We’re obsessed with data these days, and for good reason: it’s relatively easy to get if you know what you’re looking for. While you won’t be able to identify everything that’s useful upfront, take a step back, and evaluate what you’d hope to learn. Come up with a list of the information you need and a list of things you’d like to have. For example, do you need to know the average test score for students in History? What about attendance rates during the month of December?
Senior students often invoke the mantra “I have to do well at school in order to get into university” when asked about reasons for attending and doing well. This can be a genuine motivational factor, especially in families where the expectation is academic and career success. But is this the answer we really want when we pose that question? Doing well simply to get to the next level is fine when playing video games, but it hardly seems inspirational as an educational goal for a secondary school student.
Great writing starts at the beginning, whether with an idea or need or purpose of social context or spark of inspiration. Whatever it is that ’causes’ the writing to begin–what’s wrought there at the beginning is kind of like a lump of clay. Without that clay, not much could happen and the quality of that clay matters; its texture and purity and consistency and overall makeup has a lot to say about what it’s able to produce. In large part, what you’re able to create with that clay depends on the quality and quantity of that clay.
Limiting the craft of writing to a single content area has altered the landscape of students’ minds in ways that are only now being revealed as math teachers are told to teach writing. Students are now used to flinging rudimentary understandings on exit slips in broken sentence fragments, taking notes that neatly curate other people’s ideas, and otherwise ducking the responsibility to craft compelling arguments that synthesize multiple perspectives on a daily basis.
As our elementary students head back to school in person, in this very new way, there will be many emotions stirred up in them. Alarm. Frustration. Worry. Excitement. And this will be mirrored by what we, as adults, may also be experiencing. For our teachers, on top of what they will be emotionally experiencing themselves, they are being called to be the caring leaders that guide our students to a place where they can learn together.
In high-stakes testing environments prevalent in many formal learning institutions, the focus is on standards and standard-mastery. ‘Globalization’ is a haughty kind of ‘pie in the sky’ idea thought about only when watching one of the “Shift Happens” videos on YouTube, or daydreaming on the drive home from a challenging day in the classroom where there is time to honestly reflect on—in solitude—the kind of education teachers can only dream they could provide students.