For many students, school is about snoozing the alarm clock until the very last minute, dragging themselves to school, socializing with friends, and getting the “grade”. School is no longer fun for students. Why? Becaue school has become focused on getting a good grade not learning new information. Students retain the information until the test and then let it go knowing that new information will be force feed to them later. Teachers do not take the time to engage with students and fully develop the information. Many believe that if a student gets an “A” on the final test then they have done their job, but the truth is that students forget information immediately after the text. Students have been wired to look for a good grade, not for retention of learning. If you were to give a student the same exam that he took three months prior, he might do well, but that is not because he retained the information. Many students are being taught how to memorize the information not learn it. If he were to be given the test in a different form and different questions, chances are he has already blocked that information to make room for something new. Because of this student phenomenon, Will Richardson wrote the article “Nine Elephants in the (Class)room That Should “Unsettle” Us.” In this article, Richardson talks about nine classroom realities that teachers are turning a blind eye to. While all nine of the realities seem valid to me, I found three to be too true to ignore.
The first elephant is the second in Richardson’s article:” We know that most of our students are bored and disengaged in school.” There is so much truth in this elephant that it is almost disturbing. Thinking about being a future teacher, I pretend that I am going to be the fun, relatable, and cool teacher who still holds her ground. But the truth is, no matter how cool and fun you are school is still going to be boring. While we cannot change the instinct in students to be bored by school, we can change how school functions. It would take some time, and a lot of convincing, but as soon as the idea was set in place, I believe that students will wake up and be excited to learn. Another elephant that I found to relate well with my thinking is number four.
“We know that we’re not assessing many of the things that really matter for future success.” We all claim that we know that no one student is going to learn the same as another, so why do we believe that all students will assess the same? Even if you differentiate your classroom and learning, many teachers leave out the assessment. It is easier to assess using one single test that applies to most the students, but what about the students who have trouble memorizing answers, or have other ached emic disabilities? What matters is knowing what your students learned at the end of the day, not knowing how much information they can hold before an exam. We are also only assessing the information that the “curriculum” tells us to assess, but what about the information that is valuable to their lives and futures? Why do we forget about the most important aspects of school?
The third elephant falls at number five on Richardson’s list: “We know that grades, not learning, are the outcomes that students and parents are most interested in”. It is obvious when you walk into a school that learning is happening. But what kind of learning are we promoting? To play a sport you must have good grades. To go out with friends you must have good grades, and to be the best student you must have good grades. We have decided that receiving a good grade is the proof that students are “smart” or that they are “learning” but really, it is just a label. A label that says “I can memorize answers, and turn in my work”. Students no longer take their work home to show their parents, but rather, parents get online and look at the grades of their students. To change this, we must find a way to focus students on the learning. We could do this by not assessing for grades, but rather for self-interest. And let students decide what is important.
The truth is that learning is the most important. Sending kids out to learn from the world and know how to handle life experiences. Memorizing and tallying information will never help them to be the best that they can be. If we want the best for our students, and the best future leaders, we must start now. We must stop the idea that learning is reflected through grades and we must show kids that school is fun. When students and teachers work together, collaboration and LEARNING can happen.