Articles for September 2014

Blog 1: To Create is Human

Blog 1: To Create is Human

1. In his book World Class Learners, Zhao quotes a report that defines entrepreneurial mindset as a “critical mix of success-oriented attitudes of initiative, intelligent risk-taking, collaboration, and opportunity recognition”. This mindset stems from the spirit of creativity that so many feel is missing in education as well as student confidence. If the entrepreneurial mindset were used to develop, teach, and assess the curriculums we teach, we could help our students redefine themselves and likewise, change the trajectory of their future. The strategy of being college and/or career ready does not ensure our children a job on the other side of education. Our instruction needs to prepare students for careers that we haven’t even conceived to date. People will need to be well rounded and not just skilled in common core subjects. The purpose of education would be transformed. The debate rages that currently, we teach to test. Our homogenous curriculum restricts students from exercising creativity and therefore, problem solving. The standardization of education would likely be eliminated. While core subjects do hold importance, the exceptional classes for music, drama, technology, and art would require a higher precedence than what we currently possess. The cooperative environment that these subjects foster encourages learning as a group and not as a sole student. Instruction will have to meet students where they are and celebrate their specific abilities and empower those talents, which other students may not possess. The value of the student will then be established in the global arena. A great deal would have to change at my school. We have a very transient demographic with an 80 percent population receiving free or reduced lunch. Likewise, we are a Title 1 school. As educators, we need to be more receptive and willing to further differentiate the instruction. We should learn to harness the creativity of our diverse student body as well as teach the common core in creative ways. This would increase the interest level of the students and make the content more engaging. Despite the fact we teach common core, we are marginally proficient. We also need to do more to bridge the cultural gap in areas of language and interpretation of information. Many of our students are ESL/ELL. We need more staff to address the needs of these students and their families. Similarly, more resources need to be made available to assist these parents in student accountability for instruction and life away from school. We are in a new facility this year, having the greatest amount of technology available for teachers and students. We must not engross ourselves with the sparkle and glitz of new Smart Boards. We should not put the technology in the teachers’ hands for teaching, but in the hands of the students for learning.
3. When one stacks the Common Core Standards against an alternative learning environment such as The Tinkering School, it is quickly apparent that the concepts are quite varied. CCS was established due to questions about the continuity of content being taught across states. In contrast, The Tinkering School was founded in order to prosper children’s creativity and possibilities. CCS is based on growing research in relation to the skill sets students need to be college and career ready following high school. CCS sets out the expectations and standards for all and establishes benchmarks that place all students on an even playing field; all students will be able to compete with other students based on the same attributes. The assessments used to measure these benchmarks are designed with common core in mind. At The Tinkering School, assessments and benchmarks are abstract. Both the CCS and The Tinkering School direct the creative energies of students but in very different ways. With the CCS emphasis on reading and math, the creative disciplines are channeled back to these core subjects. This means that students do not develop the exceptional skills from these courses. At The Tinkering School, the projects are inspired with little more than a Sharpie marker and a stack of post it notes. Things are done on a big scale and each project encourages the campers to work cooperatively, but they are not assessed as a group. The Tinkering School also believes in no recipes and no stamped out instruction. Learning at The Tinkering School is described as ‘engaged learning that happens hands on’. The philosophy of “think, make, tinker” gives campers the freedom to fail, which is required in order to face adversity and then eventually succeed. CCS instruction is calculated and focused on specific targets. If end-of-grade assessments were administered to both a CCS school and The Tinkering School, I feel that students at the camp would fare better. Their philosophy of failing to succeed is something of old that helped us establish this country. For whatever reason and by whatever means, the adage of pulling one up by their bootstraps is nearly extinct. The strategies the students learn and employ during their stint at the camp would prove invaluable in other arenas of life, especially school instruction. I feel the innovative thinking and inspiration to succeed would far outweigh the short-lived applause received following KPrep. According to authoritarians, CCS is doomed to fail. Its premise is based on a theory with no evidence of success. I’m going to keep my vote with The Tinkering School.

WORKS CITED

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2014). What parents should know. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from: http://www.corestandards.org/what-parents-should-know/

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2014). Myths vs. facts. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from: http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/myths-vs-facts/

Strauss, V. (2014, January 18). Everything you need to know about Common Core-Ravitch. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/18/everything-you-need-to-know-about-common-core-ravitch/