I had the opportunity recently to spend a couple of days with teachers and leaders at a pretty sizable, well regarded, “high performing” district in the US. Today, one of those in attendance sent me the thoughts below that her son had written after a she had a discussion with him about the ideas and themes of my presentations. Apparently they resonated. He gave me permission to share it anonymously as he felt these ideas were more a compilation of he and his peers rather than his alone. Have a look:
We are the lost generation. Many teachers think standardized tests, endless worksheets, and piles of homework are the answer. The other half don’t believe in homework, think standardized tests are moronic, and believe in activities that make us enjoy the lesson. But it’s too harsh a mix for either side to get its point across. So we end up with this generation who doesn’t care about education or can’t find a motivation to continue it.
The thing is we don’t care. It’s not because we don’t want to care, but it feels like we can’t care. One year you have a drill sergeant for an English teacher who jams vocabulary down your throat to the point you can’t think anymore, who constantly prepares you (not adequately enough) for the never ending flow of standardized tests that seem to be as common as the rising tide. Then next year you get a teacher who wants to teach, who loves to teach, who’s “untraditional”. And you want to learn, you really do! But all you can think when you raise your hand is “will this be on the test”. That’s all that seems to matter.
First period will take your phone on sight if it simply falls out of your backpack, while third period encourages the use of all devices. We feel lost. Half of the kids don’t want to learn because learning to them means: classwork, grade, fail- homework, grade, fail- test, grade, fail. It’s an endless cycle they can’t win. The other half of kids desperately wants to learn, but can’t find the motivation because their teacher could be so out of tune with how to correctly teach nowadays, that it sucks the passion from them.
We’ve become divided. It becomes cool to hate school. To hate learning and education. I separate these by sentences because I believe they are no longer synonymous with each other. Kids love to learn. They hate school. School has become a life draining institution that takes passionate, longing kids and leaves them hollowed husks, begging for a passing grade so they have a slightly better chance to move to the next year. Too many have simply given up. Too many, students and teachers alike, have given up on each other, and the system designed to enlighten us, when in reality all is does is throw us into uneducated darkness.
A couple of quick reactions.
First, this pushed my own thinking about how kids find the school experience, not so much deadly and boring as inconsistent. Imagine being buffeted back and forth by changing expectations, regulations, levels of expertise and passion. How difficult must that be for kids who are trying to figure out what the best path forward is in their learning lives? (And there are pages and pages to write about why those inconsistencies exist…)
And second, I wonder, somewhat hopefully, if what this student is articulating is being caused in some way by an awakening on the part of teachers to the realities of the moment. Have we always been this inconsistent in schools, or are we moreso now because the traditional practices and systems are beginning to break because of our expanding, near ubiquitous access to knowledge, information, teachers, and technologies?
Would love to hear your thoughts.