A.J. Juliani & John Spencer ask us to consider what students are "DOING" while in our care at school. It's important to reflect on our process. Do our daily routines and activities lead us to our end goal? Are kids graduating from school and prepared for their ever-changing world?
We are finding that students are not prepared. The world doesn't need a work force that complies and follows a factory manual. It may have worked in the past but now the world wants go-getters, decision makers, collaborators and creators.
When I look at my own school experience, I think people would see success. I was able to play the game of school quite well but was it a success? I got A's and B's, went to college and then I went on to get a masters degree. I've always been employed and I love my profession. That sounds like success, right?
Well, I hated reading when I was in school. I never picked up a book for fun. I also struggled in writing. I was always told what I should write about and what graphic organizer to use. Those experiences killed my desire to write. So, just like reading, I stopped writing. I carried for years the judgement that I wasn't a reader or writer. It's only until recently that I changed my mindset about reading and writing and started to blog. Now, I read and write because I enjoy it.
I also didn't know what my passions were outside of my profession. When I'm not a teacher, musician, mother and wife, what do I like to do? Up to a few years ago, I didn't really know. My school experience did not teach me how I learn best and what my passions are. I figured that out on my own after I graduated. To me, that is the saddest part of all of this. I went to school for years but didn't know I am a visual and bodily kinesthetic learner. I wasn't encouraged to discover and explore passions. I had a fixed mindset and I worried about failing.
Does my school experience sound like a success now? It doesn't to me. I want so much more for my own kids and for my students. I see the system failing my daughter now. She is a fourth grader at a great school and with a wonderful teacher and yet I hear her say often, "I am stupid in math. I can't read. I'm not a writer." Her school career of four years has already reinforced these thoughts by daily routines and activities. She's not the only one. I see kids at school that don't have a spark. They aren't excited about learning.
We have to reconsider what we are doing because it isn't working. A.J. and John remind us that school doesn't have to be this way. We see kids for 400 minutes. Surely we can repurpose those minutes to benefit all kids and empower all kids to take charge of their own learning and passions.
A.J. and John wrote the book, "Empower" to share solutions on how to make the shift from compliance to engagement but also empowerment. I am making small shifts myself to change the K-5 general music program in my school. I started by writing a mission statement for the new school year. This idea was encouraged by Joy Kirr, the author of a fantastic book, "Shift This."
Here are a few more changes I made this school year:
When planning lessons, I look for parts of the lesson where I can slightly alter the process so students have some or more choice and voice.
The kindergarten program this year is not a winter sing but a spring program in the music classroom. The kindergarten students and I planned the program together. To hear more about this, read my last blog post.
Developing a growth mindset and walking the walk is super important if we want our kids to follow suit. I joined #IMMOOC season 3 last fall and couldn't wait to sign up again this February. I've shared with my students my failures and risks. In the music room, we value mistakes because they often turn into happy accidents.
When kids are empowered, they are in charge on their own learning. They are following their passions, making decisions about their own learning and creating products that have meaning and purpose to their own life. This is what I want for all learners.