...re-imagining what our students and teachers are capable of doing.
This quote is taken from the website for 'Most Likely to Succeed', a documentary hoping to inspire an educational revolution. We watched this film on a PD day recently. As I was watching, I was inspired to write down some things I heard that stood out. I also jotted down my thinking (I practice what I preach) I'm sharing my thoughts here in hopes of starting a discussion with educators, parents and students about education and how it is delivered.
To start off with I was super grumpy on the morning I watched this which may be the reason this sounds like a grumpy old school marm wrote the review...
Secondly, this is American. Understand that their system is different, but not unlike the Ontario Education system.
1 - The opening sequence where we are introduced to the character who is 'bored' in school and is under performing - am I supposed to be motivated by this sequence or alarmed? I do understand that the education system fails kids. What I have a problem with here is that it becomes the teacher's problem that the student is bored.
Ok, need to be positive, keep watching. Obviously this is not the only point of the film...
2 - Alarming that the modern education system was developed in the late 1800's and it hasn't really changed much. Again, not feeling too motivated by this revelation. And I do feel like students at some point need to learn how to sit and read and write and listen. The high school/university/college system demands this of our students, so this revolution needs to occur in Preschool and go all the way through to post secondary school.
3 - Interesting point - School is an organization tool NOT an educational system
So how we organize students in school does not help to educate them? I can understand that and then it makes sense that many students do not flourish within the organization of a school, yet are very successful in other aspects of life. If we end 'school' as we know it, what would happen to the students who are successful in the current school setting? I know, I know, they will have to learn perseverance, grit and resilience!
4 - Interesting point #2 - Kids would learn if they felt it would help them do something. Brilliant. So teachers have the challenge of making sure that their lessons and students activities always show a real world connection. That is challenging but an important part of education. I believe this is what was lacking in the education system when teachers were in school. We never 'got' how what we were learning was going to make any difference in our lives. I believe teachers work very hard to make real world connections to their lessons. This is why I would encourage high school students to pursue a trade in post secondary. Learn something that is going to benefit you!
5 - High Tech High - I loved this school but it also gives me anxiety. Probably because it's so far from how I've taught and so far from the school I teach in. How do you even start? I know I'm supposed to be motivated, but it seems so far from where we are. What I do love and tried to do as a classroom teacher is the public exhibition. I believe having a deadline, after which you are responsible to an audience, gives a class focus and something to truly strive towards.
I also understand why parents might be nervous to have their kids attend High Tech High even though it is amazing. They have to do the 'old school' stuff to get into a good college and get the job. Are these alternative schools going to do this for them when post secondary is still based on an old school framework? Unfortunately here in Ontario our measure of success is still the report card and the standardized test. Until we change this, we are handcuffed to these tools of measuring how our students are doing. These things then dictate how students move through secondary school, post secondary school and then eventually the real world
6 - We must be teaching Soft Skills - confidence, dealing with criticism, independent work etc. Students do not have these soft skills and then are blindsided in the work force when they can't work as a group and break down when people give them constructive criticism.
7 - Real education is messy. Any attempt to standardize education ignores the fact that we evolve. Education is more like gardening that engineering. You don't paint petals! Growth comes with the right conditions.
I feel like these film makers are preaching to the choir. Teachers know the system has to change. We are powerless to change the century old ways. Do we need an education revolution? Yes! Has the world changed since we were in school? Yes! Changing the education will be a huge undertaking. It goes way beyond changing what happens within the walls of a school. You have to change the ideology of a society. It can't just happen at the school level. It will definitely have to be a societal revolution.