Below is a quote from this KQED MindShift article titled “Why Academic Teaching Doesn’t Help Kids Excel in Life:”
Today, I think most kids graduate only knowing if they’re good at school or not. Often our students have many talents; they just don’t fit in our current curriculum because their talents are likely not considered “real knowledge.” And what is that? In the Biology curriculum that I’ve taught for the past several years, one of the objectives that my students need to know is earthworm reproduction. Really? Out of all the things we could be teaching a 17-year-old about biology, someone (a whole panel of someones, we can guess) decided earthworm reproduction was essential?
I am one of 5 siblings, and I am the only one who entered public education as a long-term career. My brother works in construction, my twin sister works for a major IT company, another sister own her own karate studio, and yet another sister is a police officer.
Not one of them needs or has ever needed to know or use 95% of what I taught my 9th graders when I was teaching high school science. And I’m pretty sure most of my students didn’t need most of what I taught them either.
So why do we teach what we teach? (Back to those pesky “why” questions…)
Most of what we teach is mandated to us in the form of standards that are mostly what academics need to know. How we teach that academic stuff most of the time, unfortunately, only teaches students how to be good at school.
We can do better.
At the end of the article, the author (a teacher) suggests a more constructivist approach, with students answering these three questions in her classroom:
- What are you going to learn?
- How are you going to learn it?
- How are you going to show me you’re learning?
Imagine what powerful learning can happen if classrooms were focused around those three questions using mandated standards as a vehicle for this learning. Imagine the ownership, not only of ideas and concepts, but over the process of learning that can happen in classrooms set up around those three questions. Imagine how many students will find their passions in life answering these questions (and think about how many of your students found their passions filling out a worksheet or taking a multiple-choice test).
Imagine. Then make it a reality.
Yes, we have to teach certain stuff that students will never ever need or use. But no one says we have to teach it like we’ve been teaching for the past 100+ years or so. Let’s start teaching so students will be good at life.