Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Does high school stink?

Does high school stink?
Many students would say “yes” to the above question, because high school is a place where they are told what to do over and over again.  We, as teachers, have watched other teachers teach, but how many educators have watched students learn?  How many teachers can remember back to their days in high school?  Students go to their first period class, then their second period class, get 40 min of lunch to eat as fast as they can, then two more periods in the day.  How much of what they did in that day can be remembered?
Most of the things they are told to do over and over again, they do without any reason of why they are doing it or even know where they are going to need it again in life.  Some outcomes, I teach due to my mandated outcomes, are never going to be needed outside the walls of my class.  One example is in Math 30 Applied I teach how to use a matrix.  The course is designed for students who are going into jobs where the higher end theory of mathematics will not be needed.  The question I have is, “Where are they going to use matrices in their life?”
I have heard of schools who give students “pre-tests” before they enter the school.  They use these results to determine the student’s weaknesses and enrol them in the courses they are weak in.  Isn’t this contradictory?  Shouldn’t we be focusing on interests, joy and passion for students, not what they hate? These schools are telling students “just don’t suck at the things you are bad at”.
Due to these outcomes, and mandated courses, students will ask “When will I need this?”  For which most respond with:
“You’re going to need it someday.”
“It will be on the test.”
“It’ll help you get a job.”
“It looks good on a resume.”
“It’s a required class.”
And sadly, “Because someone told me you had to learn it”
I say, there should only be two lessons from every high school class and that is to teach students how to learn and critically think.  When students, in my math class, ask me about math I respond with, “Math is the language of logic and reasoning.  If you can think mathematically, you can truly demonstrate correct logic, deduction and use of abstract ideas.  Math is about seeing patterns in life and explaining why these patterns are such.  Math allows people to make predictions about quantities or ideas that may be unknown; quantifying the unquantifiable.”
Classes should no longer be silos of information with teachers being heralds of facts, but instead we should be providing students with lenses to see the world from a new view, and allow students to create ideas that they can truly call their own.  Schools should be focusing on creating citizens not on creating workers! 
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