There were a number of other topics that may have come before this post, but I just came across this video, and it has captured my full attention. I believe it should capture the attention of anyone involved in education. If a Valedictorian is saying this, we all need to listen up. She, along with an unknown number of other students are disillusioned with the concept of education and school. Somewhere in the midst of their experience, or maybe at the end of it, they realize that they’ve just been going through the motions. If they don’t, they run the risk of being labeled, trapped in a system of “enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement.” Where is the meaning? The Valedictorian also distinguishes between excelling and learning in saying that she completed school just to excel, not to learn. Even if they aren’t mutually exclusive, how do we take that? Where do we go with it?
We must recognize that a personalized learning experience is and always should be a goal high on our list as educators. Tradition streamlines the process of learning until it overrides the innate curiosity and innovative spirit within each of us. It focuses so much on standardization that it treads on personalization. This Valedictorian expanded upon the view of students by stating, “We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down.”
Is that what we’ve been doing? I don’t even think we realize it sometimes. We put our head down and plough through another year’s worth of content, free of context or relevance. I have to admit that it’s easy to do, and it is easy as a student to let it happen. I let it happen to me. I worked hard for that ‘A’ no matter what the cost. I thought if I did that I would get into a good college and have a good career. I did go to college and I did receive scholarships and I do have a good job that I enjoy. However, lasting success has come from me learning how to learn, not from following the pre-determined processes of a finite system. Truthfully, the most fun I have is when I can create and innovate. When I can work through a problem with my team and discover something new or put existing content in a new context and make it work. That is when I really learn and really demonstrate my unique abilities and strengths. Isn’t that what we want for students?
One additional thing stood out to me in this video. At a certain moment, she implores those listening to understand that students are different. They are more than just pupils absorbing knowledge. She contradicts the traditional mindset in saying students are “capable of using our mind for innovation rather than memorization. For creativity rather than futile activity. For rumination rather than stagnation.”
My question is, what are we doing to enable them to be and do all of that?