Saturday, February 04, 2012

Initial Reflections on Educon

As always, Educon overwhelmed my brain. Every conversation, both the formal ones facilitated by specific folks and those that just happened throughout the three days, challenged me to think and focus. I love that about Educon. It makes me think and it gives me hope. It's hard for me to feel pessimistic about education when surrounded by so many educators who are so smart, thoughtful, and hard-working.

There is so much for me to keeping mulling from this wonderful weekend but one comment from Chris Lehmann that got retweeted again and again has stuck with me.

I wasn't in the session at which Chris made this statement so I have no idea of the context. As a result, my reaction to it and reflection on it may be way off from Chris's intent. He's a good guy and I think he'd be okay with that.

Reading this tweet (again and again) reminded  me of how much we, in education, do to students 'to prepare them for the future.' I frequently hear from teachers comments like,
I use the bubble form for the test because they'll have to use it next year so I want them to get used to it.
They'll have worksheet homework next year so I started giving it to them to prepare them.
 They won't be able to use any type of paper they want in middle school so I'm not going to let them do so this year.
High school teachers won't let students use the book during a test so I don't either.
I'm not actually interested in whether or not any of these things are true (although if they aren't it does seem worse). The important piece to me, is that because students will have to do something in the future we should start doing it now. Let's say sixth grade teachers require every student to write a detailed response to a book every month. So, the fifth grade teachers decide to do so 'in order to prepare the kids.' Then, after a while, the fourth grade teachers think they need to 'prepare the kids' as well. How far down will something go before we decide it's absurd? Will we have kindergartners writing responses?

We want school to be a safe place for students. To me, that means it should be physically and emotionally safe. It is possible to prepare kids for what is coming without reproducing it at younger and younger ages.

School doesn't need to reflect all the challenges and ills in the world. Chris is right - there is plenty of time for kids to learn about the negatives in people. School should be about offering students opportunities to learn and grow, not a place to frustrate them and crush their faith and optimism.

We ought to be thinking about who are students are now and what they need at this moment rather than who they will be and what they must do then.


Chris Lehmann said...

Yup. That's pretty much what I meant. :)

Jenny said...

@Chris - Dang, you are fast! I'm glad I didn't completely muddle what you said and/or meant.

Anonymous said...

That part of the conversation happened at about 1:15 on the video

Jenny said...

@Anonymous, Thanks! I really need to find the time to watch a lot of these conversations but it isn't going to happen right away so I appreciate the link and hint at where to start.

The link didn't work for me so I'll try again in case anyone else wants to take a gander: