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Posts Tagged ‘school

Ask adults what school is for and a common response will likely be “To prepare our kids for work.”

I have been consistent in railing against notions of schooling. Long story made short: Schools evolve too slowly to respond to what work currently is and will become. It is also not the full responsibility of school to prepare kids for work. Work prepares kids and workers for work.

All that said, there are some forms of work and some types of workers that take their schooling seriously. Whatever they did in school and on paper, they transfer and entrench in work.

I make this claim based on something I experienced this week. I made my way to an insurance company building to settle an administrative matter.

I had called the day before and took about a decade’s worth of paper I had filed away. Despite doing this, I was surprised to learn that I would be issued a cheque. I was told then that I had to bring needed paper copies of banking information (e.g., bank book, bank statement) if I wanted an e-transfer of funds.

I was surprised because 1) I paid premiums by e-banking, 2) the transactions were recorded electronically, 3) I went fully electronic years ago and did not have paper copies of banking documents.

I was told politely but summarily that I would have to bring a bank book or bank statement. When I said that I had electronic versions on my phone, I was told that they needed to be printouts.

This was strange given how the customer service representative was using a laptop and its camera to facilitate all our transactions. Even stranger: I said that I could send an electronic copy over for printing, but I was told that there was no way to receive it.

No way to receive it? Not by wifi or bluetooth or 4G? Not on our personal or work devices? Not to a wireless printer?

I am not alone with this experience. If we stop to think about this, we face this behaviour and detect this mindset every day.

Some work behaviours might change, e.g., retrieving and recording information with mobile devices instead of on paper. But some mindsets do not change, e.g., refusing to think outside the paper box.

So school does prepare kids — and eventually adults — for work. If we do not learn from incidents like the one I shared, it prepares students for the past and increasingly irrelevant forms of work.

We might think of schooling as teaching the prior generation's knowledge so that youth are prepared to communicate on an equal footing with those they are about to join in the economic and civic spheres. -- Robert Pondiscio

Steven Anderson described five reasons why educational research is not commonly used in schools. He then suggested four things teachers could consider about reading, applying, or conducting research.

I could not agree more. In fact, I am guiding and mentoring a group of teachers as they write research papers about their shared experiences. I enjoy the clinic-like sessions as we write, reflect, and revise our work.

But back to the importance of practice-based research. I sum it up with this image quote I made in 2015.

Practice without theory is blind. Theory without practice is sterile.

Like it or not, this tweet can be interpreted more than one way.

Tweet about school.

It could mean that the school as a physical building literally houses and protects a future generation.

It could also mean that the school is a social structure that shapes the future. What the future looks like depends on the changes implemented now.

A third perspective is that the future — the students and what they do — is walled in by the past. If we are realistic, the implied optimism of the tweet needs to be balanced with this:

We might think of schooling as teaching the prior generation's knowledge so that youth are prepared to communicate on an equal footing with those they are about to join in the economic and civic spheres. -- Robert Pondiscio

This opinion piece, Not a good idea to start school later, is not about the good of the students. Instead, it is about their parents, the employers of the parents, the transport companies.

Now these other stakeholders also have a say. The problem is that their say is dominant and overwhelms what is important. That is why there is no change. The question of why we do not start school later is perennial and so are the standard answers.

The problem is not just that we keep revisiting this issue and not change anything. It is that we normalise the cycle, and in doing so, lose sight of what is important (the learner) and instead dwell on what is urgent (everything else).

What is important is seldom urgent. And what is urgent is seldom important. -- Dwight D. Eisenhower.

I have read many school mottos, but one that confuses me is “rooted to soar”.

According to the school’s Wikipedia page the motto is explained as “rooted in character and skills, to soar for the nation”. However, this is not obvious in a three-word motto.

School mottos should make sense immediately. They should not need elaboration or a Google search. After all, they are supposed to be distillations of what each school strives for or values the most.

How exactly does one remain rooted while trying to soar? A circling raptor is not tethered to the ground. If it were, it might look like an aerostat.
 

 
While an aerostat seems to be “rooted to soar”, it is not actually soaring. It does not have the freedom to explore, approach, or encounter. It is literally tied down.

I am all for kids for who grow up with timeless values. But if they are really to soar, they should not be tethered. We do far too much of the latter in schooling that kids forget or do not learn how to think for themselves.
 

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This semester I am doing something I did not think I would have to do. I am advising my adult learners on what to do when they show up for their performative evaluations.

Amongst other things, I am telling them to:

  1. Come prepared
  2. Arrive early
  3. Be properly attired

These sound so basic that you might think they need not be said. But “golden rules” do not get their shine without polish.

What is socially acceptable or expected does not always come naturally. These behaviours need to be taught and modelled.

The three rules that I mentioned are not just for creating a good impression, they also reveal the mindset and attitudes of my learners. If they practice them, they show me and others that they can see themselves from another person’s perspective. They respect the time and effort everyone makes to participate at an event.

Those three rules are not limited to their performative evaluations. They also transfer to other contexts, e.g., interviews, meetings, classes.

I do not have to defend these rules. But I am concerned that I have to be so explicit about them at this late stage of my learners’ development. My interactions with some of them tell me that their previous teachers and mentors might not have insisted and persisted with these values.

It is that or I am becoming an old fart. Is curmudgeon.com available?
 

When the stone dropped in the once placid waters of teaching, its ripples started spreading. One result of enforced mergers of some mainstream Singapore schools was how some teachers had to look for teaching opportunities elsewhere.
 

 
This is a classic case of a problem defined largely through an administrative lens, being patched by an administrative solution, only to create another problem.

The original problem was falling enrolments due to falling birthrates. Logically, fewer children means smaller intakes mean fewer classes. Administratively, this also means too many teachers.

The administrative solution was to maintain established teacher:student ratios above all else. Never mind other possibilities like centralised efforts, team teaching, or more boutique efforts.

This created the previously non-existent problem of teacher surplus. As a result other schools now have to take in teachers who have no where else to go.
 

 
The silver lining in this dark cloud has been that teachers who interact in tight circles within their own schools now are forced to fraternise with teachers elsewhere.

Interactions take the form of phone calls, job interviews, job initiation, mentoring and guidance, and daily interaction. Unlike the induction of beginning teachers, these interactions are with intermediates or veterans.

Staff at all levels — school leaders, middle managers, on-the-ground teachers — can more clearly see the differences in school culture and teacher quality when new old teachers join their ranks.

This is like going on a vacation and experiencing a new culture for the first time. Unlike a vacation, they cannot return home to what they are used to. They have to live with the consequence of administrative decision-making.


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