Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Most Likely to Succeed

So here I sit late at night while sleep evades me.  Not because it normally does but because of a movie.  I read the book Most Likely to Succeed but the movie was far more powerful.  Still not as powerful as a brief few words by an administrator at NTC but powerful.

Never am I one to swing the pendulum too far to one side.  Let me explain.  I see most of the "new things" in education as advancements that have both good and bad to them.  Taking a look as some of the most recent best practices such as the flipped classroom and personalized learning leads to some very interesting conclusions.  First, neither is showing much for results.  Second, both are dependent on the right student culture.  Third and most important both are only as strong as the teacher in the classroom.  I like aspects of the flipped classroom just like I can see value in parts of personalized learning.  I just don't see sustained success in either one individually.

Today's student is a new breed.  Taking out the top 1/3 of the students that would succeed regardless of how they were instructed we are left with a mixed bag of students.  Most of which would rather sit at home playing video games than trying to dig into something new.  These students have a rather large issue coming at them.  For the first time in my almost 2 decades of teaching I believe the world they are entering has the potential to be vastly different than the one we were in.  I just don't think other teachers see this yet.  For the past several decades not much has changed.  Don't get me wrong, tons has but most people have a job, went on to school and became what they wanted to become.  Now, unemployment is sustaining at a high rate in part I believe because technology is replacing people at a much faster rate than in the past.  Furthermore, the climate of business almost promotes these changes.  Normal manual labor is still necessary and to a degree will always be there.  However, the jobs that are harder to find are the more skilled positions.  Computers are taking those jobs and keeping them.

Most math teachers have a certain pride in our level of expertise to teach math.  I must admit I really don't believe the students I produce become mathematicians.  I just want them to be thinkers.  Regardless nobody does the math we teach anymore.  To respond to the pundits out there, yet some do but play the math game.  Maybe 1 out of your entire building, not classroom, will go on to actually calculate/create using the math we teach.  Computers do all the work.  So why do we teach all of it?  Why even bother?

Speaking for one I am done teaching the stuff that really doesn't matter.  I am tired of preparing students to take an assessment that shows zero student success past the first year of college.  I want to prepare students to succeed in life.  My problem is where is the midpoint of all this transition. We can't just give up on all math.  Students/Families will require us to have certain cognitive understandings.  While at the same time I really want to see students thinking, creating, doing...  How do we determine where to begin?

Where is the balance between enough background skill and enough group interactive skills to ensure a child succeeds?  Then, even when we find it how do we communicate it?

Oh so many questions.  I think it is going to be a long night...