Saturday, April 4, 2009

"Playing School"

I just watched a video called "Pay Attention" . The video was a conglomeration of facts and statements presented in a "Did you know" fashion. I love these types of videos because they force me to reconsider what I am doing and what I believe about education.

In one section of the video, a statement made by a student appears that is extremely impactful and should force all educators to rethink their respective pedagogical practices. The student claimed that he had learned to "play school", to study facts the night before an exam and regurgitate them the next day thus becoming a successful student. To me, this hits home in a profound way.

Our schools and classrooms are designed in a way that does not mirror or represent the lived experiences of our students. Every day we ask young boys and girls to sit still, be quiet, and listen. Why? Classrooms today look very much like they did a century ago, but the world does not. The educational establishment, of which I am a part, is obsolete and irrelevant to many students. To realize this is almost depressing and certainly frightening.

The term 'paradigm shift' is ridiculously overused and incorrectly used. People today seem to think that any minor change in their lives represents a shift in paradigm, but that is really not the case. The fact that the term is over used represents our common fear of change. We, in education, are more afraid than anyone. We must engage in a genuine paradigm shift in order to best serve our students and avoid fossilization!

The video made me recall a conversation I had with a colleague last Tuesday over the issue of cel phones in school. My colleague was almost violently opposed to their presence in the school and I could not help but engage in a debate. I asked her why and she claimed they were nothing but a distraction and that they allowed for too much communication. I gasped, half because of the nonsensical nature of the comment and half because I realized that my gut response may not have been much different. As such, I am rethinking my stance on cel phones and other technology access points and their availability.

If I students can't have a cel phone because they can easily cheat on my exam, the problem is actually the exam!


  1. are really smart. Are you married??

    You are right on the money with this posting. The world today looks nothing like it did 100 years ago so why should our classrooms??

  2. Trevor, I too have come to the realization that the problem with education is us with us being society in general. We have all had the experience of school and, therefore, many of us believe that we know what school should be. The idea that it worked for me when I was a kid is interfering with progress.

    You have made a big step in identifying the exam as the problem. And I take it you are using the exam much like a metaphor for school. The things we are doing in school do not reflect the realities of many of our youth, so why are we still doing it? The reality is that schools are difficult institutions to change, but if we do not change, I wonder how many youth will reject the institution as irrelevant. Even as a parent, I am questioning why I sent my children to a place that shows such little respect to the ways of the real world and the way people are learning today.