It might be good I’m on my way to a beach vacation tomorrow…
People who know me, know that my 13 year-old son has been struggling in school. He quit going altogether in the first semester. Then he started the second semester full of promise, excited to go back and be again among his peers. He was still missing a fair number of days, but it seemed to be going OK, for a while. Or maybe I was just hoping that it would be OK.
He saw his counsellor today. She thinks he’s heading for another bout of depression/ shut down. She doesn’t think he’ll make it through the semester. He really, really hates school. I already knew that. He wrote the story below a couple of days ago.
Lesson I learned… (shared with permission)
School is like a prison. You have no power and have no say in what happens around you. It is a system that is awfully designed because they force everyone to learn the same stuff even if they have absolutely no interest.
If it were up to me, you’d have people learning what they want to learn. Then you would have someone to help them learn what they want to learn. You would have classrooms where people could talk to each other about the stuff they learned. For example I might be able to go to a class to talk to others about what I’d learned about global warming. Then we would have debates about how fast it is going and if it is a real thing. You could publish papers about what you had learned and then make videos to reach the people who won’t read the papers.
My school would allow for a good amount of free time. You’d go there for four days a week from 10am – 3pm. When you arrived, you’d pick the class you wanted to go to that day based on the topic you’d been thinking about and working on in your spare time. Every week, there would be a vote among the students to decide what the classroom topics would be for the next week. There would need to be some limits like on lunch. You could only have one lunch block a day because the purpose of being there would be to learn.
My plan is to change the whole school system in the next 20 years. In the meantime, I’ve learned that some teachers are better than others. Some teachers will let me change the things I’m working on like my English teacher who let me read The Iliad instead of The Outsiders.
Back to my words and thoughts…
I’m in the weeks in between two learning conferences that will have in attendance some of the smartest folks I know studying learning (LAK17 and OER17). It is those types of conferences that inspire me, encourage me, enable me to believe that changes is possible.
We started to talk about an e-portfolio to demonstrate his knowledge in science. He learn more l the quantum stuff he’s always talking about and explain why “every gade 8 student should understand quarks.” I started to even think we could generate xAPI statements from his work and think more about what they said about his learning. Maybe he could write some. He does have an interest in programming. We read the new BC Grade 8 science curriculum “with a renewed focus on inquiry…” and got excited.
Then I got an email from the school principal explaining that the only person who could set up a package to demonstrate his learning was a single teacher. The same teacher who has already told me that the only possible way to demonstrate the Grade 8 science competencies was to complete his content-driven multiple choice, fill-in -the-blank and short answer tests and to complete a series of pre-determined lab assignments.
Twice today someone has suggested home schooling. It’s not the first time.
So I think: If the system is not working, leave it? It’s certainly the sane answer.
But as someone who is supposed to start doctoral studies in education this summer who describes her job mostly as enabling change, if I can’t fight to make the system better then who will? Where will my son learn to stand up for his beliefs if I don’t support him? Doesn’t change often start with one child who takes a stand (one smart, sensitive, stubborn child)? Maybe we can work within the system, bring together the administrators, teachers, counsellors (school and private) and psychologist together to think differently and achieve something that benefits more than just us?
And then I think: Maybe the lesson I need to learn is when to simply walk away. (Maybe it’s the lesson I’m about to teach my kids?)
Post Script: Hoping that this is a temporary deflation and that I return from holidays and OER17 re-energized and ready to push more big learning rocks up steep hills.