Thursday, September 4, 2014

Objectives Not Directives

Who am I to dictate a child's choices when I don't what's best for them, no one but the child knows themselves that well. Even parents don't know what a child's intrinsic motivations necessarily are. I always knew that I'd be a musician which baffled my parents. My choice of college also came out of left field in my parents' eyes. No teacher ever really saw me until a teacher began asking me what I was thinking & feeling & what I wanted to do with my life in a convincing way. Up until that point, I'd been told what to do and fought tooth and nail. I had hated school and all the restrictions, dictations, threats & directives. I think later I became a teacher to protect children from a similar fate.

I want my students to have the skills to skip college, go straight into their careers and/or be their own bosses. The skills I teach (and the skills taught by my peers at Minarets High School) would also make them a rockstar in college, and I've heard back from my students that this is the case. I want the rising generation to innovate the jobs of tomorrow while still in high school because they can. They are the most adaptable generation we've ever had. They are the most comfortable with change & diversity in history. They are the most connected globally as well. For me to presume I know what they want or could be is like a dinosaur deciding what's best for early mammals. I need to guide, not direct. I need to demonstrate skills they find applicable to their own paths, and if I do not have the skills, bring someone professional into the classroom who can, either digitally or physically.

Won't the students seek to be entertained only & fritter away their time?

Maybe at first as a reflexive reaction to all the forced and bribed behaviors we've put them through for a decade, but in time they stop and realize: my teacher is here to help me. This usually is eased by group activities where students direct and drive each other doing choice- or challenge-based projects. Technology imitates a 1:1, teacher:student, relationship with its ease of use, youtube et al & networking capabilities.

Students that fight "teaching" are asking to be free, free to make their own choices. The real person waiting to emerge only has to be coaxed out by giving them choices. Pioneer species in nature are often spiky and spiny (which is why they are labeled weeds or noxious), so too are pioneer people, and so are the initial stages of behavior with people who are afraid to trust.

200 years ago, these high school students weren't children but young adults. They could own land, have businesses, start their careers, get married & even have children. Have their genes changed that drastically? Have we devolved? Likely not. Instead what's more likely is that we've infantalized our nation to keep us in school longer to make more $ wasting each other's time. The liberal arts education (where they choose your path and require you follow a path) is dead in the water. It makes for 10% valuable information and 90% fluff. Even worse, college is no guarantee of getting a good job or even a job at all. We have plenty of engineers that have no work, even though we encourage students to be engineers due to their high paying job possibilities despite the prospects being slim. For many in America, having an education means, being over qualified. Even the service economy is no refuge: McDonald's is about to fire most of its workers and replace them with machines. With that trend, the service economy will evaporate. Even worse, administrative work is almost all automated and digitized, making the majority of the prep kids get in high school and college moot. The jobs of yesterday are disappearing with the retiring generation that created them. We need to embrace a new paradigm for education.

Teamwork, leadership skills, presenting/teaching skills & system design thinking: that's the future. That's even the present model for success for all management roles. Why aren't we teaching our students to be CEOs or entrepreneurs at least? I think it is high time we invest directly in our student's futures instead of vicariously through (and with blind faith in) the collegiate system. We need to bring professionals in our communities into the schools and connect students to the professional world. High schools should have internship programs. Leadership training should be a part of all English Communications curriculum, and NO LEGISLATION CAN DO THAT. Only teachers, parents, administrators and students together can change each other by creating real, working examples of success and improving on each other's work over time. Real growth can never be legislated because legislation is static, and natural growth is exponentially changing, evolving.

Let's design our assignments without directives but with objectives. Let's teach how not what. Let's free our students, so our future is brighter, freer & more profitable.