I am sitting in a professional development session today and am struggling to get through it. The PD leader is up running through very specific directions for everyone in the room to follow. There are specific starting and stopping times. I actually feel like a robot going through this training. I hear terms in this training like, “I need you to.” You have to do this... “ , “Highlight this for ME.” “We are all going to learn this together right now.” It is very cadence based and military like. I actually feel that I am on a timer constantly and have no time to dive deep into understanding anything. While going through this training, I can’t help but empathize with students who are like me as a learner. I’m sure this type of teaching works for some, however, it doesn’t work for me.
In my experiences in professional development, there is a large focus on the teacher holding all the cards and control. While being a high school teacher, one of my pet peeves is when students come up to me and ask me what to do next. They are waiting to hear the next cadence. I can’t blame them. Students have been taught to act like robots for so long, it’s a hard habit to break. While some of these cadence like teaching structures are helpful, I still believe it keeps the teacher as the gatekeeper to knowledge. That in no way promotes self awareness and self advocacy in a time where knowledge is accessible everywhere. There is a great danger in this type of control in classrooms. Specifically when one group of people control what is to be learned.
So how do we get students in high school to think for themselves? That is the question. I say it is with student centered project based learning that is something they work with or live with in their lives. Curriculum past 10th grade should not be cadenced. It should be all about self awareness. It should be about students experimenting with their interests. It should be about students working in their communities to better them rather than being stuck in a school building in a box being controlled.
If we really want our students to be creative, we can’t tell them what to do everyday. We need to allow them to experiment, fail, and learn from it. That doesn’t happen in overly controlled traditional educational systems.