Archive for October, 2012
Have you ever tried to be creative around someone you know doesn’t trust you, or someone that you don’t trust? If you have, and you are anything like me, you probably found it very difficult if not impossible to be creative at all. Trust is extremely important in fostering and nurturing creativity for everyone. We have to be able to trust and know we are trusted in order to take risks we normally wouldn’t have taken.
Just the other day I had a conversation with a fellow educator whose building and district were requiring all teachers to give common end-of-unit assessments. These common assessments were created by an individual or small group of people to insure that all students are held to the same standards district-wide. After thinking about this further, I began to question deeper what impact this could, and probably will, have on education and, more importantly, our students and future leaders.
To me, this implementation of common end-of-unit assessments says something to all of the educators required to give them. It tells them that their leaders don’t trust them. Their leaders don’t trust that the teachers know and understand what levels of mastery their students should be held to. They don’t trust that they will even teach the standards at all. They don’t trust that they will hold all of their students to the same level of mastery. They don’t trust that their educators can and will create strong assessments aligned to the standards.
Why don’t they trust all of this? What other supports could be put in place to help educators hold students to a common standard, teach and assess from the Core, and create strong assessments, yet still tells everyone involved, “I trust you.”
Why not push your teachers to have conversations in learning communities about each of these things? Give them the resources needed and have the conversations around each of these things that stretch and push each other. And, if someone is not holding his or her students to an appropriate level, then have the conversation with him or her about this and take care of it in a way that doesn’t stunt and stifle the level of trust everyone else deserves.
Our teachers need to feel trusted. They need to feel free to take risks and try new things. There hasn’t been a time in education before where creativity was needed more. Our students don’t operate the same as they did in the past. They now want and need things to be more relevant to their interests. They need to know and see why it is important to learn. And, they expect the assessments to have some kind of value to them. In order for all of this to happen, our teachers must have the ability to create personalized assessments that still hold each and every student to the same level. That takes incredible levels of creativity.
Teaching used to be called an art. Some of us are now trying to make it a science. Why can’t we have the best of both worlds? We must be careful with the message we are sending with our initiatives.
What initiatives are you currently doing that limit trust? What are you going to do about them? Trust your teachers and nurture the creativity inside them. This will pay off royally later. Trust me.
What is the purpose of a grade? What is the purpose of semesters, class periods, or even timed tests? What is the purpose of our current system of education? It is my opinion we need to think about these questions so please stop reading for a few minutes and take the time before you read any further.
If you have taken the time to think about each of these questions, you may have come to the same conclusion I have — that each of them has been set in place to rank and order our students. They have not been put in place to support learning for ALL students, only to discover who can learn the fastest, or who can learn the best under the rules and parameters we place on them. How fair is that? Who gets to decide how you learn and how long it should take for you to learn? And to make things worse, in most places it is completely up to the individual teacher what this looks like in their classroom, where each teacher has a different style, and it is up to the students to conform to each style as they enter the classroom.
I want a system to support the learning of every student. One in which all students are given the support, time, and personalization to succeed. One in which students have the freedom and ownership to seek and find what interests them and then use those interests to support their learning of the Common Core Standards. Why did you become an educator? Can we call ourselves educators if we are not truly educating ALL of our students, and instead leaving many behind to fail only because our system does not allow us to give them the time and support the student may need?
Stop worrying about what we have always done, and begin thinking about what we need to stop doing. Begin doing it differently. A true system of learning is one that promotes learning for all. Not some. Not most. All. We know we do not have that system currently. What do you want your education system to support, and what does this system look like?