Do your children have the right to expect at school what you expect at work?
I’d like to invite parents to spend a few minutes thinking about whether your children have the right to expect at school what you expect at work, or at a conference you are attending.
After all, for students, school is their job; every day, all day. They are not expected to function any less ably than you are and in fact, the lack of repetition of tasks means that they are expected to acquire new, unfamiliar knowledge, process it and act on it almost every minute of their day.
Not many professionals live within that constant bombardment. Doctors, absolutely, teachers definitely, pilots? If they can hit that ‘auto pilot’ button, they have a few minutes reprieve. Students are not as lucky. A lot is expected from students and believe me, they feel the pressure and sometimes behaviours indicate that they are buckling under it.
But let’s return to adult expectations of a day in a learning environment in 2016.
To start this off, I’d like you to recall the last time you experienced a day as a student … it was probably at a workshop or seminar which you looked forward to attending, or perhaps attended from guilt or duress but certainly someone paid a considerable amount for you to attend. So there are expectations of return on investment. Just as parents have expectations of students and the teachers who are depended on to teach them.
Here is the best case scenario of your day: you arrive early, insulated coffee mug in hand, a bottle of water in your bag, maybe a snack because you skipped breakfast. You have with you: a notebook, pens and your laptop or tablet; definitely your phone. You expect internet access.
You enter a fully prepared room, comfortably air-conditioned, windows with blinds to prevent glare, intrusion and distraction; a screen set up at the front and at each seat spare paper, pencils and probably a workbook to accompany the powerpoint presentation you will see. You are looking forward to information sharing, discussion and meaningful learning. You expect structure and management, observation of social rules of courtesy and a positive outcome, collaboration, camaraderie and solutions.
Perhaps there will be other items in the room which the presenter will use to pique your interest and because you sense that there will be interaction, you start to really look forward to the day’s speakers. You have expectations and a right to them. Above all else you are paying for them.
You are physically comfortable in your seat because you sit where you feel most comfortable. You get into the mood of anticipation. You check your cellphone before turning it off or onto vibrate because you know this will only distract you and irritate the other participants. You turn on your laptop or tablet which has now become part of you and you try to hook up to wifi. Without wifi you are lost – you can’t research something interesting you hear, reference a website which the speaker refers to and preparation has been so well organised that access is made easy for you…
You check your conference package for the wireless password and concentrate while you get logged on. So now you’re ready. More relaxed, you have a brief chat with the people around you. You sip your coffee. The first speaker arrives promptly and starts right away because everything is set up and ready to go.
The presentation is riveting and hopefully dynamic; and even if it is not, the speaker is well organised, knowledgeable, relevant, and informative. You’re incredibly engaged or at the very least see the value of the information being shared.
Between the visuals, the mind maps you’re drawing, the doodles and scribbles of words or images that connect with you, you are conscious of the sound of your fingers clicking on the keyboard. You can feel the interaction between presenter and attendees. You’re really involved in what you’re learning and for a moment you are actually enjoying being ‘back at school’. Learning is empowering and there’s no distraction unless you count the sips of your coffee or the munch of your granola bar. It’s cool inside and outside the windows is a hidden world. The sheer fact that you are cocooned inspires and frees you to think creatively. You wish you could feel such enthusiasm every day. And that was only the first speaker – there is more to come.
That was a best case example of your reality; the reality of a professional classroom…and you’re an adult…not a member of the young technological age. Yet presentations like this are what you expect.
But you don’t expect this for your children on any day when they walk into their classroom, do you? Be honest – you remember your traditional schooling and your expectations for your children are completely out of whack from your expectations of your own learning environment in 2016.
So what happens to them when you drop them off at school? Do you wonder if their love of learning is going to be stimulated and fulfilled? What about their engagement, motivation and creativity? Because if in 2016 what you expect for yourself in a learning environment is not what your child can expect, or you have a right to expect for your child, you should be aware that this is not a good thing. This is a recipe for demotivation and the certain result will be a tragic failure to connect.
There is not a single aspect of your wonderful learning experience that can be reflected in your child’s school day. Remember, your children are spending each day in a classroom almost identical to one from 1850, 1950, 1980 and 2000.The classroom from your past is actually the classroom of their present. Except it’s probably less pristine, less organised and less relevant. A whole lot less relevant.
So let’s take a walk in those shoes your children wear every day – the shoes of your past. Perhaps this will help you realise that your children really deserve something different – school is where futures are built and dreams are nurtured.
First of all your children are not eagerly anticipating their school day. Rooms are hot and windows open to a very distracting world, if the broken panes open at all. They’re dressed in neither the most attractive nor the most comfortable clothes – colonialism no longer has a place in our Caribbean world yet our students wear the vestiges of a bygone and culturally extinct time and we expect this not to shape their consciousness in some way. Well, it does.
Your kids may have skipped breakfast but there’s no chance of a juice box, bottle of water or snack making their way onto your child’s desk, lap or mouth during class.
Notebooks and pens, absolutely but even if a laptop or tablet was welcomed in the classroom, forget the wifi. No chance there for connectivity to the fabulous world of information, research and reference out there.
How about a screen set up and a workbook to accompany the powerpoint presentation they will see. Nope…but they are allowed to copy from the board or take dictation….quickly before the board is erased or the repetition stops. How about using their tablet’s camera to “take the notes” on the board. Sorry, no option for that either. Far less notes posted online for future access and exploration. Most students can’t even bring home their test sheets because teachers want to reuse them next year, so forget that questions can be corrected even by the most ardently conscientious child.
Perhaps there will be other items in the room which the presenter will use for interactive study or better yet, innovative study. Unless it’s a lab, that’s not happening either and many labs are unable to access the supplies they need to teach with. So really there’s little to pique student interest, motivation, excitement or involvement. And this is only the beginning of the dread of the monotonous day which is destined to be repeated for the next few years.
It’s 2016 and this is the best a school can do? Would you settle for this in your job or would you quit? Today is a day of truth, facing the facts. Let’s face the facts and stop the pretense that if the old system worked for you okay it will work for your children because as we all know that’s a really sad case of ostrich syndrome.
Teachers do try. They try with the limited resources they have, and can even inspire when they are well organised and informative. But it is still for the most part, chalk and talk within heat and straight non-collaborative lines of repetition. As your child sits there, listening (hopefully) or taking notes (possibly) there can’t be that much personal attention being shown and certainly no independent learning being enjoyed.
They wish they could feel enthusiasm every class of every day, but all they can concentrate on is their laptop or tablet because that’s where their learning and exploration and joy comes from. And the fact is, jumping online is still seven hours away. And all of this – this was only their first class of the day. There are 6 or 7 more to go.
Meanwhile you are applauding your first presenter, getting up to stretch and go outside to grab a coffee and have a 15-minute chat to clear your head.
Depressed for your child? Only if you’re not prepared to affect change. You need to visit us at Lockerbie because a school does exist where your child can experience what you do when you attend a conference: laptops and tablets, internet access, youtube clips, powerpoint presentations. Snapping photos of boards full of information, sometimes 7 boards in an hour, time to spend interacting, collaborating, doing and discussing. Water bottles are welcomed, movement is encouraged, interactive work stations are set up; learning is multi-dimensional and self-driven. Tutors facilitate, skills are taught to support learning. The wild and colourful and relevant world of Lockerbie is worthy of a visit. Perhaps you would like your child to spend a day with us and experience learning relevant to 2016 and beyond. Experiencing for one day how you, their parent likes to learn. No, you don’t have to send them to a foreign country to experience this; it’s right here at home.
We are always being referred to as a ‘special’ school. And to be sure, we are special. Special in a very positive, proactive, internationally competitive, mainstream way.
You could reach out to us via our contact form or call us on 435-3069 to arrange a day of difference for your child. If you would like to read this broadcast just visit Lockerbie College’s Facebook page.
Yes, your children have the right to expect at school every day what you expect on the occasional days you participate in a learning opportunity.