7 Ways For Promoting More Choice within “Compulsory Schooling”

In John Taylor Gatto’s book, Dumbing Us Down, he contends that compulsory education impacts children in the following ways:

#1: It confuses students.

“I teach the un-relating of everything, an infinite fragmentation the opposite of cohesion.”

#2: It teaches kids to accept their rigid class & grade-level placement.

“The lesson of numbered classes is that everyone has a proper place in the pyramid and that there is no way out of your class except by number magic.”

#3: It makes them indifferent.

“The lesson of the bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too deeply about anything?”

#4: It makes them emotionally dependent.

“By stars and red checks, smiles and frowns, prizes, honors and disgraces I teach kids to surrender their will to the predestined chain of command.”

#5: It makes them intellectually dependent.

“We must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. The expert makes all the important choices.”

#6: It teaches provisional self-esteem.

“A monthly report, impressive in its provision, is sent into students’ homes to signal approval or to mark exactly, down to a single percentage point, how dissatisfied with their children parents should be.”

#7: It teaches them that they cannot hide, due to constant supervision.

“I assign a type of extended schooling called “homework,” so that the effect of surveillance, if not that surveillance itself, travels into private households, where students might otherwise use free time to learn something unauthorized from a father or mother, by exploration, or by apprenticing to some wise person in the neighborhood.”

While I don’t necessarily agree with all he writes, he makes a pretty solid case regarding these consequences of the institution of school. Despite the fact that he wrote it in 1991, we are still seeing similar consequences today.

by Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman, April 22, 2018

Nonetheless, here in 2018, we have so many opportunities to address these issues, even within the construct of “compulsory schooling.” I would like to visit how we might address each one today.

#1: Confusion Seek out inquiry & concept-based learning in which students start with the big concepts. Start with the student by provoking thinking and connections. See my list of provocations here on concepts ranging from empathy to color to how we organize ourselves. And check out Laura England’s fabulous recent example with her students’ big thinking.

#2: Accepting class/grade-level placement  Encourage student voice & global collaboration. Solicit their feedback & regularly meet in class meetings to ascertain their feelings about “how things are” and whether they have ideas on how it might be better. And if they want to talk with students or experts beyond their assigned grade level, facilitate that! See amazing examples here.

#3: Indifference Make time for student inquiry such as Genius Hour or Passion time for students to pursue personally meaningful learning over the longterm. See AJ Juliani’s guide.

#4: Emotional dependence → Reject trinkets & prizes in favor of intrinsic motivation. See this great example of how we can do so with regards to reading from Donalyn Miller.

#5: Intellectual dependence Put students in the driver’s seat as often as possible, from planning their day to self-regulation (see more details). 

#6: Provisional self-esteem  Implement Student-led conferences & blogging to allow students to clearly recognize and share their own learning.

#7: Lack of privacy  Ask what parents need (& otherwise view ourselves as support/appendages to the family, rather than family as an appendage of school).

There will always be limitations within the rigid public school system. However, especially as we make advances in technology that provides more opportunities for personalized learning and agency, there will always be ways to find flexibility to help learners take more ownership over their lives as learners. It may be the next best thing to fully self-directed learning.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Can We Talk About Rationing Screen Time? #TeacherMom

First, let me be clear. I am not in favor of kids spending excessive amounts of time on their devices. The addiction factor, sleep issues, and even growing risk of depression/suicide are all well-known issues for me.

7th grade teacher Pernille Ripp has even recently gone #phonefree in her classroom for these last couple of months, a move her students seem to love as it allows them to more comfortably share vulnerable learning processes.

What I want to discuss is the impact of rationing screen time for our kids. I’m talking about bargaining for behavior, tallying minutes, and otherwise keeping such a tight grip on the amount of time our kids spend on screens that they begin to fixate on it.

It reminds me of what happens when we focus so thoroughly on “forbidden foods” that we end up binge-eating.

What if, instead…

…we regularly discussed the importance of balance?

…we explicitly taught even our young kids that tech can be a tool for empowerment, rather than just an device for entertainment?

 

…we created reasonable default screen time allowances our kids can count on so they don’t have to spend their days worrying when they will next be allowed to watch a movie or play a video game?

…we talked honestly with our kids about our screen time habits — both how we use it for practical and/or positive purposes, and how we are trying to improve not-so-positive habits?

…we set up rules and limitations in a shared manner, learning together about what helps us achieve balance and healthy lifestyle?

Our kids have been born into an remarkable and unprecedented age of technology. Let’s find ways to work alongside them as they work to develop healthy, positive, and balanced habits.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into Skills: Self-Management

We constantly talk about providing our students with skills that allow them to think, act, and choose for themselves. In the PYP, such skills include gross/fine motor skills, organization, time management, safety, healthy lifestyle, codes of behavior, and informed choices.

It’s important to regularly provide our students opportunities to discuss & cultivate those skills. This week’s provocation is designed to get the conversation going.

Resource #1: 3 Ways to Start, by New Age Creators

Resource #2: What Matters to You by Jorge R. Canedo E.

Resource #3: Why Incompetent People Think They’re Amazing by TED-ED

Resource #4: Arat Hosseini’s Instagram account run by his father (I especially loved the Arat’s father’s comment in the second video). 

My son, my hero @arat.gym _____ Father and son #fatherandson

A post shared by Arat Hosseini (@arat.gym) on

✌🏻 👨‍👦 🏅 🏆 @arat.gym I told Arat that’s enough but he wanted to continue. There are times that I get a video from him, but I don’t post it because he looks tired and unhappy , but after we were done with this exercise he told me: dad please post this video , when I grow up I want to see how hard I pushed myself and practiced for being a champion Translated by @asa_kh🌸 💯 💯 🆗 🌎 🌍 🌏 من به آرات گفتم بسه ديگه اما اون خودش ادامه داد. وقتي چهره آرات در فيلمهايي كه ازش ميگيرم به اين حالت است يعني خسته و ناراحت كننده من هيچ وقت فيلمش را نميگذارم اما آخر اين تمرين آرات از من خواست، او گفت: بابا حتما اين فيلمو در پيجم قرار بده تا وقتي بزرگ شدم ببينم چقدر تلاش ميكردم تا روزي قهرمان بشوم. 💯 👌 🌍🌎🌏🆗✌🏻 #sixpack #myson #myhero #hero #baby #kids @arat.gym

A post shared by Arat Hosseini (@arat.gym) on


Resource #5: Forever or A Day by Sarah Jacoby

Provocation Questions:

  • What does it mean to self-manage one’s self?
  • How does self-management impact an individual’s life?
  • What helps a person manage themselves?
  • What obstacles sometimes stand in the way of self-management?
  • How does self-management relate to growth mindset?
  • How does knowing our purpose help us develop self-management skills?
  • How are balance & self-care connected to self-management?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

In Which The 7 Year-Old’s Blog Post Gets More Comments Than Mine #TeacherMom

Last week, my daughter came home commenting about a new bathroom rule at her school: all girls now have to use the restroom 2 at a time due to the fact that girls keep writing on the bathroom walls. As a teacher, I understand why the rule was implemented. As a parent, I understand why she feels frustrated.

Since she just recently asked me to help her set up her own “real blog” (ie, can be read by a real audience), I asked her how she would feel about blogging on the subject. She took to that idea right away — especially once we figured out the speech-to-text feature so she didn’t have to keep fretting about spelling (teacher note: I really like the way speech-to-text requires the kids to pause & reflect to figure out exactly how they will verbalize each sentence).

Once she had her post written, “Fair School,” I, of course, went ahead and shared it with my PLN.

She was amazed to watch the comments pour in, and even took action on a couple of their ideas. She has since shared the post with her teacher, and she plans to try and see if she can meet and then introduce her classmates to their custodian(s) to create more empathy (Thanks, Abe, and everyone else!!)

This has also led to a lot of discussion about how we can inspire people to do good things rather than just try to get them to stop doing bad things. Not an easy task for anyone, that’s for sure, but a very rewarding approach!

Once again, I have found this whole experience to positively reinforce the concepts of digital citizenship, flattened classroom walls, and #StudentVoice. When we provide opportunities for students to share their authentic voices on things that matter to them, powerful learning happens.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Fear vs. Passion

Taking part of the Innovator’s Mindset books study via #IMMOOC was one of the most refreshing professional development experiences I’ve had since leaving the classroom.

One of the reasons I chose to participate was because this feels like an important time for me professionally.

For one thing, I just finished the process of renewing my teaching license, which involved a lot of reflection.  For another, this spring marks 4 years since I’ve been away from the classroom, which is as long as I was actually in the classroom!  I used to think sharing this would hurt my credibility as an educator and as a blogger (“what does she know?”).

Now I know that it’s less about writing what I know and more about writing how I’m growing and changing. I thought Katie Martin summed it up beautifully in the last episode of the #IMMOOC:

“I shifted my thinking from I’m an authority to tell people something vs. This is my space to reflect & learn.”

I feel like this also captures the contrast between working and living from a place of fear vs. a place of passion. Sometimes we think it doesn’t matter if the results are the same (bottom-line thinking); the truth is that fear acts as a drain of our energy and opportunities, while passion feeds our energy and opportunities. While many of us readily accept the above statement, it’s tricky to detect the way it’s playing out in our own lives, particularly if we are, in fact, choosing fear.

My graphic below (last challenge of this #IMMOOC) is meant to capture some of the ways I found that contrast  of fear vs. passion throughout reading George Couros’ Innovator’s Mindset and watching the #IMMOOC episodes. My hope is that it might serve as a tool for self-reflection. I would love to hear additional examples of the difference it makes to choose passion over fear!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

When the Internet Brings Us Something Amazing, Do We Share with our Kids? #TeacherMom

What kinds of conversations do you think OK Go music videos would generate with a 7 and 3 year old?

How about relative size of instruments to produce different sound? “What are they hitting to make music?”

The concept of sponsorship & investment. “Why are are they making such a big mess in that airplane?!”

The idea of stop motion.

(Be sure to check out their behind the scenes of the Upside Down & Inside Out music video. I especially loved the line: “The whole song is sort of around the idea of letting the unfamiliar feelings guide you rather than trying to figure everything out all the time.”)

When the Internet brings us that which truly inspires, do we share with our students? When we do, our roles evolve from consumers to creators as we co-construct wonder with kids. Who knows how the story of the mom who built a house via YouTube videos, or the boy who invented a device to help kids trapped in hot cars, influence the paths our kids take?

Access to one another’s stories is perhaps the most defining feature this technological era. Let’s leverage those stories to inspire and embolden our kids to the ever-greater possibilities of our day.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry Into Action

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

Sometimes, taking action on something that matters to us is big. Sometimes, it’s small. How do we know which is the best path? How do we get started? How do we keep going when it’s hard? Use this week’s provocation into Action to help get kids thinking more about what it means to them.

Resource #1: What Matters to You//Me?

Resource #2: PSA from Patrick Larkin, via AJ Juliani

Resource #3: Mother of 4 Builds House From Scratch By Watching Youtube Videos

Resource #4: What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada

Resource #5: Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Provocation Questions:

  • What does it mean to take action?
  • Why is taking action an important part of learning?
  • How are we responsible for taking action on our learning?
  • How might our perspective on a particular action change over time?
  • Why is taking action so difficult sometimes, even when it’s something important to us?
  • How might technology transform the way we can take action today?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto