Chapter 5: Motivating Today's Students - and Tomorrow's Workers
Wagner explains that our students today are growing up in a world that is very different from the one that even we, as young student teachers, grew up in. These children are growing up digital, meaning that the technology that we grew to utilize and understand in our late teen years has been a part of their lives from the very beginning. Learning through multimedia and connecting to others is a regular constant in their life. They are constantly connected, and that is the only world they know.
I agree with Wagner that our current system of education has some catching up to do. If we want to reach our students, we have to approach them in a way that they can relate to. We need to modernize education, in that our approach needs to meet them where they are, not where they would have been 10 years worth of technology ago.
Gone are the days when students need to look up facts. If students can locate what we are teaching them in class at the click of a button, what is the point in their engagement. I believe that we must incorporate the technology that they rely on every day into our lessons and teach them new ways to use it to further facilitate their learning. Rather than try to compete with technology, we should utilize it, showing students how to navigate their way through it and use it to expand their educational prospects.
My favorite quote from this sections was this: "The overwhelming majority of students today want learning to be active, not passive. They want to be challenged to think and to solve problems that do not have easy solutions. They want to know why they are being asked to learn something" (199).
Lack of motivation can stem from many factors, but we do have the power to control one of the primary causes of it: scholastic disconnect. We can develop dynamic and engaging lessons that are purposeful, student-driven, and incorporate technology in a meaningful way. If students know why they are being asked to do something, understand its value, and are able to have choice and be creative in the pursuit of knowledge, there will be much greater buy-in in our classrooms.
Chapter 6: Closing the Gap: Schools that Work
While the idea of creating my own school is alluring, as an educator my heart is more dedicated to improving schools that already exist. I believe that our public school system has value and can be so much more than it currently is. I truly feel that my time, efforts, and skills, would better serve working in existing public institutions of education and trying to influence their change.
Of the three schools listed, I would most like to work at Francis W. Parker Charter. I love that students are assessed on a portfolio of their work, at that they are able to demonstrate their learning and showcase this work at an "exhibition." Not only does this ensure that students are assessed based on their personal achievements and progress, but it allows students to take pride in their work and their efforts. Their emphasis on the humanities would suit my degree well (although, personally, I believe there should be a well-rounded balance in all subjects) and the senior project that requires a defense imparts students with useful communication experience that will serve them well in college and in the work force.
The school's "habits of learning" consist of:
- Critical Thinking
The school's philosophy, in this respect, is one that I can support. The connections they make between school and everyday life across each of these habits is essential for student success. They have a team-teaching approach which, coupled with smaller class sizes, allows for a more personalized instruction.
The school does not have the corporate support of other charters, so its appearance is more humble when put up against more cutting-edge facilities (like High Tech High, for example). This makes the school all the more appealing, and the family atmosphere that is created among staff and students suggests that all will find the support and encouragement they need to be successful within the school's walls. One of the setbacks for me, though, as some students have expressed (page 251) is that the school lacks in diversity (both culturally and economically) in its student population. I am dedicated to working at a place that serves a wide range of students, so despite its original appeal, this would be a significant deterrent for me.
Overall, though, I'd love to visit the school one day and shadow a teacher or student. It seems like a wonderful place to learn and grow!