Tuesday, November 14, 2017

5 things students should leave school with

There's so much to teach! Standards, skills, knowledge, content, soft skills, citizenship, etc. The list goes on! As a student travels the k-12 journey, by the end, what should they have to show for it? In other words, what should students absolutely get out of their k-12 experience? We are kidding ourselves if we think they will retain EVERYTHING we are teaching them. So, when they leave school, what are the essential things we, as educators, want them to have?

1. Ability to read. No doubt, we need our students to be able to read and comprehend. The ability to read (and more importantly, the love of reading) can unlock so many doors and opportunities for them in life. No matter the content or the age level, getting students to increase their ability to read and comprehend sets them up for major success in their future. So what should they read? Novels! No student ever gets excited to read a textbook. Perhaps a few, sure, but if you want to spark that love of reading, get them hooked with a gripping story. ELA teachers especially are in a prime position to get novels into the hands of their students. Castaway that textbook nobody likes to read and get a novel into their hands. Who doesn't love a good story? Power in storytelling. Power in novels.

2. Curiosity. The only thing that a teacher can do to make me angry is if they crush my own child's curious spirit. If curiosity is gone, then that's a bad thing. I strongly believe that students enter school extremely curious. Watch 1-4-year-olds play and they are all over the place, checking out everything! They are curious and hungry to learn about the world around them. When they enter school, this should be fostered and allowed to grow! A curious mind craves learning and that is a great thing we can provide our students.

3. Confidence. If I could instill a computer chip into my own kids' brain with one characteristic, it would be confidence. A confident person allows so many negative things to fall by the wayside. A confident person does not get bullied. A confident person believes in themselves and believes they can accomplish great things. A confident person helps those less fortunate. They help the weak, the down and out. Confidence helps students through tough situations and gives them the ability to handle things. With confidence, comes all sorts of other "soft skills" that students will need in life.

4. Ability to think and wonder. When faced with a difficult situation or problem, we want our students to think about it and try, not shut down right away and have the fixed mindset that they can't do it. We want our students to have the reaction of "I'll think it through and work to come up with a solution." We want our students to think for themselves and not blindly follow the herd of sheep. We want our students to be able to let their mind wander and imagine.

5. Empathy. There's perhaps no greater characteristic than empathy. If our students leave school with empathy towards and for others, they are going to make the world a better place because they will be impacting people. Empathic students are not entitled. Empathetic students seek out those who need help. Empathetic students are the impact makers. Developing empathetic students means they are able to pop their own little bubble and see the world around them.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pencils are made all wrong!

I have a big problem with the way pencils are made. They are made all wrong. Think about it--when using a pencil, what runs out first-the lead or the eraser? DUH! It's obvious. The eraser always runs out first. Why? Because it's EXTREMELY small compared to the pencil lead. I was sitting in a classroom the other day looking at a cup full of pencils. There were about 30 of them. EVERY pencil had no eraser. It had been used up, worn down to just the metal. See, here's the thing--pencils are all wrong because the way they are made, with such a small eraser that gets used up so quickly, discourages risk-taking. When you take risks, you might make a mistake, which is OK! With such a small eraser, the students are not able to fix their mistakes. They are discouraged from trying because if they mess up and need to try again, they have no eraser left to do so. Think about it--if you look at a pencil and that really small nub of an eraser, it just screams at you: "Don't mess up too much because you have a very limited eraser here!"  Rather, the eraser should be much bigger and longer because then, the students get this message, "Go ahead! Try! Take a risk! And if you make a mistake, that's okay because you can erase it!" Too often, students hold themselves back from trying something new or difficult because they "don't want to get it wrong" or they "don't want to mess up." But that mindset needs to change. Taking risks and trying new things is how real learning happens. Deep learning comes from students trying something, potentially making a mistake and learning from it. It's the power of the reflective process! 
So if you know someone who works at a pencil factory, tell them to increase the size of the eraser!