Friday, February 28, 2014

Students are the Locomotive, We Are the Tracks

    The greatest people in history have been those who have asked questions, tested theories, and dared to try again despite numerous failures. The best teachers in history have been those who have guided their pupils to greatness rather than simply trying to tell them how to get there. The tracks were laid first, but the the cargo does not reach the final destination without the power of the locomotive. Our students have talent, skills, and interests that are waiting to be fostered and directed. Some are harder to discover but they are all there.

This is where the problem lies in many of our schools today. We have made our schools so dependent on “one size fits all” instructional strategies, that we have robbed our teachers and students of the most fundamental element of learning…interest. Do you really think Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, the Wright Brothers, Michael Jordan or Mozart would have accomplished revolutionary things if they were doing it through multiple test choice.

At the school where I work we have made it a goal to provide students with the opportunities to find their uncovered talents, skills, and interests. We have by no means mastered that goal but we are making progress. I have seen so many examples of students taking an interest of theirs (art, photography, writing, the outdoors) and leveraged that into well rounded success. I have seen students become professionals with my own eyes before they even leave high school. The good news is we are not the only school doing this and there is a big movement toward providing students with the kind of powerful education they will need to live in today’s world.

In our country, we have taken schools who are “failing” with high drop out rates and low test scores and tried to fix them by given them more of the same thing. You think a student who is on the verge of dropping out and is struggling with math is going to have a great turn around because you gave him/her another dry math class…..No! How about appealing to that student’s interest in mechanics or robotics? Because the only way someone becomes successful, is by that person having a vested interest in the process.

Teachers, we cannot stand in front of our classes and deliver content as if we are the only person on the planet who knows the information. We need to allow our students to get their hands dirty. I did not learn to change the oil by hearing a lecture from my father. I learned by actually doing it and then I taught my sister. We are preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist yet, so our best bet is to teach them to organize, think critically, collaborate, write, present, market themselves, and preserver throughout struggles.

We can teach them skills through interesting, scaffolded, challenging projects that force them to ask questions and provide them with choices. We must remember that we are the tracks and they are the locomotive. Both rely on each other to get the job done but the train itself is where the power comes from. Leading is Teaching.

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