Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Let's Make Learning Fun

I read an article about an independent project that was put on Facebook by a friend of mine. A school in Massachusetts allowed some high school kids to create their own curriculum for a year and it changed the life of many of them.

Reading about these kids moved me to tears because I think about the failure of so many young folk in my community who don’t complete their education. They probably get lost along the way and fail to catch up and end up dropping out. To them education is not important and they fail to see the reason why a high school diploma at least will give them a leg up in the ladder of life. Life on the streets gives more relevance to where they are right now. The boring study of algebra has no significance to what’s important in their lives. When I hear of schools like the one in the article, I know that some place, somewhere, there are people who care.

If school were an interesting place, a place that gives the students the desire to learn and explore the world things could be different. But teachers are put in a situation where they want to teach these young minds, but they are caught between the desire to make a difference in a young person’s life and making sure they perform all the tasks they have to in order to meet the school’s expectations. I spoke to a teacher a few months back who was so frustrated with the paperwork she had to fill out with the No Child Left Behind policy, so could hardly do her teaching. I could see how utterly hopeless she felt and imagined that her original desire to become an educator fell by the wayside. So we’ve ended up with schools pushing kids through like a factory making parts for widgets.

My son recently finished school. It was the most boring thing for him to do. He was not challenged with interesting discussion and fascinating problems to solve. He was not allowed to think creatively about how to solve a dilemma. He was given standardized tests and rote memorization and the last year was a struggle. I know a lot rests on his shoulders, but maybe if the high school where he went had more to offer it would not have been so difficult. His teachers wanted him to succeed and we had many discussions about how it could be better, but I think they could only work with what they were given in terms of the curriculum.

We need to engage kids again. We need to allow them to explore their environment and tell us what’s important to them. We need to create more a partnership in learning. These kids are our future and draining them of all creativity and a zest for life doesn’t bode well for us in our golden years.

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