Why are the schools always lagging behind injust about everything? I can remember in the early eighties my education professors then touting “inquiry-based” learning as the way to make students rise up to the top of Bloom’s taxonomy. Yet even in the science classes I have observed and even collaborated in today have shown very little use of this technique for learning.
I am beyond frustrated right now because my youngest son used to be such a great student with excellent study habits. He used to dash in from school FRANTIC to gt his work done, even if it wasn’t due for a week. Very different from my oldest, who rarely brought a book home through middle school, but manage almost straight-A’s. When he was in high school, we as parents had to literally teach him from scratch how to “study” and manage assignments. I can’t tell you how many assignments, readings, and or projects we endured staying up until 2:00 in the morning trying to get son #1 to do his work in a quality manner that would get him grades we were accustomed to seeing. He did finally figure out how to study and get good grades. But we laughed that thankfully we would never have to go through this with son #2 b/c school had never come so easy to him, and he had always had to work for his grades, and so study habits were developed all along.
But now I have another worry. Son #1 never indicated ever that he didn’t like school. He always had a goal of going to college, and he was always working towards that goal. Son #2, however, the one who we bragged would have an easier time in high school and eventually college b/c he understood doing homework, doing required reading, spending time studying, and managing his workload in a timely manner, has become vocally VERY disenchanted with school. He despises the ninety minute (four block schedule) classes, as it is ninety straight minutes of torturous boredom. While he is a good student who would NEVER disrupt class, he gets excited when other students show out, as it breaks the tedious boredom they must all endure. The highlight of his week this week was when a student was caught using his cell-phone as a cheat sheet for a vocabulary test. My son’s comment was that was pretty smart to sit and type in all those words and their definitions, and too bad he used it b/c by the time he spent inputting them, he probably had learned the definitions. (I thought yikes, how true!) But my son’s parting comment was he didn’t understand why they were memorizing vocabulary to begin with b/c they never used the words ever. It was a dumb assignment and a classmate got caught cheating on a dumb test using his dumb phone since he probably knew them after putting them in. But at least it broke up the monotony of the day. (My question–though not voiced to him–what is the purpose of the vocabulary quiz–this is not foreign language class or anything like that). This is an 11th grader.
I am discouraged to realize that the vast majority of his teachers are just teaching like they were taught, and probably like their grandaparents were tuaght, when the classrooms are quipped with state of the art technology, like smart boards, projectors, surround sound (I think they use a system called “front row”), wireless access, no less than five computers per class (that are never used according to him). Yet they are discouraged from using most of the tools including their cell phones, ipods, and social networks at school. Yes I’m worried about this one.
My oldest never questioned school, and calmly acquiesced to that standard “game” as he called it. His advice to his brother, and it is sadly and shockingly true, was “Bro, you gotta learn to play their game.” This embarrasses me as an educator. I am in a position where I frequently work side by side with teachers, and I see it just as clearly as my own 2 guys have described it–a game, a power-trip for some teachers. The goal is not to learn, but to endure. My oldest was quite a pro at endurance, but my youngest is not. Is he any less intelligent? No. He is extremely smart too. He is just tired of playing this” dumb” game called school. In his words–school is dumb.
My oldest son is in college 950 miles away, and was adamant about going there. Why? They would immerse him in his field of study right away and not make his sit through a freshman year with the same kind of classes he had to endure in high school. These class would be spread out over his four years instead.
If our schools are embracing advanced tools, why is it taking so long for our teachers to adopt them? Can’t these teachers see the dull, lifeless eyes staring back at them (one set belonging to my son)? How can these teachers go home satisfied at the end of the day when the kids hate their classes? It’s a shame that the easy way out, that of being the sage on the stage in that classroom, is the dominant methodology my son is seeing, when I know there are better ways to teach and reach our youth without totally turning them off to school. I certainly hope he has one innovative teacher this year who can turn him back on. We are seriously close to having a crisis on our hands. (And at least I know these two parents know, understand, and care…imagine how many parents out there are clueless to this epidemic problem.)
“Cell phone.” Papalar’s Photostream. 24 August 2007. 7 September 2007 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/papalars/1225669645/>