Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Preparing for the "Next" Step

Earlier this week I was in class when a conversation ensued that made me want to write about the notion of teaching students as preparing them for the "next" step in their lives.

So often we hear that the system should prepare students for college and university, that the system is failing our children if they do not succeed in post secondary education. I believe that we are TOO focused on what comes next and, often, that we forget about what the student needs NOW. If we get too sunk into the tunnel vision of the future we will easily forget or miss something that our students will require to succeed in our courses.

It all starts in Pre-School. We want out children to learn to co-operate, socialize, and to stimulate their cognitive growth. Focus is on the whole child and on simple skills that will effect their success through their entire future. It would make little sense to skip the letter A in the alphabet when we are starting to teach literacy - and we wouldn't do this simply in the interest of saving time because we desperately need to get to the letter Z. So why, in a high school class, should we gloss over teaching a student how to study effectively or how to make organized notes in our class just to get through the entire curriculum? Why should we always lecture to a Grade 12 class just because "that's what they are going to get in University"? - This is completely irrelevant if they are not able to actually UNDERSTAND and THINK about the concepts that they need.

Anyway, I feel like I had much more to say about this topic at the time, but my general point has been made. Maybe the only other thing I think is worth mentioning is that sometimes, using an activity or manipulatives in a Grade 10 or 11 class isn't a negative thing. Yes, the academic students should learn to conceptualize things without them, but this skill isn't easy for everyone to develop and it is more useful for a student to use manipulatives to help them comprehend than for me to force them to conceptualize something they just do not get.


An aside: I once received an email from someone that described what you should say if someone asks you what a teacher makes. (A rebuttle for those ignorant people who think that we teach for the money, the "holidays", or think that we shouldn't teach because of the money). There is a video version of this, that I have linked to here.

I have also provided a link here for an article that compares football, teaching, and the finance sector. A little long, but a good read.

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