Thursday, April 15, 2010

That More May Learn More! Who's the Learner?

The EdWeek blog recently posted an interesting statement by NYU Professor Pedro Noguera in response to where the NCLB accountability must lie:

"(Teachers') unions need to make it very clear that the interests of the teachers are aligned with the interests of the children. Whatever's good for the teachers better also be good for the children."


No matter our professional affiliations, as teachers, our calling makes it clear whom we must first serve: the students.

Far too many students are being left behind. Why? There are so many reasons, it's hard to know where to start. But if we want to focus our lessening resources on where most of the variance in student achievement lies, we must acknowledge what Bill Maher almost got right on his recent TV show when he called out parents for their failure to be part of the solution. He might have said "parents and students!" We know Maher's not the only one who understands this, but his bully pulpit gives him a louder voice.

It's too bad that those words aren't coming from the mouths of our political leaders. Parents, yes! Teachers, yes! But students first. Then the school leaders, the districts, the states, the feds in order of accountability.

Sound like an impossible list? It is! Clearly, there's too much curriculum to be taught today. We are trying to create a cookie-cut student from a growing diversity of students. But, no matter how you cut it, these so-called critically important standardized tests label the schools instead of helping the students.

Yes, for us educators, it's first and foremost the students we serve. But it's a reciprocal issue. Students, with support from their parents, have got to own their own learning. They need to dream more about their futures, build a plan to develop the skills to get there, list and demand the resources they need to learn....in short, design and follow their own unique learning plan, one which addresses their own interests and talents, and also addresses their own needs.

Parents absolutely must be a part of this, or it will continue to fail. Many parents spend more time watching their kids play sports than checking their homework.

Next comes the teacher, and the rest of us in the Village of Learning, who are also here to help all learners succeed. A Personal Learning Plans for each student would cost little or nothing. Yet it would place the major responsibility for learning in the hands of the learner. This is where it must be. Then, it's up to parents, teachers, administrators to encourage, assist, find resources, help assess progress and remain committed to helping each child reach his or her goals.

Professor Noguera from NYU was right in his recent statement. The focus for teachers must be the learner. Maher was right: Parents must help.

But it all starts with the learner committed to learning, and a personal plan to make it happen.

1 comment:

Adam Bilsky said...

Yes! I've been dreaming this lately. That good ideas come in clusters might be a good sign for me. My limited experience with the public schools is that they are far too cumbersome, institutional, and entrenched to waste this concept on - yet. I think this idea [http://on.ted.com/8RIX] is closely related. I want to develop a model for delivering this kind of passion-based curriculum at the right scale for a start-up, but that can be replicated. Thank you for letting Shelly repost this on her blog, so I could find it!