Teaching Kids to Value Learning in a Society that Loves Results

13 Jul

The Teacher's Battle.

You know what the problem with teaching is? Learning.

We are constantly engaged with a world that loves results. Students, even in college, place the emphasis on THE GRADE. The grade, in terms of learning, doesn’t matter. Learning is a result in itself – a grade merely reflects learning. However, you don’t hear the studious saying, “I’m going to cram all night because microbiology is fascinating!” or “Knowing how to motivate students is crucial to my career, so I can’t wait to read Chapter 12 of Educational Psychology!” And if you do happen to get heard uttering these sorts of sentences, you are exiled and left an outcast until you retract the prior statements and replace them with, “I fucking hate this class. There’s too much work.”

Yup.

You are more likely to hear, “I’m cramming all night because I need to pass this test,” or “I need to get an A or my GPA will drop,” or “Blah, blah, blah, I’ve never been a B student.” The emphasis in education has been switched from what it is that we are learning to the grade we are given. This is further reinforced by standardized testing, federal education requirements, and the admission requirements for some colleges. That resume had better be perfect.

Perfection does not exist, yet a strict focus on results makes us believe that it does. Students lose self-value by receiving a C. They do not consider what was or was not learned, they simply react to the result. A “C” is going to kill their GPA. A black mark on the record.

Grades don’t matter. What happens in the classroom does.

So how do we teach kids how to value learning in a society that loves results?

First, we teachers work our asses off. We slog through masses of information in our content area and shape units and lessons that we believe will compel our kids. We strategize with theory and methods to try and reach every kid in the classroom. We incorporate local, state, and federal standards. We come up with a comprehensive plan – we enter the classroom with severe preparation. Then we get ready to teach.

Yet teachers must also be prepared to fight – they must fight against a society of results. States are demanding that their students be “A” students – that in order to receive education funds, those students had better pass that state test. Their student better be ready to compete globally. No child can be left behind.

Yet nothing is said of learning. The focus is on results. So for job security, teachers have to worry about students achieving results while simultaneously getting students to focus on what actually matters – the learning behind the results.

If you teach a kid to value a result, the end result will be a child who finds self-worth in the result, and not the process of getting there. Getting there is what matters. Learning is what matters. Teach a child to value learning, and the result will be a child who finds self-worth in their own effort, their experiences, their work.  A person who values learning will create. A person who values results will produce.

Teachers, it is up to us to walk the fine line between creating and producing. We must play the game while putting our true effort into the heart of what matters. We are asked to produce – to turn out kids who can pass an SAT or ACT or state test with proficiency. And so we work. We incorporate standards, we strategize, we prepare. Yet the true goal behind all of our efforts is not a test, a grade, a result – it is creating a type of magic in the classroom. It’s culturing the spirit of learning. It’s creating education that initiates the desire to learn.

If we can create this classroom and show our students they are not results, not pawns in a global game, they will go forth and change the expectations of our world.

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One Response to “Teaching Kids to Value Learning in a Society that Loves Results”

  1. rodclarken July 14, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    Glad to see you are back blogging. Partly inspired by your efforts I have started my own blog at http://rodclarken.wordpress.com/ It is on education reform and has similar topics to yours.

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