The Definition of Insanity

You’ve heard the phrase before:  Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

When I’ve recognized it, I nod my head in agreement:  surely, this (whatever I’m doing at the time) is insane.  We’ve all been there, and hopefully, when we see that the same old processes and actions aren’t producing the results we want, we change course.

How is it we can recognize these patterns in our everyday lives, but not in education?

ticked off student

In a recent article, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post quotes the work of Alfie Kohn, in which he outlines ten things about learning that are absolutely true, yet we continue to largely ignore them in our educational system.  You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here, but for your brief reading purposes, here are the “Ten Obvious Truths About Educating Kids that Keep Getting Ignored:”

  1. Much of the material students are required to memorize is soon forgotten.
  2. Just knowing a lot of facts doesn’t mean you’re smart.
  3. Students are more likely to learn what they find interesting.
  4. Students are less interested in whatever they’re forced to do, and more enthusiastic when they have some say.
  5. Just because doing X raises standardized test scores doesn’t mean X should be done.
  6. Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about.
  7. We want children to develop in many ways, not just academically.
  8. Just because a lesson (or book, or class, or test) is harder, doesn’t mean it’s better.
  9. Kids aren’t just short adults.
  10. Substance matters more than labels.

If we are all talking about education reform, but continuing to ignore these naturally-occurring truths about children and how they learn, we aren’t going to change anything.  We’re going to continue to spin in this endless cycle of dissatisfaction, continue to throw money at the problem rather than real solutions, and in the generations to come, we’ll wonder why we’ve “fallen behind” – which is a another discussion in and of itself.

Let’s stop the insanity.

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Class Dismissed

For a long time, I believed that the best way to disseminate knowledge and information (a.k.a. to educate someone) was through the recently-adopted concept of teaching at a school.  In the past handful of years, I’ve come to realize that true “education” has nothing to do with a group of same-age children reading texts and completing worksheets together in an isolated room.  For as many reasons people will divulge to support the traditional school setting, I can come up with just as many to refute it.  While I am still, by many means, beginning this journey, one thing I’ve come to know is true (after MUCH personal internal conflict about EVERYTHING I’ve ever known about teaching):  education in America is broken.

You’ve heard this before – this is not a newsflash for you.

Problems run rampant within our educational “system” today and there are simply too many to list here, though I hope to address each one individually at a later time – which will likely take me the rest of my living days.  But I digress…

Maybe you are a parent or teacher or student who disagrees with me and finds that you’ve had a virtually pain/problem-free experience with traditional schooling.  I’m happy for you, but I have two questions:  When did you/your children attend school?  Where did you/your children attend school?  Because the answers to those questions can heavily impact your opinion of traditional school and how your opinion relates to traditional schooling today, in this country.

I’m beginning to “see the light” and it is with great joy and humility that I attribute my most recent awakenings to my daughter.  As of my writing this, she is 1 day away from turning 2 years old and has taught me more about how children humans learn, than any book, college course, or professional development program.

It is an absolute marvel to observe her and speak with her.  Yes, I have conversations with my 2 year old.  And most of the time, they make sense and go well.  The other times?  Well, she is still a toddler…

crazy toddler

So, it is with great pleasure that I share with you the next piece of my educational reform puzzle…  Class Dismissed: A film about learning outside of the classroom.

classdismissed

If you’ve seen this movie, great!  I will be joining your ranks shortly.  There are two viewings coming up in the next week, and I’m planning to attend both.  Based on the trailers I’ve seen so far and the internet chatter, I’m guessing this is going to be an eye-opening movie that will likely change the course of my career and educational path for my children.

At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

In the meantime, here is a quick teaser from the movie:

Tune in next week when I’ll give my first review on the whole film!