Education is in a vacuum at the moment. While everyone acknowledges that a 19th century educational system does not work in the 21st century, no one is able to stand up and say what the new paradigm is. There is a lack of vision and focus. Some people see it in flipped classrooms, (or any other name you want to give it) SOLE, on line learning. And so on. Down in the educational trenches teachers are waiting for someone to provide the definition and example. For the last 30 years this direction has come from the leadership in the Ministry of Education and school boards. So far they have given information that only protects the status quo. They feel there is a need to reach towards the testing they require to assure everyone they are doing their job.
Most educational reforms make an assumption that there is a deficiency, not strength in educational systems. This is why politicians and other uninformed people make the demand for reforms. They don’t see the successes but dwell on the failures presented by the press. There is a great strength in education. More and more students are graduating every year. We have been replacing the retired people in the workforce with competent people who are investing time and energy towards making improvements. Are we reaching everyone? Not at the moment but we are starting to move in that direction.
No longer are we in a world dominated by manufacturing. We are now in a technological world. We are training students for jobs that are coming down the pipe. As we continue to teach children to be lifelong learners and use their new found knowledge, that will create jobs and make the world a better place. Lifelong learning outside of school is taking off as evidenced by MOOC’s, online courses, and search engines. People have a stronger access to resources than they have ever had in the past. More people are learning through using search engines to learn about their interests. This helps them to grow as individuals.
Teachers need to create a personal vision of where the path of education might lead, with a strength and purpose. Many have a glimpse of the future and are walking towards it with an open mind and willingness to experiment. This willingness to accept technology and have students use it to inform their learning is beginning to provide a basis for change.
What does this all mean?
The day to day education of students is in the hands of teachers. Teachers control the ways and means of reaching students and influencing their learning. In the past we had nice structured environments, with ample textbooks and knowledge that we were the impetus for their learning. We had the information. They took it from us and grew with it. In today’s society that does not happen. Children gain their learning from a far wider variety of sources other than teachers. So now teachers need to adapt their ways of imparting their information that is more in tune with the student’s needs.
In order to do this, teachers need to ask themselves: How am I changing my teaching style to meet the interests of the students? What am I doing to improve the quality of the teaching in my classroom in a way that all students can succeed? How am I encouraging the weakest student to follow his/her interests and grow? It is not about how the teachers present their information. It is about how the students absorb it. Put it into their hands and let them run with it.
Teachers must focus their time and energy to create change and make a difference. They must accept that change is moving forward and get ready, be a part of this change. They need to make it happen. Teachers also need to stay informed about what is going on around them. They need to talk to their fellow teachers and share and develop programs that will change the face of education. They must find ways and means to empower themselves to learn and grow.
This all requires a change of mindsets. No longer can we keep ourselves hemmed in by the structure of what classrooms are supposed to look like. We need to move ourselves towards what classrooms should look like for our students to be successful learners. We need to change our structures and challenge ourselves to make their learning more meaningful and personal. This may mean that every classroom will be set up differently, so much so that our parents will not recognize it as a classroom. It will be a place of learning where every student is motivated by what they want to learn about.
Teachers need to realize that they are the ones who can make these changes. Teachers must dare to dream. Teachers must take risks and create a vision. It is the only way to change education.