Have You Really Thought About The Quality Of Your Child’s Public Education?

Who sees your kids more than you do? School teachers. Who has more opportunity to influence your kids than you do? School systems. Yet parents, for the most part, spend less time speaking about or thinking about what is happening at school and what are they being taught. We send them off in the morning expecting to see them at the end of the day but beyond that we don’t give their day much thought. We assume that they are looked after and that they are learning something useful. We trust schools and school systems to know how to do their job and we just accept the fact that when they graduate they will do fine “out there.” That is happening less and less on many fronts.

I often wonder how many parents actually take time at the end of the day to talk with their kids and ask about what they learned at school that day or how did school go today or what was something you learned today that you didn’t know anything about? In other words what happened that was interesting.

And so it goes. Each day the kid goes off to a place that parents know little about being told or given tons of data/facts that really don’t have much relevance to the kids everyday living experience and we, as parents, can’t understand why our kids aren’t crazy about going to school each day and doing better. Could it be that school is long, boring, and not much fun? There are any number of kids that would say the same thing when they get home at the end of the day. It was boring and they ask why they have to learn that stuff. Plus they have an hour or more homework to do for tomorrow and they don’t have a clue how to do it or what to do about it.

They sit in a classroom 6 rows across and 5 rows deep or vice versa for hours listening to a talking head fire data/information at them with the expectation that they will “get it.” And we can’t understand why some kids are trouble makers, disruptive or hard to manage. How many of those get diagnosed with ADD and put on meds?

Many questions remain when I think about the relevance of the current pedagogy and the value and relevance of the curriculum that is presented each new school year.  Talk to some of the teachers and they will tell you what they think is going on but no one seems to hear what it is they are saying. They are trying to tell us that “we have to change how we do school-this system isn’t working.”

Along with those concerns is the bigger problem being the reluctance to change anything or update the overall approach of the public school system as it stands.

I know this much and that is that the system has become virtually unresponsive to the issues being mentioned. It needs to change dramatically and almost immediately if we hope to offer our children a chance to compete with other kids from other countries for challenging, rewarding and high paying jobs.

So how do we do that? Parents–whoever and wherever you are you need to get involved with what is happening with your kids future. That means you will have to become better informed about the options out there for your kids to gain an education that will help prepare them for the professional challenges of the 21st century. There are more options available than you know. The public system, although preferable, is not the only option. But to become more informed you need to talk to your kids and ask the right questions. Be prepared to listen to them because they are the experts on what is or is not working in today’s classrooms. They know what the changes are that need to be made and why they need to be made.

With a great deal of passion, assistance and input from a well informed and motivated group of colleagues and educators I have spent the last three years creating a new approach to educating our kids that addresses many of the issues I mentioned above.

First thing needed is to understand what some of the options are. Check out the differences and the pros and cons of Charter schools, magnet schools, public schools, private schools and home schooling. Once you understand some of the differences and the similarities you can now ask the important questions from the school board members and the trustees and you’ll know more about the quality and validity of the answers you get in return.

I’ll be writing much more about this topic in the weeks to come. I’ll share some of the solutions and suggestions that we came up with as a result of our research and from some of the actual experiences some of my colleagues had that worked in their classrooms but were never considered alternatives or even food for thought.

The following statement is the goal that we have identified for our group. It can be done but only if the parents who really care about the quality and the opportunity their kids receive speak up and are heard.

“To offer a new paradigm regarding a free, non-discriminatory, local, national, and global learner centered education program that merges enthusiasm, participation, and excitement with each learner’s unique differences, a capacity for high performance, and an innate desire to maximize self.”

I’ll be absent next week but I’ll write more about this in two weeks. Eventually I will provide an outline of the program we develop on my web page at jimcloughley.com

Anyways, that’s how I see things, all the best, Jim

 

 

Teacher Centered Education vs. Learner Centered Education . . . Part 2

Last week I wrote about some of the on going discussion concerning how the earlier approach to educating our children has served us well but the time has come to reform the system so that our kids are more suitably prepared for the needs and challenges they will experience   when they enter the marketplace seeking employment. If we listen to our children and young adults we will hear them speaking about the need for a more relevant education and not being fully prepared to embrace the expectations that the marketplace will demand from them especially when that concerns a lack of soft skills–critical thinking, being able to collaborate and work in groups, to be a self starter and to demonstrate creativity and problem solving skills.

Recently I was asked the question: “Who has the most influence with our kids when we think about education and learning?” With little hesitation I responded by saying “parents–no doubt in my mind.” This is not a criticism levelled at parents–there is no “blame” intended here. Parents are the initial providers and guides responsible for their children’s view of the world they live in. Not only do parents send the messages but they also create the images that influence the thoughts, morals, values and insights their children will bring to the world. Unfortunately there are many parents who don’t understand this connection. Our children seek reassurance involving their search for their identity, their purpose and their feelings of being connected. If they don’t get those needs met at home they will get them met in other places but they will get them met.

Schools, then, become the next logical place to get that training. Schools and their purpose have changed dramatically in the last 20 years but curricula and teaching style/approach have not kept up to the need for change. Children have indicated that they need a different approach and so have those professionals who are asked to provide services to promote safer and more convivial communities. In many instances the services those professionals provide are stretched to their financial limits with no remedy in sight.

A group of colleagues who are experts in the field of providing progressive education have helped me put together a very brief outline of what this new approach could look like: (In no particular order of importance-it is all important)

–Kids learn at different speeds. Some are slower at grasping concepts than others. It doesn’t mean that they are slow learners but rather it takes a while to understand the concept and how to apply it in a practical way. We cannot demand that they learn quicker than they are able and therefore we need to do away with the “grade” system. There are alternatives that can be used to gauge a learners progress that are much less stressful. Grades are great for grading the quality of meat or eggs but not human beings. The “learners” will tell us when they are ready to move on to the next level or the next unit regarding a particular topic. To push them before they are ready or able just sets them up for failure.

–No homework or very limited amounts of it. “Home work” should be done at school as part of a group learning exercise so that more kids can learn at the same time rather than a teacher (educator) working with one student at at time. In some instances kids will learn from other kids by discussing solutions that other kids found. There is no proof that more homework promotes more learning.

–Learners (students) will work with their mentors/coaches (educators) and parents to design a learning/study plan that reflects the learners interests, skills, talents and strengths. Before you start with “Kids don’t know what they want or he/she will take all the easy subjects first” know that kids are voracious learners-they WANT TO LEARN and they will apply themselves more diligently if they are really interested in what and HOW the information is presented.  Kids need to have a sense of having some control and some input into what and who they become when they reach adulthood.

–Standardized testing is not particularly helpful to the child but more so for the program itself. Many funding formulae are attached to the outcomes of standardized tests. Schools with higher test results often get more money. Kids don’t benefit by being compared with how others are doing. At the least test results need to be discussed with the learner to find out what can be done to raise their own test scores if need be.

–In many instances hard-to-serve kids are not those with mental health problems or behavioural problems but rather those who are bored, disinterested or having trouble assimilating the information into their day to day lives and therefore don’t see the point to listening.

–Curricula must address the needs of the “whole learner.” Kids need to learn about the causes of stress, depression, anxiety and panic–what they are–and how to mange the symptoms. They need to learn much more about substance abuse and drug abuse and how they affect physical functioning and what is dependence?

There is so much more to know and learn about regarding learner centered education. Go to U-tube and type in Sir Ken Robinson. He is an expert in the field. He offers so much clear and basic information about learning and education. He does offer a book among the many he has written on this topic targeted specifically to parents to help them understand how to get in involved with their kids, the educational system and how to get the most out of it.

As parents we need to be interested and excited about what and how our kids learn. We also need to be concerned about what is going to happen next regarding education because it can help determine progress, stability, well being, quality of life, fairness and social justice,  freedom and solutions to world issues like homelessness, poverty, global health and wealth. I want to know that our kids will be prepared for what is coming and perhaps be an integral part of that change process. They are or can be the true agents of change. We need to make sure that they have what they need to to be successful.

Anyways, that’s how I see things, thanks for stopping by, Jim

Other videos about the need to change education by Sir Ken Robinson-click on the highlighted text.

Comments to: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

(Photo images by ‘gettingsmart.com’–used for the purposes of education, criticism or research. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image)

 

Should Learners Design Their Own Educational Futures?

Many people who are parents, professionals, business owners-large and small, teachers and students are beginning to voice their thoughts and feelings regarding the very question that headlines this article. Some are saying ‘yes’ and some are saying ‘no.’

My answer to this question is an enthusiastic “yes.” The following is “why.”

First of all there are the very basic thoughts about this question.  Of course there are many questions that will come from the question itself. Generally speaking some of the obvious ones are: Why shouldn’t they be able to decide what they want to do to earn a living when they grow into adults? Are learners mature enough to make these important decisions? Parents worry that junior will pick all the “easy” stuff and won’t be prepared to “do battle” upon graduation for those diminishing employment opportunities?  If I am willing to pay the cost of tuition and all the attached costs why shouldn’t I study what I feel adds interest and relevance to my life? There are many more but hopefully you get the gist of what I’m writing about.

There are concerns about education becoming too dependent upon technology to adequately educate our children and that we are moving much too fast. Learners still value contact and the connectedness they experience with human beings–mentors/coaches. If the learners aren’t getting what they need, they’ll slow down the use of technology.

For me my reasons speak to the need to grow the understanding that our learners need to be more competitive on the International stage. We need to demonstrate, more clearly, the need to address the long overdue changes identified with the current pedagogy. In 1962-Hall-Dennis suggested dramatic changes in how we educated our kids and not much was done to address those ideas. Now we are playing “catch-up” because many other countries who were struggling with global standards and ranking saw the need to change-did so-and now we are following their lead in many cases.

This is not a condemnation of our system. This is not a criticism of our teachers. This is, however, a comment on some of the decisions that were made years ago that have hampered our growth and our inability to change how we do things in education. The University of Toronto-a fine school by all accounts ranks 22nd Internationally tied with The National University of Singapore. U of T is the only Canadian School in the top 25. Oxford and Cambridge rank 1 & 2 Internationally. These are the 2018 rankings.

The point to this is we have to change the way we do business-the way we do education in this country and we need to start by letting the actual drivers of the system have a much greater say in how things are done–student satisfaction and success go a long way to changing the perception other countries have of us.

Here are my 5 reasons why learners should design their own educational futures:

  1. The most important driving force in education today is the learner. They are the ones who foster change in the system and we would be well served if we paid more attention to what it is they have to say. In a true sense the system is supposed to work for them and not the other way around. They would be the ones who regulate the overall content and the amount of influence technology would have on course design. They recognize the importance of the human factor in any learning environment.
  2. It’s a given that there still is some need for rote learning in a number of the courses the learners might choose. If we listen to the learners they will tell us (the system) how much is enough. It needs to be dropped as a practice but continued as a necessity for those professions that require it. It still can be a learning tool.
  3. Learners need to be able to select and study what they favour–what they are interested in doing when they grow up. They will never know what those interests might be if they are never exposed to the information and a hands-on opportunity to experience working in a particular field. We need to get over the idea that university is a 4 year  plan and that we know what’s best for them. If it takes 5 or 6 years to graduate then so be it. Kids learn at different speeds-It is too great a mistake for kids to be pushed through a course of study to graduation just because they changed their minds half way through a program. Better they have a chance to pursue something they are interested in than to work at something they dislike.
  4. In the future certifications will not hold much value. The true proof for a potential employee will be how well they do with on the job examinations testing for particular skills sets and how successful are they are with the competency based testing they are likely to experience. Kids need to select particular skill based programs that they will need to develop so they can be more successful. THEY are the ones that know what they need more than others. They should be able to choose what they need to be comfortable and more confident.
  5. Kids just learn better and faster when they choose to study and learn about topics that are of interest to them. The system needs to put together a study plan that includes these interests but also prepares them for the supporting education that helps them to succeed.

Anyways, that’s how I see things, All the best, Jim

Comments can find me at jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

(Disclaimer: Photo resources used in this article were used for Education, Research or Criticism purposes only. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image.)

Do We REALLY Know Just How Important This Point Is?

Commentary:

Margaret Court, one of the best tennis players of her time and arguably of all time, spoke her mind today regarding her thoughts and feelings about the state and identity of Women’s Tennis. Martina Navratilova responded by calling Ms. Court a racist and a homophobe. It seems that it is OK for Martina to call Margaret all sorts of things but not OK for Margaret to speak her mind about the number of lesbians in Tennis these days. Perhaps what has to change here is that what is fair for one needs to be fair for all and let the good graces of people be the true judge and jury of what has been said and how it was said. Grow some thicker skin folks. If you don’t like what she said then exercise YOUR right to say so by emailing Margaret and telling her how you feel about what she said.

Wah-wah-wah. The words spoken from both sides may have been hurtful or may have been ill-advised. Get over it. My wah-wah-wah is that once again political correctness rules the day. I say let the two work it out in private as it should be. Perhaps we need to change the way we see each other. Let’s try seeing each other as human beings first and let’s try treating each other as equals instead of he is this or she is that stuff. Let’s try treating each other with the respect that we ALL deserve not just one side of the equation.

Change is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Why do people get so upset with the idea of change? Why do we, as people, resist change? Fear of the unknown? Change is the only constant in our lives. The change from superstition to science was a good thing for medicine and for us. The change from traveling by car or train to flying on a jet was a good thing for us. Who would have believed that a 747, which weighs about 450 tons, would be able to get off the ground let alone fly at close to 50,000 feet at around 600miles per hour, fully loaded, and could carry approximately 400 people at a time.  Change will continue to happen and we need to get our heads around the fact that this is not nor does it have to be a bad thing for us.

The one area of change that will happen and it desparately needs to happen has to do with how and what we are teaching our children. We need to be demanding wholesale changes to the education system before we find ourselves so out of touch that our children can’t find good paying jobs to support their families. International businesses are telling us that. Other governments are telling us this. Some schools are telling us that as well. Our system is NOT preparing our college and university graduates with the skills that are requisite for future career choices. Take the example of Finland, who has developed one of the most progressive and successful educational systems in the world to see what needs to come.  (Click on the highlighted link for more information that is truly necessary for parents to read and know more about)

There are three solid reasons that indicate what we need to change about how we go about educating our children. These reasons are part of why many of our children are struggling at school.

  1. We are using a system that had been created during the Industrial age back from the early 1900’s. Technology has changed, forced really, the focus of what our children need to be learning-now-so they can be competitive in the global marketplace when they graduate.
  2. Children are struggling with disinterest and boredom in classrooms because of the older curriculum still being offered. Kid’s are much more savvy concerning the use of technology to gather information. They don’t need ‘books’ anymore. The internet has all the information they require to learn the basic skills. We need to be teaching them how to think and not what to remember.
  3. Children should be telling the system what they want to study not the system telling the kids what they will study. The kids need to pick a course of study because they are the only ones who know what their true interests are.

There are so many more compelling reasons why education and how it is delivered is so vitally important and the change is coming in style and content whether we like it or not. We need to get out in front of this while there is time to change the programs so that our kids will have a chance to succeed.

A Forward Thinking Program: A New Look Educating And Preparing Our Children For The 21st Century:

More on this program in the weeks to come. Our’s is a program that we begn putting together 2 years ago. The research was done and some great solutions provided. My colleague and I have finished the 3rd draft of our proposal so we will be able to present it publicly shortly. We feel confident that our program would deal with reducing the drop-out rates among our kids, will help to restore interest and excitement, will help our kids clarify their career choices when university arrives, it will help to reduce costs and reduce levels of gang membership, trouble with the legal system, deal with substance abuse issues and more. The change will help all of this to happen but as a community of concerned parents and caregivers we have to embrace change and not fear it or be concerned about it.

Truth Talkin’ Thursday:

Jane and I talked about the three types of people neither of us can stand being around and why we feel that way. Just go to U-Tube and type in Truth Talkin’ Thursday: Episode 34 to get the rest of the story. See if some of your choices are the same as ours.

That’s how I see things anyways, All the best, Jim

Please send this along to family and friends-comments will find me at: jim.lifechoice@gamil.com  OR  jimcloughley.com

Thanks for stopping by.

Disclaimer: Photo resources used for Education, Research and /or Criticism purposes only. I derive no financial benefit from using this resource in this writing. This particular photo and verse by Margaret Mead produced by Pinterest.

How Smart Are We? Kids Are Telling Stuff And We Aren’t Listening

What do you suppose this girl is telling her parent? It could be anything-couldn’t it? Which means it could be how much she is bored with school or how she really doesn’t want to go but knows she has to. It could be about her concerns around learning stuff that really isn’t going to be helpful for her to find a job when she gets bigger or not being able to study or learn about things that are of interest to her. It could be anything.

For those who have followed my blogs (thank you for that by the way) I have been researching and writing about the concerning state of our education system and how we are becoming a figure in many countries rear view when it comes to preparing our kids for the realities of the new economies and global workplaces. Many business leaders, students, experts, and economists are telling us-us being the general public and anyone else who wants to be up-to-date informed about how and where their education dollars are going. Folks it isn’t a beautiful picture.

If you are the least bit interested in where and how your children are being educated and how the global system is demanding much more from our institutions and what we have to do NOW to begin to prepare for the near future I’ll be posting some pieces of my research and a program that a colleague and I have been working on for quite some time. We talk about how to build a new system that will help us improve our global reputation for excellence and prepare our kids so they can be ready to compete for good jobs in the next while. It is called:

“A Forward Thinking Program: A New Look At Educating And Preparing Our Children In The 21st Century”

F.T.P. is a program created from the work of some and the new thinking of others. It is meant to guide learners through the transition from public school-level 8 to high school-level 12 . By participating in this program Learners will be better able to identify their strengths, assets and talents thereby helping them select a career path based on skill, passion and interests rather than a standard curriculum and luck of the draw.

The function of this program is to help learners generate a high level of interest, excitement, self-confidence and a strong desire to learn more. Education, then, needs to be viewed as a life-long learning journey that culminates with the development of responsible, highly functioning and independent adults.

Mission Statement:

“F.T.P. strives to create a superior educational environment where participation in self-directed learning opportunities will prepare learners to compete for challenging, creative, and fulfilling career opportunities at the highest level.”

Goal Statement:

“To offer a new paradigm regarding a free, non-discriminatory national and global learner centered education program that merges enthusiasm, participation and excitement with each learners’ unique learning differences, a capacity for high performance and an innate desire to maximize self”.

 

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid”—Albert Einstein, ‘On our education system’

 

There are many examples of ‘students’ who were considered to be useless, unable to learn or grasp the facts, who lacked the appropriate attitude or discipline to attain higher levels of knowledge and, therefore, would never amount to much . One glaring example of this would be Albert Einstein.

As a child Albert Einstein was seen, judged, thought about and diagnosed to be dull, possibly schizophrenic or autistic, dyslexic, and, because he was slow to talk, was thought to be very slow and somewhat unteachable. He was labelled and treated as ‘unusual’ and perhaps difficult to teach. Needless to say that his early academic life was not one that sought to know his strengths, if he had any. The education system of the day was one which valued rote learning and Einstein saw no value in this type of learning. He believed in independent creative thinking so was seen as a non-conformist-something that was not accepted as a strength. He excelled at math, science and music however and at a very early age applied to the Zurich Polytechnic but failed the entrance exam. Although he was much younger than most of the other applicants he had been unsuccessful because the test was given in French and he barely understood the language.  All that was known was that he was unable to pass the test. He studied French and the next year re-applied. He was granted entry into the program and excelled.

He was tested by those who did not have the expertise to diagnose and therefore labelled someone who would find it difficult to succeed at higher scholastic levels. In 1921 Einstein won the Nobel Prize for developing his law of photoelectric effect. We all know what happened later. He went on to be one of the two most influential minds of the 20th century where physics was concerned. He was a genius who saw things differently from others. He was eventually encouraged to learn, teach and practice in a manner of his choosing based on what made sense to him. He also managed to set the standard for creative problem solving as well. He was truly a free-thinker.

We should learn from his story. The message is mentors and guides need to work with the differences our learners bring. Don’t punish or penalize learners for needing or wanting something different. They are not trying to be difficult–they are just trying to be true to who they are. Perhaps there is another Einstein just waiting out there for an opportunity to shine using his/her own strengths, skills and assets.

Anyways, that’s how I see things. All the best, Jim

Comments would be appreciated. You can direct comments to me at: jimcloughley.com OR  jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

Please send this along to family and friends or anyone you know who has little people starting school soon–with thanks

 

Disclaimer: This photo resource is used for education, research or criticism purposes only. I derive no financial benefit from using this resource. Resource posted by quora.com

I Switched And I’m Glad I Did . . .

Look at the pic here and then ask yourself if you are one of those parents who end up being punished for helping your kids with their homework. How many of us remember ‘learning our times tables.’ That method is called rote learning meaning that kids recite them over and over until they can remember them. For the short term they will be able to recall most of the information but over the long term not so much. For those who are able to remember most of it they won’t be able to tell you how to prove the answer is correct. Quick–25X25=?

I remember someone? once said to me that it would be better for us to teach people how to fish rather than just bring them food every day. This is the same principle. Our kids need to learn how to think for themselves, how to apply some of the strategies they have learned from other experiences and discover the process of how to get the right answer rather than trying to remember the right answer. They will remember what works for them. Obviously this isn’t always the case. There are times when memorization is a must. For example, medical students need to remember the parts of the brain and where they are located. This would be a time when rote learning works best.

I used to be a solid believer in rote learning and having to do homework. I am no longer a believer. I couldn’t help my kids with their homework because I didn’t understand the goal. I had to admit that I didn’t get the ‘how to’ of the work. And they didn’t know how to find the answers. They couldn’t think through the problems they were being asked to find.

I now understand that homework should be done at school. The only benefit of doing homework at home is that the kids and the parents actually work and talk to and at one another until the wheels fall off. At least they are spending some time together instead of isolating themselves in different parts of the house watching some mindless TV.

I see the benefit now of providing a learner with an assignment of some kind that entails researching a topic or having to discover why certain things happen as they do. Most kids have access to a lap top or a PC so it also becomes more interesting to look things up and to explore so many different web pages in order to gain information and evidence to support a report that the child will need to make when he returns to school. If he/she should get stuck then they can come back to school and ask what they could have done differently. It’s not the assignment that is important but rather the process by which the learners justify their research-the answers. They can hear how their classmates went about finding pertinent information. They can and will learn from each other faster than they will learn from a talking head at the front of the class. Understanding the research process also becomes part of a child’s learning experience. Once he/she learns how to find information they will always be able to find information so no problem becomes problematic. All that is necessary here are the resources.

Other jurisdictions are catching on to this idea of ‘no homework’ and it seems to be working just fine. Recently Texas joined the parade and many other states are ready to follow suit. Quebec has stopped the practice of assigning homework, Alberta schools have nearly all stopped assigning homework and apparently Ontario will soon follow this lead. I have included an excellent article (click on highlighted text) in order to have more to read on this topic.

In a November 2015 article for Macleans Magazine, Anita Acai an expert in Memorization Learning answered this question as part of the interview:

Q: You’ve written that memorization in learning hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. What do you mean by that?

A: “A lot of the teaching we’re doing is relying on old, old things. There are incorrect assumptions that these things still work, but, in reality, there’s lots and lots of evidence out there that lots of these things aren’t effective for learning. Memorizing isn’t that effective for learning, but people still do it. That’s still the way we’re taught, primarily. Although the literature has evolved and the evidence has evolved, our teaching practices themselves haven’t.”

It’s time for us to look at the educational model being used today and demand a spirited discussion on how to develop a new philosophy and model concerned with preparing our children to compete for the new and challenging careers some of which have yet to be created. They can become the innovators, creators and thinkers of the next generation. How do we create a model that allows for the learners to be at the center of their learning experience instead of being told what they will learn and how they will learn it?

If we are at all interested in lowering the fast climbing drop out rates of students, lessening the stress and mental health problems that our kids are developing on a more regular basis partially because of their disinterest and boredom with school, increasing their sense of self respect and lessening the plague of entitlement, to actually have the confidence that they can compete for good jobs, that they can go to school and graduate without the concern of having a huge debt load to carry with diminishing chances of having a job when they graduate then we need to start lobbying for a much better system and do it now while there is time to get it done.

Anyways, that’s how I see it. All the best, Jim

Comments can be sent to me at:  jim.lifechoice@gmail.com   OR  jimcloughley.com (contact page)

Please send this on to friends and family. Thanks for dropping by.

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