Friday, October 17, 2014

(For Students) It's Always About Next Year


Although I am no longer much of a country music fan, I came across this song recently. The tune is called, “What About Now?” by the band Lonestar. I apologize in advance if it is now stuck in your head for the rest of the day. That wasn’t my intent (well maybe it was). Accept my apologies.

What is Lonestar doing in a story about education?

If you’ve ever been around a group of students you have certainly heard the phrase, “what about now?” uttered more than once.  Students ask, “what about now?” all day long in response to statements like:

  • “you will need to know X to learn a more complex concept next year.” 
  • “you need to learn how to write this type of paper to get into college.”
  • “you might not use this now, but you’ll thank me in the future.” 
  • “my job is to prepare you for the next level of school.”
  • “this test score will impact what happens next in your life.” 
  • “you need to learn this basic stuff before we can start hands-on learning next.” 

WHAT ABOUT NOW?

Poor kids. They must wonder whether anything they are learning is of relevance and importance right now, in the present.

I don’t blame teachers. Heck, I am a teacher. We are part of the solution, trust me. I blame a school system, even a society, that doesn’t value kids as kids. We live in a system that values kids as performers, so naturally we have to prepare them for the next big show. Schools, as a system, continually insist we need to prepare students for the next level, the next stage, the next grade, the next concept, the next test. Its no wonder students don’t care about school right now.

Let’s start really thinking about skills students can learn right now to solve problems that interest them. What skills help kids to be collaborative, critical thinkers right now? Besides skills, how might this change the subjects or topics we teach? How can we make their studies more relevant to their lives right now? How can school curriculum benefit them right now? How does learning help build or improve their communities right now? How will instruction help them finish an engaging project, problem, or invention, right now?

Its not always about next year.

Let’s funnel our inner Lonestar. What about now? Chances are that if we focus more on the present, students will be prepared for the future as well.

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