I'm a little late on this, but it's that time of year. My To Do list is getting the best of me. Better late than never, I suppose.
Background: Governor Branstad's pick for Director of the Iowa Department of Education, Jason Glass, posed Three Questions for Iowa in a recent blogpost. The responses make me proud to be an Iowa educator. You should read them (and add your own thoughts) if you haven't yet.
Here are my responses:
1. What should we stop doing?
All the things we currently do either because of tradition or convenience of the system. A few examples:
Grouping students by age. Just because their birthdays fall between September of one year and September of the next year does not mean a particular group of students comprises an effective learning group.
Defining a school year as 180 days in a building. We need to expand beyond the four walls of our buildings and embrace high quality learning anytime and anywhere. Let's focus on mastery of concepts and skills, not seat time.
Focusing on content. Essentially everything I learned in school I could now learn through iTunesU or YouTube. Content is readily accessible. Let's get beyond memorizing all the capitals and all the helping verbs. Let's teach our students how to be thinkers, creators, and problem-solvers.
Thinking between the lines. I'm talking classroom lines, grade level lines, building lines, district lines, and more. We no longer have (and should no longer demand) a funding model to support this kind of isolationist thinking. Education is not a zero-sum game. We sink or swim together.
I could go on, but I'll end with my pet peeve--Can we get rid of bells? Do we really want to train our students to begin and end work at the sound of a bell. How much more factory-model can we get?
2. What should we keep doing?
Speaking the same language. We need to carry forward our common definitions and common understandings we've developed through the Iowa Core. We need to grow our glossary of common terms.
Being a state of outliers and rebels. Iowa has always had a reputation of being rogue in education. Let's not be influenced by the agendas of the states around us. Let's get clear about what 's right for OUR system and OUR kids and do it regardless of what those around us are doing.
3. What should we start doing?
Embracing change. The only thing that should be commonplace is change and growth. Let go of those lessons, units, courses, and schemas that need to go. Be willing to throw anything and everything on the table.
Embracing failure as the fastest and surest way to improvement. We need to step down from our moral soapboxes and try purposeful new things even if it means we might fail. Our kids will be fine in spite of us--they have been for decades.