I saw this video last week during a presentation by Dr. Tim Elmore. It has been on my brain all week. I feel like it encompasses my thoughts and concerns about education.
We are in a battle in education right now and its a battle for the futures of our children. Do we want a culture of compliance or a culture of learning?
For my classroom, for my school, for my child I want a culture of learning. A culture where questions guide learning and creativity is a path to mastery. A culture where students remember an experience in learning and not the letter grade behind it. A culture that moves beyond a diploma, an honor cord, or a test score. Learning that is deeper. Learning that is participatory and experiential and inquiry driven. Learning built around authenticity and individual strengths and self-reflection.
I can’t tell you about much of my learning in elementary school. I don’t remember test scores, except the one the teacher posted on a bulletin board that I wrote about here. I don’t remember units of study. I don’t remember what my textbooks looked like or the books I read in school.
I don’t remember…
Obviously I learned something. In my gut I think it must have just been the basics.
I don’t remember because I grew up in a culture of compliance. My education consisted of regurgitation and turning homework in on time and marching through textbooks.
I was educated in perfectly straight rows, a teacher in the front of the room all day, every day. I learned in a classroom where the red pen was king and it could slay your self- worth with a simple stroke.
My educational environment wasn’t a culture of learning and so I don’t remember much of it. I didn’t experience my learning in grade school. I didn’t help to create it. I was playing the game of school.
When I am working on Understanding by Design units I view the Enduring Understanding as the take away, what I want students to remember 20 years from now about that content. I also see it as the Big Idea in a museum exhibition. Exhibit designers think long and hard about what they want visitors to carry with them when they leave an exhibition. The choices in the exhibition all contribute to that Big Idea. It’s hard to craft Enduring Understandings and Big Ideas because their implications go beyond the lesson, the day, and the school year. They are timeless. And every decision about the daily classroom experience, from technology integration to assessment, contributes to that timeless understanding or big idea.
When I think about what I want my students to walk out with at the end of a unit or a year, I want them to walk away feeling as though they were part of a community and a culture of learning. I want them to remember the learning 20 years from now and 50 years now. Compliance won’t get my students there. Experiential learning and individual student empowerment will.