I was just recently issued a challenge by a good principal friend of mine, Adam Welcome, to post ideas around specific topics each week. I think it is a wonderful idea. We have the opportunity to reflect each week on important ideas and share each other’s thoughts. Last week, Adam posted a great blog on making schools great by addressing the idea of why students may not like coming to school. I’ve thought about this idea for a week and I have a few thoughts.
In my district, our vision revolves around the PLC Essential Questions:
- What do we expect student to learn?
- How will we know what student have learned?
- How will we respond to student who haven’t learned?
- How will we respond to students who already know?
Wouldn’t be interesting to have another question: How do we respond to students who don’t want to come to school? I’ve seen many different responses to such a question. “It’s the parents’ fault,” “The child just doesn’t want to learn,” “There is a personality conflict with the teacher,” “Kids in the class are mean”. The list of responses is quite extensive. As I look at this list, I don’t see any solutions to the question and there is not any deeper conversation with the child to find out the real reasons why he/she doesn’t like school. Excuses don’t help the child want to come back to school. In fact, it makes it harder. Instead we should think of what we are currently doing that is not working.
I’m a believer in differentiated instruction. I think technology used right will enrich the learning experience of any student. I also believe the traditional methods of instruction are not reaching all students they way we should. Are we taking advantage of methods that have been working in other schools and in the business world? What about Genius Hour, Project based Learning, Flipped Classrooms, Gamification?
Are we really looking at what motivates students to learn? Some think that a punishment and reward system works. If we pay attention to the work that Daniel Pink has done, we know that this is not what drives success. We need to employ methods that develop an internal drive to succeed.
I’ve been reading Mindset, a great book on the study of how the mind works. It is interesting to read about the differences in a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Considering the topic at hand, under a fixed mindset we come up with excuses and are satisfied with the idea that there is nothing more we can do to help every student enjoy at least some parts of school outside of recess and PE. Under the growth mindset, we ask ourselves questions such as Jaime Escalante asked himself when helping his inner-city Hispanic students pass college-level calculus: “How can I teach them?” not “Can I teach them?” and “How will they learn best?” not “Can they learn?” I like what Benjamin Bloom concluded after his intensive research on school learning. He said, “What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.”
We are in the business of helping every child reach their potential, even the ones who don’t want to be at school. Let’s make it happen.