How Do We Get Kids to Learn?
As educators in School District 27J, we have incredible capacity to think, teach, and adjust our practice for the greater purpose of helping all kids learn. We give an extraordinary number of hours every day, week, month, school year toward the betterment of kids. We show up every day with the greatest intent on influencing the faces sitting before us. Yet with all this capacity, and all this energy given to aid our students, we remain stuck on one very difficult challenge… How do we get kids to learn?
The question sounds simple enough, but there are so many various perspectives to this question.
An external frame: How do we get kids to learn…
- with the economy bearing down on our working conditions, with increased work load, and increased class sizes?
- with the societal problems we face, with declining values, shootings at movie theaters and crimes in our hallways?
- when students have parents who are facing many challenges that prevent them from being the most active influence on their child?
A work load frame: How do we get kids to learn…
- when we have way too much content to teach, and too little time to adequately teach it?
- when there are so many varied levels of students sitting in from of us?
- when there are so many other things that I have to do that take me away from obsessing on this question?
- with the diversity of today’s learner, within this digital era, and a lack of motivation for my class or school in general?
A teacher preparation frame: How do we get kids to learn…
- when the “Educational Machine” has modeled for us unproductive habits of teaching that didn’t help us learn to be teachers (Tell and Test, sit and get, plug and chug, drill and kill; grade instead of assess; judge and rank instead of providing feedback; mandate compliance instead of inspire engagement; hoop jumping instead of true learning)?
- when my district, my evaluator, my colleagues, and parents have asked for, encouraged, and reinforced traditional teaching practices?
A personal frame: How do we get kids to learn…
- when our own practices are filled with unproductive habits of practice (as described above)?
- when we don’t know how to narrow the content?
- when we don’t have the strategies to engage our students in rigorous thinking?
- when we don’t know what else we could do besides follow the curricular program, do the worksheets, assign the homework, and give the test?
- when we feel like we must grade everything to justify the grade book?
- when we don’t know what learning would really look like, or what my kids would do to demonstrate it?
It should be obvious to the reader, that this list is far from complete and wrought with variables outside of our control. And yet we do have some control. We have control to take on what we can, and deliver on what we know in order to better our practice. We can begin a journey of actualization. We can think about the learning our students are doing and our evidence that proves that they understand it. We can think about our teaching and its influences on our students and their learning. We can play with our habits, and try to produce new ones that give more ownership and responsibility to the learner. We can control ourselves, we can encourage more thinking in our classrooms, and we can obsess over the unanswered question.. How do we get kids to learn?
We are thrilled to have you join our thinking in this blog space. We look forward to continuing conversation, reflection, and hearing from you as we challenge what has been, and what can be in our classrooms.