In an era when teaching as a profession is disparaged, even vilified, I say let there be more leaders who know the power of “Woot.” I don’t know about you, but I cannot remember a time I experienced a standing ovation with hoots and hollers for a central office meeting. Let’s have some of that Woot to lighten the psychological load of tightened budgets, restricted resources, and political heat. Joy, says a teacher on our staff who’s a certified Laughter Yoga instructor, is extremely therapeutic.
I believe that every person is unique and every child can learn, but I recognize that students learn best when engaged — where expectations are appropriately challenging within an environment that is both safe and that contributes to the dignity and self-worth of all. I also believe that engagement depends on quality interactions resulting from connections that happen inside and outside of the classroom. Here are some of the Engagement+Connection ideas I plan to use this year.
I wonder what effect our societies’ low expectations of adolescents has on their development? What does it do to one’s identity when often we give our teenagers so very few meaningful roles or real work to do? That the five hours they spend in classes a day often results in rote learning that is frequently memorized the night before an exam and then forgotten. What if instead, high school students spent five hours a day constructing an identity while responding creatively to their moment in history? What if they were told they can change the world now?
Is your school not a friendly place for 21st century learning? Don’t lose hope. Stand by your beliefs and remember that it is all about your students. Igniting their passions and teaching them to become connected learners is a gift that will serve them well, no matter what the future brings. Keep finding ways to let students drive their own learning through inquiry and problem solving. Their energy and enthusiasm is contagious, and you will be there to show them that the learning opportunities are limitless.
Prakash Nair asked the audience if THEY’d tried out a student chair lately and wondered if any adult would be willing to sit in such a seat for eight hours at a time? Most in the audience laughed at his question, but it was the laughter of recognition. No way. Why, asked Nair, do the adults get the comfortable chairs, but the kids don’t? Adult chairs are padded. Adult chairs roll. Adult chairs might even have the cool mesh that keeps backs and legs from getting all sweaty. But the learners? Unyielding polypropylene.
The professional development programs that are essential today need to focus not so much on the hardware and software — what “cool tools” we can use — but on changing how teachers view themselves as educators. It’s not just about teaching the three “r’s” and the content packaged in textbooks. It’s about preparing our students with the skills that they need for the future within a new learning ecology. In a connected world, educators have to think and teach differently. This book adopts that attitude.