Four articles that I shared recently on Twitter called out to me for a bit more detail. Two of them inspired me to check out their respective authors' recently published books. Topics include teaching in a way that truly gets kids excited about learning, focusing math teaching more on practical numeracy than on advanced concepts, and scaling back the high-stakes nature of high school education (particularly AP classes). The common theme in all four articles is on nurturing the joy of learning, rather than getting caught up in an achievement rat race. This is something that I become a tiny bit more concerned about every day.
David Geurin: "I'm calling for a culture where students are so excited about what they are learning, they want to extend the learning on their own. They give themselves their own homework, because they are curious and what they are learning is interesting to them."
Me: Geurin calls on teachers to change the way that they teach, to focus on understanding what gets kids excited, and then doing that. His 9 "proven" ways are more guidelines than methods (e.g. "Learning involves student conversations. Whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning."), but I would love to hear about teachers taking them to heart. Wouldn't it be amazing if kids were so engaged in their educations that they could find flow in school?
Andrew Hacker: "What citizens do need is to be comfortable reading graphs and charts and adept at calculating simple figures in their heads. Ours has become a quantitative century, and we must master its language. Decimals and ratios are now as crucial as nouns and verbs... We teach arithmetic quite well in early grades, so that most people can do addition through division. We then send students straight to geometry and algebra, on a sequence ending with calculus. Some thrive throughout this progression, but too many are left behind. The assumption that all this math will make us more numerically adept is flawed."
Me: I agree with Hacker's thesis here, that our educational system puts too much focus on advanced mathematical concepts, and not enough focus on basic problem-solving skills and building quantitative literacy. I'm going to read Hacker's new book (shown to the right) on this subject. My daughter already dislikes math as a subject in school, and I am working very hard to show her every day that real math, problem-solving, is all around us, and something she can and should understand.
Nikhil Goyal: "Some schools have scrapped Advanced Placement classes, saying that they contribute to academic pressure. Others are aiming to give students more opportunities to explore their passions, work on real-world projects and collaborate and learn from other students of all ages. The idea is that education must be for life and “school needs to stop getting in the way of curiosity,” said Ira Socol, an educator at Albemarle County Public Schools in Charlottesville, Va."
Me: This article, written in support of Nikhil Goyal's recently published book, focuses specifically on issues related to high school kids. However, I think that the general idea, that there are reformers out there working to ease the high-stakes culture of the educational system, is encouraging. I'm going to check out Goyal's book, too.
Christopher Taibbi: "For all the reasons that gifted students might typically be drawn to take the highest level classes offered, I would argue this: Just because he can, doesn't necessarily he should... The fact is these students (taking AP classes that they are not interested in) are stuck in a situation that most adults, frankly, would avoid: they are denying themselves something that brings them genuine, wholesome joy in exchange for drudgery. Some parents might see this as temporary, that the grind the child experiences now will all be worth it in the longer run. There may be some merit to this line of thinking but to me it also feels unnecessarily limiting. A passion for something is a gift. "
Me: This article is a spirited defense by an English teacher of the idea that just because some kids CAN handle all AP classes, they should still consider scaling back a bit, to leave time for things that they are truly passionate about. I think that this makes a lot of sense, and I would argue that this applies to any child taking AP classes, whether "gifted" or not.