But Do I Have To?

Do we have to learn this?

When I’m teaching real estate courses one of the questions I get asked frequently is “Are we going to have to do this in practice/real life?”  (It might not be a surprise that it most often comes up during math exercises.)

It’s a good question, of course. It’s also a hard one to answer honestly because sometimes “it depends.” So I will often put my tongue in my cheek and reply “Yes, at least once–when you take the final exam at the end of the course.”

I recently finished reading a series of articles on student engagement and motivation that I thought created several important perspectives in relation to that frequently asked question. I was attracted to the series based on a teaser suggesting it’s important to “teach your students how to fail.” Now that’s an interesting concept–and one I’m still exploring.

But what followed was  the suggestion to “teach students to value learning, not performance.” That statement forced me to wheel my chair back and stare at the screen for a while. I admire the simple elegance of that suggestion.

For years we’ve met at the altar of an adult learning model that suggested we (educators/trainers) only have value when we are involved in “performance-based” training. Our lesson plans have to have “action words” in those behavioral objectives.  “At the completion of this course, the student will be able to…”

I remember having my cage rattled quite a few years ago by an instructor who suggested “writing behavioral learning objectives is arrogant and presumptuous–what right do you have to decide what students are going to learn in your classes?” It’s probably fair to label him an extremist, but he makes an interesting point. As if to reinforce his point, I’ve had a number of occasions when a former student has contacted me and thanked me for something he or she learned in my class–and I don’t remember teaching it.

Our obsession with performance (including how students perform on tests) may have some unintended results. I listened to a student at the start of a recent class introduce herself with the observation she “was tired of taking classes and learning.” I thought it was a very sad statement. But I also think she’s wrong. She’s not tired of learning. I think she’s tired of being taught.

Too often our systems of education remove the joy of learning. If we can’t figure out how to put it back in, we ought to at least look at some ways to allow it!

 


 

To read the articles mentioned visit Teachers Training International.

NaNoWriMo 2011

Writing with a broken pencil is…

pointless!

Somewhere along the way I learned that no writing is pointless. I would give a good deal of credit for that to College Professor William Bailey who required every student to keep a daily journal. One sentence per day was the minimum and we were told not to worry about grammar and spelling. He wasn’t going to collect and grade it anyway. I suppose  this would seem pointless, but his objective was to get us used to writing and make writing a somewhat natural activity.

Perhaps the creators of NaNoWriMo were in Professor Bailey’s class. They are sponsoring “thirty days of literary abandon.” In short, participants are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in one month (November).  That’s an average of 1667 words per day.  Last year 200,000 tried–30,000 succeeded.

And, no, I don’t think any of the 30,000 made the New York Times Best Seller’s List. That’s actually not the point. As the creators of this effort say,

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

How can you not love that? You write a lot of “crap,” but when it’s over you get to call yourself a novelist.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that last year 1800 K-12 schools participated and not surprised to discover that some participants actually have had their work published.

No, I probably will not be participating this year. But I do love the concept–and note that this doesn’t just apply to writing. Sometimes you just get started “valuing perseverance and enthusiasm over the craft.”

The word for the day is “intensity” and the question is “What could you accomplish in thirty days if you had it?”

 

Don’t Blame The Teacher!

Here’s a link to an interesting article in the Bangor Daily News:

Moving Beyond ‘Blame The Teacher’

Much as I enjoyed the article, I also ended up frustrated because–try as I might–I could not post a comment! Reading the comments already there made me want to add:

One caution is that we not move from blaming the teachers to blaming the parents. To do so would be to miss the point of the article. You can bet that the schools cited here did far more than is reported in this article. Ultimately, the ENTIRE system was affected. The article perhaps didn’t go quite far enough in describing this. One sentence that needs changing:

“In education as in industry, progress toward quality will require collaboration among administrators, teachers and their unions, the parents and the students themselves.”

Of course Demings wasn’t the only “guru” promoting this thinking, but there was a simple elegance to his approach. The approach forced us to stop finding people to blame and look at the systems those people are working under. Very often those systems punish the very behavior and outcomes being sought and reward the undesired ones.

I was a practicing systems organization development consultant during those years and can attest to the success of the approach. Organizations with red bottom lines were in crisis and desperate for a fix. Those who saw beyond blaming often achieved incredible turnarounds. The need to make a profit can be incredibly motivating.

We might start wondering when we face a similar crisis and the need to teach and develop our kids becomes similarly motivating.

Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

We’re getting close… and it looks like we’re going to have a good sized class! But there’s still room and time to sign up for the media relations class at SeDoMoCha next Tuesday:

No News is NOT Good News

Media Relations for Nonprofessionals

You may be making news, but is it news if nobody knows about it? This class will explore the basics of “getting the word out” through approaches that work for small businesses and non-profit organizations. Participants will learn the hows and whys of getting a story in print or on television, and take home samples of formats as well as a number of tips for maximizing their business or organization’s exposure in the press.

Class will be held on Tuesday, September 20th from 6:30 to8:30 pm at SeDoMoCha in Dover Foxcroft. As a service to businesses and non-profits in the area, class fee is only $10!

For more information or to register, call PVAEC at 564-6525… if space permits, you may be able to sign up the night of class.

Walter Boomsma (“Mr. Boomsma”) writes on a wide array of topics including personal development, teaching and learning. Course information is also available here!