Saturday, 15 October 2016

Day 15 - An Eighties Education

I am a big fan of #BFC630NZ, a fifteen minute “sparkchat” which takes place at 6.30am each weekday on Twitter. One provocation about teaching and learning is posted each day and the discussions that ensue are a great way to get inspired for the day, over morning coffee.


This week, Anneke (@askawenga) asked the following question:


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This really made me think about the things I had loved most about my (very traditional) schooling. These included

Handwriting lessons 

Spelling tests
Maths worksheets straight off the banda machine (remember that smell?!)  
Finishing all the little green PM books and getting to, “The Hungry Lambs” Oh happy day!


All of these learning experiences carried the bribe of pretty gold stars for getting 100%. That was so incredibly motivating for me. I must have been my teachers’ dream student, easily bought with extrinsic motivators. To them, I probably appeared engaged but in all honesty, I was just going through the motions, the picture of compliance. I never really had to work hard to do well on these tasks. There was very little deep thinking or creativity involved. I never needed to persevere to complete anything challenging and my work looked exactly the same as that of most of my classmates, although just between you and me, I strongly believed that the title pages for my projects on Western Samoa and Japan were much prettier than everyone else’s! It was all very standardised and every single one of us followed exactly the same path, at exactly the same time. And I LOVED it! I was the perfect student and my light blue, Pacific exercise books were full of gold stars……




I know our teachers had our very best interests at heart and that this approach reflected the educational beliefs of the time. However, I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I say that I stumbled spectacularly in my final years of high school and at university due to not having developed the dispositions necessary for challenging learning. And of course, the gold stars had dried up. I had no grit and a very fixed mindset. I was completely unprepared for my future.


At this point, I’ll add a disclaimer: it has always bothered me when I hear comments suggesting that our fundamental role as educators is to prepare learners for their futures. I see my role as so much more than just paving the way for when “real life” begins. I hope that, in my care, my learners are growing to love learning NOW, that they are finding ways to make a difference in their world NOW and that they are immersed in experiences and exposed to ideas which make them compassionate, open-minded crictical thinkers….just generally good human beings.


Having said that, we all want our learners to thrive when they do eventually enter the workforce but achieving this seems to be a moving target in this fast-changing world. Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing the Singularity U movie, “The University” and was struck once again, by just how dramatically the world of work is changing, and at breakneck speed. So how do we ensure that our schools reflect the change happening in the workforce so that our learners won’t find themselves, as I did, lacking the attitudes and skills needed to thrive?  

How are our schools tackling this challenge? What practical steps is your school taking?

8 comments:

  1. Love your idea that we should be doing more than just preparing our students for their future. We also need to make sure they are resilient and prepared enough to enjoy their present.

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    1. Thanks, Jacky. I totally agree. Christchurch kids have had more than their fair share of opportunities to practice resilience! ;)

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  2. Thanks for the honest account as I can so relate to this. I was a model student too and loved 'getting it right' and being given ticks. I cried when I got 15/20 for a test once, and quit university the first time around (I folded under the pressure). It's been a long road to developing a growth mindset but now it's the No1 lesson I want to leave my students with. Since I never experienced the struggles and the joys of problem solving, collaboration and learning with real meaning, it's what's got me hooked on innovative teaching: I'm learning alongside my students, as you say, right NOW.

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    1. Thanks, Ximena! I was like you....I never did really badly because if I chose my subjects around the ones I thought gave me the opportunities to get the highest grades for the least amount of effort. Yikes.......

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  3. What a great read! Without one single ounce of facetiousness lady, it is such a pleasure to work alongside you - you are inspiring and challenging, not to mention super fun. We are so lucky to have had you teach our daughter (and you can't leave till you've taught the other one!!) Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. Awwwww, Greg. That's so lovely. Thank you so much. I feel exactly the same- privileged to work with you; what an awesome team we have!

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  4. I too, love the thinking that it about more than preparing young people for the future- its about helping them thrive in the now!

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    1. I agree, Karyn! I'd love to hear how Haeata is going to tackle this challenge. I'm sure you have lots of amazing programmes planned.

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