Reminding teachers of what it’s really like to be a student in school is one of my favourite professional pass times. I was presenting at a conference recently and at 3pm, many teachers were talking about being overloaded with information and how tired they were. I highlighted that this was exactly what it’s like to be at school except they had not even been asked for any outcomes or work and would not have to do this for the following 200 days! They all agreed this was good news for them. But what about our students?
Thanks to my friend Danielle Myburgh for telling me to get on with producing a Factory Education poster!
IS School is still a burden?
My presentation (Slides below) was on Learner agency: the purpose, control and ownership students do or don’t feel they have over their learning. I started with a 1957 Chuck Berry line: ““Soon as three o’clock rolls around, you finally lay your burden down” I highlighted how 40 years of almost zero development had led Bart Simpson in the 1990s to share the common joy of : “woo hoo! Snow Day!” I asked the audience of about 50 teachers to fill out 2 Google form questions to confirm if they thought the school day was still a “burden.” Even with a massive majority of elementary school teachers, there was still a 50% agreement that it was. I’m sure this figure would have been higher with high school teachers.
Top students hide their grievances
3 examples I gave of academically successful students not rating the school expericene as positive, regardless of being able to comply with it, were:
- A top grade 7 student regularly achieving a top 3 in class tests and projects, excelling at two sports and working as a library assistant, expressing most mornings how she did not want to go to school due to it being “really boring!” This was the last student her teachers would expect to have this attitude towards school. What must the less engaged be saying?
- The head girl and head boy in a high school both starting the respective ‘high achievers’ speeches with implications that their success was in spite of school not because of it. The top female student highlighted that she had been a well supported high achiever from day one and school had been a great opportunity to show how her already positive approach to challenges could yield great results. The male top student semi-joked that making his bed every morning had started his day with a sense of pride and achievement meaning his self-worth would approach the required compliance in school more positively.
Employers and Universities share their GRIEVANCES
- “teenagers are leaving school lacking basic skills” – UK (Source)
- “School leavers are not meeting the needs of the New Zealand workplace, according to an employer survey.” – NZ (Source)
- “… despite being fully eligible to attend college, they are not ready for postsecondary studies” – US (Source)
My presentation also included 3 examples of the 100s of articles and reports you can find to show employers, universities and even parents are commonly under impressed or disappointed by the motivation and skill set held by school leavers. I highlighted that Malcolm Gladwell’s Ten thousand hour rule, would expect that after 12 or 13 years of 5 hours a day experience, students would be extremely motivated and skilled to make significant impact on the world. The fact that they are commonly unmotivated and lacking confident to tackle situations without significant guidance and scaffolding, means we have them practicing the wrong things.
Tackle Deja Vu with “VuJa de!”
‘Vuja De’ definition: “The vuja de mentality is the ability to keep shifting opinion and perception. It can mean reversing assumptions about cause and effect, or what matters most versus least. It means not traveling through life on automatic pilot.” – Bob Sutton – ‘Scaling Up for Excellence’
It is time for all school leaders to question every aspect of deja vu within their professional life. This is best explained in the way that comedians take a seemingly fresh look at everyday occurrences and by highlighting them, make us laugh out loud. This type of perspective is required if school leaders are to ever see that what they think is being successful within their factory school model is not serving either the children or their future.
Here are my slides: