question how realistic it is to change the system.

While I commend how numerous classroom teachers attempt to expose their students to this model of education, I cannot help but think about what happens to them when they move to another grade and therefore another teacher who might not teach the same way. Will they be at a disadvantage because expectations have changed?

This leads me to my first point: an educational model that aims to change the way we teach and the way our students learn must come from the top down. The powers that be must be willing to provide the logistics for change: i.e. train teachers on how to teach using this educational model. The expectation must be that every educator is aware of all the differences in how each child learns and then put those insights to use in the classroom. (This should sound familiar: differentiation!) Which leads to my next point...

Our teachers are poorly trained. I do not mean to say that we cannot handle the material or that we are unqualified for the classroom. I mean that we teachers often receive less than stellar professional development. Don't get me wrong, my aim is not to criticize but merely to state that in order to bring about true educational reform, the system must improve the way it trains its teachers. I use differentiation as an example because I myself still struggle with the concept because I feel that I have yet to receive any helpful training in the matter.

Finally, the education system must also reform how it defines success for its teachers and for every student. When teachers and students alike are being judged solely based on test scores (i.e. TDRs, promotional criteria) then I cannot really blame teachers for teaching to the test. Robinson mentions this over-reliance on testing data and I certainly agree with him. Testing should not be the sole measure of a year's worth of work. Our students are promoted to the next grade if they achieve 2 of the 3 criteria: Pass the State Test, Pass the class, Attendance. I really believe it should be all three. This environment of high-stakes testing in our schools provides little motivation for educational reform.

So, I'm not quite sure what to make of Mr. Robinson's talk. While I agree on many of his points, I simply ask "HOW can we actually achieve it?" Until that question is answered by the people in charge, I feel that the status quo for how we educate our students will remain (with a few tweaks here and there from some very dedicated teachers). It is unfortunate that these teachers are the exceptions rather than the rule.

No comments:

Post a Comment