Rising to the Challenge to #MakeSchoolDifferent

I was challenged by Jody Green (@peerlessgreen) to share five things that educators must stop pretending in order to #makeschooldifferent.  Here they are:

  1. Let us stop pretending that adding technology to a classroom will automatically make it more engaging.  I have seen technology change the face of teaching and learning in my own classroom and in our district.  However, if you take your old boring worksheets and put them on an iPad as PDFs, do you know what you get?  You'll get boring digital worksheets!  We have to change how we do business.
  2. Let us stop pretending that there should be dedicated math time, writing time, reading time, etc. within the school day.  As a single-subject science teacher, I've had to adjust my own thinking and learn to address this.  So many teachers have told me that they do not "have the time" to teach science in an elementary classroom.  And you know what?  If you're trying to teach everything in isolation, you're right that there aren't enough hours in they day.  So stop pretending that disciplines are meant to be separated.  Embrace a more holistic approach to education.  Science engages students and taps into their curious spirits.  Give them rich scientific non-fiction text passages to read.  Have them write down their observations and craft scientific explanations with evidence.  Do math with "real" numbers collected by students in an activity.  I bet you can totally "trick" them into doing math and writing when they might otherwise complain because it's under the guise of science.
  3. Let us stop pretending that it is acceptable to use grades to control student behavior.  If a grade is supposed to represent what a student knows and is able to do with respect to a set of statewide expectations, why does behavior factor so heavily into grades?  Late work, missing work, and academic dishonesty are all behavior issues (of varying severity) that should be met with swift behavioral consequences.  Giving students zeroes or half-credit does not address the underlying problem.  And if a kid failed to turn in the assignment does it really mean they understood none of the content?  Give them a detention and have them complete the missing work during detention.  Adjust the grade to reflect their understanding.  Don't tell me that they won't do their work without a grade penalty.  I know better.
  4. Let us stop pretending that failure and confusion are to be avoided at all costs in school.  My high school calculus teacher once told me that, "Confusion is the first step to understanding."  There's a lot of wisdom in that simple phrase.  Learning is messy and struggle is a natural part of learning.  And sometimes, we fail.  But we have to learn to move forward from failure.
  5. Finally, let us stop pretending that students only learn during school hours.  Students today literally have the world at their fingertips with their digital devices.  (That doesn't mean, though, that they know what to do with that information.)  If they want to learn more about photography or cooking, not only is there an app for that, but there's probably a wiki page and a library of YouTube videos to boot.  Spark their curiosity in school and they'll choose to explore it outside of school.

I challenge my colleagues Debbie Kojima @acaciakojima, Stacy Hollenbeck @shollenbeckbw, Joe Kemery @Mr_Kemery, Kim Bass @KimBass4 and Julie Graham @BobcatGraham.  How would you #makeschooldifferent?