Monday, June 22, 2015

The Inappropriate S Word, Part 1

There is something I need to talk to you about.  I need to talk to you about the children.  Schools and teachers like to call them students- but what they really are, are very young people.  People. Who are individuals.  People who have wholly different experiences from each other, both at home and at school.  People who, though similar in age, are all working variations in the starter kit, as it were.  Not very much unlike other bigger and older people.

We educators, we know this. Right? We know that the people we teach are not all different versions of the same person.  Right? And as such, we don't expect them to all behave the same way, like the same things, enjoy the same materials, know and understand everything the saaaaaaaame way at the saaaaaaaame time.  Right?

You might think you're on to me.  That my big scary S word is Standardization. 

It's not.

It's the word "should". As in - he should be reading. She should know what an invertebrate is. She should sit still in my class. He should be able to solve that. 

Should is very problematic in education.  It does not belong.  It is unwieldy. It is too heavy and burdensome for the people involved. It crushes toes. It damages possibility. It destroys tender, green shoots.  It does not belong.  Should ignores the individual and her triumphs and struggles. Should casts aspersions at the individual and his place in his own learning.  Should says "It does not matter who you are, it matters what I say."

I realize this is a tough fight to pick because in many ways the entire system is predicated on that idea of should.  A five year old should be reading. A 2nd grader should know the parts of a plant. A sixth grader should know how to diagram a sentence.

Really any given curriculum is largely a collection of shoulds. 


But what if?

What if they weren't?

What if we modified them and they were - instead - coulds?! What about that?!

A five year old could be reading. A second grader could know the parts of a plant. A sixth grader could know how to diagram a sentence.

Now it's all about possiblity, about feeding green shoots, about clearing the garden path.

What if educators collectively realized this wonderful approach, and instead of covering material, were able to offer invitations.

Tomorrow, Miss Iona will be showing her collection of beetles from around the world, Mr. Finn will be giving a demonstration on fractions, Miss Dee will be performing an exploding experiment, Mr. David will be reading The Velveteen Rabbit, and Mr. Ryan will be cooking crepes - please sign up for one of these activities.  (Don't see something you want? Ask Miss Josie, she'll try to set something up for you.)

It would be a could explosion!