Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reinventing the "Ideal Student"

As we were discussing Chris Lehmann's presentation on the notion that school should not be considered preparation for real life but is real life in our Paperless Classroom class, I noted a few quotes of significance that led me to at least what I feel is a compelling idea.

First, we as "teachers are not to makes students the implied subject in their education. When someone asks what do I do? I say 'I teach Physics' NO 'I teach kids Physics!'"

Secondly, "When was the last time at your job you did a task solely about you?"

And most significantly, "Classes can not be silos they must be lenses through which we view the world."

Our class then moved into a discussion where several times the concept or rather classification of the "Ideal Student" was mentioned. As I noticed this, I realized that several times over the last two weeks, multiple times our teachers have noted that 'your students will not be like you' or 'remember you are likely perfect students, ideal students, you will not have these students in your classes, you will have maybe one or two, but not like you.' Through this repetition, I began to really wonder what it is they were talking about. When this concept was combined with our constant banter on what the classroom of the future will look like, I thought to myself, what does the student of the future look like, and better yet, what does the student of now actually look like?

The current glamorization of the Ideal Student is one like many recent college graduates. They can write well because they are capable of identifying key aspects of texts and expressing themselves in a clear and definitive fashion, they have a sufficient understanding of math and the sciences, and they are competent problem solvers. All in all they are good test takers, they can comprehend what they read, write on their feet, and do basic mathematics. But more than this, we are good listeners, we are interested in the material we are learning, we have chosen to be engaged in our work, we actually want to participate - we are an active part of our lives because we as teaching students want to learn, we want it.

This brings me to my questioning of the Ideal Student. It seems to me that our group of students have come to this place in our lives of seeking masters degrees in teaching because we are a product of the current system. We became Ideal Students and the process of testing and separated subjects worked for us and we were able to work the system itself, to our advantage. I fear this will be the most daunting task for us as new teachers - the system worked for us, we were successful, how do we work with students who are not like us? We will be teaching students who the system does not and can not and will not work for. Not all students can work the system, the system needs to change so that it works for all of the students, not just those who are made to be traditional learners.

The Ideal Student must be reinvented. It must be revised and reinvented to escape the school of traditional reading, writing, and arithmetic. In today's world and in our future world, those skills will not be the most valued. It is not just the student who can guess all of the questions before the teacher even asks, or the student who volunteers adamantly to answer every question, or the student who gets a perfect score on every test, it is the student that can operate successfully in all of our modernity. The Ideal Student must be one that can incorporate everything they experience, everything they learn, everything they value into each of their subjects and into their life. We are not the Ideal Students of tomorrow. I hope that we are the Ideal Teachers and that we can see through our own creative lens to facilitate the growth in our students to let them see the world, so that every one of them can be the Ideal Student in their own way.

Every student has a view and therefore every student can make their own ideal if only we give them the opportunity to do so.

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