Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wonder vs. rules

As I've said before, I "get" to work with educators around the country. And I do mean that I get to; it's a privilege to be with a group of educators, most of whom are still dedicated to and passionate about their work, who are still interested in improving their skills and in learning new things. These lifelong learners appreciate what it means to be a student and seem to think about their students constantly; in fact, they often seem to put themselves in the seats of their students. That's a keen educational ear. Those are the teachers who get it done.

I've been reviewing some of the work we do, some of the conversations we have about Common Core and College & Career Readiness. I know there's a lot of muck out there about Common Core and I know there are plenty of educators who are being very rigid as they try to implement Common Core. That saddens me because Common Core really is about freeing educators to use their professional judgment and be more creative in their classrooms, to teach more organically and individually, and to know their students and themselves well enough to know when and how to make the kinds of adjustments that need to be made so their kiddos can actually learn.

So that got me to thinking about a conversation we have with educators as we ask them to think about the qualities and characteristics of the college and career ready high school senior. The answers are somewhat typical:
  • critical thinking skills
  • good writing skills
  • good speaking and listening skills
  • self-motivation
  • time management
  • self-discipline
  • technology skills
It's interesting to watch some of them be a bit flummoxed when I ask what they mean by "critical thinking skills" as that's a phrase we use and I'm convinced most of us don't really know what we mean by it. But that's a different post.

Anyway, we also ask about qualities and characteristics of the college and career ready 8th or 5th grader, and then of the kindergartner. Sometimes their eyes open a bit wide, but then they settle in with some confidence and shrug that the answers are the same. After all, we want to start developing those qualities and characteristics for that high school senior when they're in kindergarten.

Shame.

In only one group did any educators talk about kindergarten kids using such words and phrases as these:
  • creativity
  • sense of wonder
  • sense of exploration
  • unaware of what they can and cannot do
I really like those answers. It has occurred to me more than once that many university faculty and many employers are frustrated by students' and employees' inabilities to be creative or to have a sense of wonder or exploration. While we need folks to have some sense of what they can and cannot do, you have to admit, even a little bit, that it can be very refreshing to have the student or employee who expresses some concern or doubt about being able to accomplish something but also expresses the willingness to try, to push beyond that individual comfort zone.

Perhaps as more teachers feel more confident to use their professional judgment and creativity they will be encouraged to invite their students to use their student creativity, to express that sense of wonder or exploration or discovery, and to poke at the perceived limits of their capabilities.

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