The experience of simultaneously reading The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner, building my PLN on Twitter, engaging with my principal and colleagues at Vista Visions Academy in a complete redesign of our school, being dropped into a 3D Gamelab experience for EDL 621 (which turned me into a highly engaged quest monster), and recycling stacks (and I mean stacks!!) of ridiculous worksheets that my 2nd grader brings home daily, has created in me the absolute, undeniable opinion that we need to #schooldifferently. I don't have the answers as exactly how to do that yet, but I can feel the ideas percolating. I've decided that I am in the Incubation stage of the creative process, which is actually a fairly uncomfortable stage, as many times it means one has passion and energy, but the ideas are still abstract and disconnected. But that only means that soon I will emerge into the Illumination phase, and that is a glorious phase of EUREKA! and the smooth ride of FLOW. So I'm hanging out in my discomfort for now, knowing it will be the catalyst for change.
Chapters 3 and 4 of The Global Achievement Gap focused on the important topics of testing and how to reinvent the teaching profession. These are important chapters because they are interconnected. As educators, we have to now redesign the teaching profession because of testing and the ridiculous emphasis that was placed on it in the last decade especially. Actually, standardized testing redesigned the teaching profession when NCLB dominated the profession. Now we just need to remember what our goals are and remember how to teach.
In chapter three Wagner refers to the work of David Conley who lists the core "habits of mind" that are needed for students to be successful in college: "intellectual openness; inquisitiveness; analysis, reasoning, argumentation and proof, interpretation; precision and accuracy; and problem solving." Unfortunately the high school experience for most students doesn't target and teach these skills. Instead, much of high school curriculum consists of decontextualized content taught in isolation, and the links to those skills and "habits of mind" that Conley wrote about are not made. The teaching to the test has created a method of teaching that doesn't help students make connections or help them dig deeper into ideas to practice honing those important habits of mind. Instead, teaching to the test has isolated concepts from the large interconnected world for students- isolated the concepts to the four walls of individual classrooms in individual disciplines. Clearly this needs to be changed if students are going to acquire the skills necessary in our interconnected world.
Chapter 4 focuses on how the profession of teaching needs to be redesigned, as well as how teachers are trained for the profession. It is pointed out that teachers are trained in much the same way high school students experience high school: by taking a bunch of classes with little connection with each other. That kind of training does not a connected teacher make. Wagner reiterates in chapter four that the most important skill today's students need is the ability to ask the right questions. Teachers need to be taught how to model that and teach students how to do that. Teachers need to be taught how to teach the important competencies and skills, rather than just the content- because much of the detail of the content can be easily looked up online. Facts are at our fingertips nowadays. Many times the facts become secondary to the ideas, questions, connections, problems, and solutions in the real world that surround those facts. In order for education to right itself, teachers, new and veteran, need to learn how to become leaders of change and how to look past the specific details of their content momentarily in order to refocus on the larger picture- the competencies and skills that students need to be successful in the world and lead a meaningful life. Then teachers can return their gaze to their content, but this time through the lens of the competencies, the content should appear differently. It will require a different approach and focus to teach when looking through the lens of competencies. It is time for a different approach. It is time to school differently.