This past Wednesday we had a faculty meeting to discuss students that are failing. The leadership team in our school – made up of teachers – is outstanding! There are extremely organized people on this team and people who are highly effective educators in our school. This team works diligently helping make the educational experience for our students useful and successful. The rest of us need to listen to their analysis and act!
We broke into small groups to identify exactly why a certain percentage of students are failing. In our small groups we began to throw around ideas as how to cure this issue but then, after 35 minutes, union contract time kicked in and it was time to punch out for the day. We had great discussion amongst colleagues. We all shared our concerns and agreed on why most of these students are failing. We all had the knowledge and experience to identify the issues concerning these students that are not succeeding, however we never arrived at concrete solutions.
Is any one else frustrated by this type of dialog? Apparently the administrators in Rhode Island are tired of all talk and no action. Don’t get me wrong dialog is great, but when do educators finally make an action plan? Yes, I include me in ‘educators’. I can’t imagine what a veteran teacher of 30 years ponders in meetings like these. If they are anything like me – I have only been teaching for 14 years – they are probably tired of listening and participating in this dialog without action.
My guess is this is a fundamental problem in all forms of business that have so many invisible variables affecting the outcome of the product. There are so many well conceived action plans formed in textbooks, lecture halls, and professional development workshops that never ‘hit the floor’. Why?
There was a time not so long ago that I felt so inundated with theories and so overwhelmed with meeting standards for high achievement on standardized tests that I shut down as a teacher. I felt like the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, which way do I turn?…if I only had a brain. I was confused, frustrated, disappointed, and humbled by the mountain of theories I couldn’t apply.
How do we motivate the unmotivated students? We engage them. How do we engage them? We assist them in their learning, we help create authentic learning experiences where students can use information and bring it together creatively. How do we create authentic learning experiences? We ask our students.
Call me crazy…I know some of my fellow educators will…but all I know is that when I go to Home Depot to purchase materials for my latest home improvement project, I ask the expert for information. After I collect that information I use it to create my improvement project. Am I motivated to learn? Absolutely. Educators…yes, including me…need to mimic this type of motivation to learn in our classrooms. It is imperative that we create a culture of learning where information is sought by motivated ‘customers’ from the resident expert, the classroom teacher. Then, as in the Home Depot experience, the customer and the expert work together to discover exactly what is needed for the project to be completed with mastery.
Let’s stop worrying about if we are supported or who is looking over our shoulder, and let’s make it happen in our classrooms! Theories are for laboratories. Our classrooms are not laboratories. Our classrooms house all the tools we need to create real life experiences, authentic learning, for our students. Let’s create a culture where our students are seeking information from the experts. The experts have to be open to learning from their customers by listening closely to what exactly is needed. In order for this to happen, the experts have to respect the customer, generously assist the customer, and be willing to ask, with a genuine smile, “How may I help you today?”