School is less than a month away….
I wonder how many of you read that and thought, “I’m so excited!” vs. “Why did you have to bring that up?”
I wonder because I recently read a blog post called At What Price, Intelligence? by Neil Richards that really spoke to me. One excerpt in particular explains a huge problem within our education system, and how this issue is impacting our teachers.
“Creative people – and I firmly believe that teaching is a creative profession – need to be able to express their creativity. The gloriously anarchic minds of children and young people fuel the energies of our teachers and challenge them on a daily basis. It can be exhausting, but also immensely rewarding and exhilarating.... Too many educational systems… stifle creativity by imposing severe limitations upon curriculum design and delivery, and maintain tight control through constant inspections and endless paperwork, driving many of our most creative teachers into other careers (and for those long-serving teachers who have experienced the steady erosion of their self-esteem and expertise, into the relief of early retirement).... If teaching becomes a refuge rather than a vocation, or truly the default career for ‘those who can’t’, the cost to society will be incalculable. And no curriculum framework, inspection regime or performance management system will change a thing.”
I became a teacher because I love the minds of young people and I love the challenge of taking a concept and finding a creative way to teach it. As a student who just finished a Bachelor of Education, my knowledge of the education system began with hearing stories from my mom and my aunt, who have both been teachers for over 20 years.
Currently, my job is to meet with teachers and learn about how they can be better supported to effectively teach 21st century skills, specifically global competency. In this role, I have learned that teachers are exhausted while trying to meet new demands with limited time and resources to do so.
I thought it would be useful to share the method that I use to develop creative ideas that help me feel inspired and excited to get to class: education podcasts! Below I've listed some of my favourite podcasts from this summer.
These podcasts are about 21st century teachers; teachers who are finding a way to express their creativity and make change happen, despite the limitations. For those of you that have long commutes to your schools, try listening to one of these podcasts each morning during your first week back and see the difference it makes!
Stephen Ritz, a South Bronx educator, used project-based learning to develop a school gardening program for a class filled with IEPs and students living below the poverty line. This is a person who believes teachers can change “can’t and won’t, to must and done.” He believes that the purpose of education is to move individuals and society forward. He attributes the success of this program and his career to creating relationships, and having high expectations for his students.
My biggest take away: “People don’t need a handout... What people need is a hand up… Inclusivity means you know, you’re asking someone to dance with them to their music and celebrating them…”
Dr. Ken Robinson perfectly explains what is lacking in our education system. He discusses how the world is changing and how the education system is not changing at the same speed.
My biggest take away: “All kids have tremendous talents and we squander them…. Creativity in education now is just as important as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”
Matt Vaudrey and John Stevens are Math teachers in California that have co-wrote the book, The Classroom Chef. Although they are intermediate/senior math teachers, this podcast and their book is for teachers from all backgrounds. The excerpt below sums up my biggest take away from this book:
“If we want our lessons to have a long-lasting impact on our students, if we want to make our content really relevant to them, we need to design our instruction the way a chef orchestrates a good meal. Rather than giving in to the educational equivalent of processed food, we could be putting more thought into preparing our lessons, from the appetizer all the way to dessert. Just like with cooking, teaching well is hard. And like any accomplished chef, we will only get really good at it if we take risks, if we experiment, if we’re willing to fall flat on our faces.”
Pushing the Edge interviews teachers that are taking risks, questioning the status quo and bringing topics of social justice into their teaching. There are many different podcasts listed here but my personal favourite is “Students As Change-Makers” with Christina Torres. Christina talks about giving up control in her classroom and using her unconventional lessons to show how students can create change.
My biggest take away: “Empower students to organize themselves.”
John Macdonald was a grade five teacher and the Director of Technology and Innovation for the Redmond School District. He is now the Education Content and Training Manager for Sphero Education. John was also part of the Technical Working Group for the 2016 National Education Technology Plan and participated in an international UNESCO forum focused on ICT in Education.
My biggest take away: “Not every student has equitable access to the same learning environment, so through technology we can level the playing field a little bit.”
Chimamanda Adichie is a novelist who explains the danger of exposing only one story within the education system, and how this narrative can lead to stereotypes and misunderstandings.
My biggest take away: “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
Dr. Todd Schmidt is an administrator at Harbor View Elementary School. His school participates in an annual Global School Play Day. The purpose of the day is to promote the importance of unstructured play in the development of children and young people.
My biggest take away: “The impact that my teachers saw in their students learning, that went way beyond…. We started to see less behaviour problems because we were giving students the opportunity to move.”
Alexandrea Alphonso, Ryan Greenberg, and Trisha Quan work at Google, Twitter and Pinterest respectively. Based on their experiences in these successful tech-based companies, they give us advice on what skills they believe students need to succeed in the 21st century. This is a very interesting podcast and a must listen for teachers looking to prepare students for a constantly changing workforce.
My biggest take away: “The areas where I didn't feel particularly, adequately prepared were around the softer skills of working in the industry—growth mindset, and things that are more related to how you approach working.”
I hope these podcasts help in finding new resources for teaching in the 21st century, and get you excited to enter a new school year filled with new and creative possibilities!