Looking at Learning

While reading an article this week about “unschooling” I pondered how some of the statements made by students and parents provide thoughtful points as teachers plan for the start of the new school year:
“Being bored makes school miserable for a lot of kids, plus there is the element of compulsion, which completely changes any activity.”

This is my reason for saying that the opening days of school need to pack a wow! Too many students are walking in the door expecting compulsion and boring.(Wow! Adding Pizzazz to Teaching and Learning)

“Unschooling parents are doing what good parents do anyway when they’re on summer vacation.” …books and films, art supplies and building materials …They visited beaches, museums and forests…

Joe Hasenstab, the founder of Performance Learning Systems, has always suggested that the school day should look more like the extra-curricular activities that occur after school.

Often the most important learning at school occurs after 3pm.

“…the approach is more than hands-on, child-directed, experience-based learning…It just gets schooling out of the way so various unique dynamic personal creative ways of growing up, living, participating and contributing to communities can develop.”

As the year begins, teachers should be thinking, ”How will I personalize the year to the students I have?….meaning I need to get to know the students as my first task. I need to empower the learners to drive the classroom activities.

“School was really wasting our time,” (a parent) said. “The kids had so many things they wanted to do and places they wanted to go and things they wanted to talk about, and all we could do was mindless homework. It was very frustrating.”

I remember having a discussion with a parent who was homeschooling who told me that one of the best parts was that there was no homework. She described how she often found that homework assignments interfered with an entire family’s plans. Teachers probably want to think carefully about homework assignments. More options, choice, and student decisions can probably increase the payoff of homework.

Diana Laufenberg on a TED Talkprovides three strategies for consideration that mirror the unschooling comments above… experiential learning, student voice, and embracing failure.

School leaders and coaches might want to share Laufenberg’s video with staff and then group teachers to design ways that the opening weeks of school could include…

Experiential Learning….see the website What Kids Can Do for ideas.

Hear from elementary students and their teachers at Edutopia.

Student Voice– Observe Middle School student making video clips (like KhanAcademy) to teach their colleagues.

Embracing Failure – check my earlier blog on learning from mistakes

Consider an “unfaculty” meeting to start the thinking. Enjoy learning!

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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