Learning That Fits Into Boxes

Yesterday I took a look at a post on the ECOO website.  It was a recording of an episode of The Agenda.  This year the show has really been making an effort to highlight some of the great things happening in Ontario’s education system.  They’ve also been questioning some of the teaching practices that are currently in our classrooms.  If nothing else, this is good food for thought.  Some nice couch-friendly professional development.

This particular episode was awesome.  Michael Fullan spoke about student engagement and how it dwindles with age.  Fullan spoke convincingly about this as a focal point for the improvements that need to happen in Ontario’s Education system.

This year I have noticed how much easier it is to engage primary students (vs junior and intermediates).  I agree with Fullan.  It’s nice, but it’s a problem.  Some might say that it’s developmental or “just the way it is.”  But is it?  Do we as teachers fight that fight?  Do we put ourselves into the shoes of our students? 

If I kept doing the same ol’ then I wouldn’t be engaged.  I can hardly blame older students for tuning out when they are asked to repeat, and do menial work.  I look at divisional meetings, school priorities and boxes that we try to fit our students into, and wonder how I would feel about that if I was a student.  Maybe the older you get, the more you realize that you are in a box?  Then it slowly starts to bore or suffocate you.  Maybe the boxes that we fit kids into to improve their learning are actually counter-productive? Maybe we’ve got it all wrong?  

Maybe we don’t need to talk so much about “best practice” in order to push learning forward.  Maybe we need to focus more on motivating our students. 

Yesterday when discussing 2D geometry with my grade twos I didn’t ask my students “what can you tell me about octagons” to start the lesson.  Instead, I asked them if they wanted to count in Greek with me.  All of a sudden one of the kids made a connection to a shape, then others chimed in… and then came the math.

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It’s not exactly the way that the manual said to start the lesson off…

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