School 2.0

by Janis Gaines

WordPress Prompt from The Daily Post: You get to redesign school as we know it from the ground up. Will you do away with reading, writing, and arithmetic? What skills and knowledge will your school focus on imparting to young minds?

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As a teacher for the past 20 years, I have a lot of opinions about education. If I were redesigning school, I would give more attention to the creative disciplines, like art and music, and require less math and science. So much is mandatory to learn that most people will never need or use, like calculus or trig. Instead, I would encourage more practical applications of math and science, money and finance, and health and relationship skills. I think relationship skills should be taught; a counseling class should be mandatory where students are given support to learn to process emotions in a non-destructive way. I also believe in blogging as a way to keep a record of one’s life and learning, to encourage students to take more ownership and pride in their work. So much is just done for a teacher and then dismissed or thrown away, not to be remembered in the future, while blogs can be forever. Blogs can be personal and they inspire a real sense of community, which is often lacking for young people. Blogs start conversations and keep ideas flowing.

I believe students should have more say over what they are learning — more choices about books, subjects, etc. And what if students really had choices about teachers or schools? I dream of creating an educational company that would give teachers the freedom to teach what they want to teach and to do it in the way they do it best without lots of government controls or admin oversight, as well as providing options for students to choose their teachers and course material. I would also design it so that reaching certain levels offers certain rewards, much like video games are structured. There needs to be more fun, freedom, and creativity in the whole learning process.

I believe in apprenticeship more than college, which focuses mainly on book-learning. I believe in travel and community involvement, volunteering. I would incorporate all of these things into the “normal” track for education. I would chunk learning into smaller modules. For example, instead of taking math for a whole year, choose an emphasis for six weeks, and then do something else for a while. Do another math intensive later on. Kids need to be allowed to have more work/like balance if we want them to have it as adults. I would want kids to learn homesteading, self-sufficiency, entrepreneurial skills — if they want to.

I would put less emphasis on formalized testing and more on experiential outcomes. I would model networking. So often in life and in business, it’s who know and who you ARE versus what you know. Anyone can be taught the what if they truly want to learn it; you must have a solid foundation of character to build upon. Less paperwork and hoops for teachers that rob them of their joy and ability to focus on what they really signed up for and what they are truly gifted at. Some big dreams here that may sound far-fetched, but the educational system is definitely due for some big changes. I hope to help lead some of these changes in my life time.

© October 14, 2015
Tryon, NC

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