Recently I have been reviewing a lot of data. I am been reading a lot of information, and I have identified a lot of really interesting videos and statistics that have altered my thought process. Not necessarily change my opinion but definitely alter my thought process.
I have seen videos about how we currently teach to the middle and how in order to bring every student along for the ride we have to stop teaching to the middle. Teaching based on the average student hurts both weak students who need extra help and more advanced students who need more of a challenge. Well this is definitely true but what else can we do to complete this puzzle?
At a recent meeting we spoke about being innovative. Coming from the corporate world I have a very good idea of what innovative means. Having worked for and studied companies like United Parcel Service I have pretty good examples of what innovation looks like. I still have yet to see what innovation looks like from an education standpoint. Instead of innovating I see us moving on a horizontal plane hoping to find the right method to use to teach students. Until we find that method I don't see innovation as a possibility. Often we talk about how things were done in the past and about how antiquated methods of instruction delivery no longer work. This thought process is not innovative and will not lead to a new era in education. It is my belief that they no longer work because fear is no longer a factor. Students feared the ruler to the knuckles and the phone call home or the trip to the principals office. We no longer have that fear and have to rely on curiosity, passion and intrigue. We also have to rely on teachers who feel as though they are needed, respected and engaged themselves to deliver instruction to students in ways that increase curiosity, passion and intrigue.
Some of the articles I have been reading have been talking about High School Graduate Enrollment in College. Only 6 years ago over 70% of graduates were enrolling in College. The latest update in 2012 shows a decline to 66% of graduates enrolling in college. This number has been declining regularly and it is believed that it will continue to decline. Some believe that the decline is due to poor economic conditions as a result of the mortgage mess of 2008. I personally believe that it is partially due to increasing tuition while the major reason is due to lack of interest in college education followed the by a small percentage affected by the economy. Ask these would be students if they know someone with a Sallie Mae student loan and that could be your answer too.
I realized about 2 months into my career in education that not every student was going to go to college. You wonder maybe why that is important. Okay well I will tell you that it is important because often I found myself educating based on the assumption that every student would go to college while indirectly and ignorantly offending those that weren't college bound.Well blended learning may be a solution. Lets talk about innovation.
Blended learning gives me an opportunity to teach more than just the curriculum. We often refer to some of the skills that I teach as "Soft Skills" however I will be using the term "Employability and Interpersonal Skills" for the 2014-2015 school year. Students this year learned how to dress appropriately, how to speak professionally, how to perform in an interview, how to write resumes and cover letters on top of their personal finance curriculum. The new year is exciting to me because I will be taking this to a new level and it will include areas such as:
1) Working in teams of people from various backgrounds
2) How Science and Technology plays a role in the work environment
3) The ability to write and speak well
4) The ability to solve complex problems and think of and evaluate possible solutions and outcomes.
5) What a global environment is and how it could affect them
6) Creativity and Innovation
7) How to adapt to change and new settings.
8) Numbers, numbers and more numbers - Statistical evaluations
9) A strong sense of ethical behavior and how to maintain a high level of integrity.
These are skills that every student needs. Whether they are college bound or not these are essential life skills that will help them in any work world. Either as a civil servant, a cashier or a government employer or executive manager. Incorporating these lessons as part of the curriculum and providing differentiated delivery (3 methods) will help to eliminate the "teaching to the middle" or as I would like to call it, "being an average teacher."