Fix the Broken System

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Today, I’m proud to have a guest blogger from Washington Co. High School. Below is a speech that he presented in his public speaking class this semester. I love his ideas and I’m so happy he’s agreed to share them here. Thank you, Cole! 🙂

Photo Credit: flickr

The School System is Broken

by Cole Perkins, aka “A Random 9th Grader”

The school system is broken and it needs to be fixed now. The sad truth is that the current school system is not effective and is incredibly outdated. It does not address the need for every student and it tends to focus on subjects that are not essential to being successful in life. It is bad that school prioritizes subjects such as complex algebra and science when so very few people need that information in their life. Knowing this information for the sake of knowing it should not be essential and should only be optional for people to pursue, their are many problems in our current school system, some of them are being addressed others are ignored.

An awful thing in our education system is that it is very broad in the way it teaches and often doesn’t care about what some students may want or need, focusing on narrow and complex topics to teach while ignoring what students may actually want. It’s even worse that most colleges could care less how well you did in all of your classes, and seem to care more about whether or not you have played some extracurricular activity, that you honestly don’t care about.

Also another fatal flaw in our current school system is the idea that students should have little to no control of their own education, and that they should only be able to pick a few little classes that they may or may not get into. Students have absolutely no freedom or control on what they want to do, and in a few cases where they do have some control it is heavily restricted by what the school wants and desires for the students to do.

Now would you like to know a fun fact? America ranks 14th in education in the world it may not sound that bad but you would think we would want to strive to be number one. But do you want to know who has the best education system? Finland, and you know what is so odd about that? Finnish schools are known for giving very little homework and only have tests that are optional.

Another absolutely wonderful thing about Finland education is that it gives more chances for students to do what they actually want to do! It is a truly wonderful thing that Finland made a system that actually works both good and efficiently, a system that actually benefits the people it’s supposed to be teaching.

By now, you may be expecting a solution to this problem and it is actually very simple, if we want to raise the education standard and allow students to fill their goals in life all we have to do is make the system more of a democracy and allow students to have a bigger say in their education. Giving students more power into what they actually want to learn will turn them into more creative and innovative people, which is what we currently need. The system we have now was designed to turn students into mindless obedient factory workers who must only speak when spoken to and who must only get things done and nothing else: a system that teaches them that their opinions mean absolutely NOTHING.

However, times are changing and factory appeal has gone down. Students want to be free to make their own choices. After all, this generation is supposed to lead us into the future. Also let’s take the example of Finland and copy what they are doing; break down the divide between grades, because the more we divide the students the bigger the gap of education gets. Not separating students into categories has proven to work, by good old Finland.

Another grand thing we can do that Finland is also doing so it is proven to work, is cut the time students spend in schools and classrooms. Why must this be done? Well it has been proven multiple times that people will function and work better if they get both more sleep, and more free time between activities.

In Finland the average time students start school is 9:00 through 9:45 AM and finish at 2:00 through 2:45 PM. And from what I have researched Finnish students have less classes and more break times, the average break between classes is 15 to 20 minutes. At first this may seem confusing but if you think about it a little, it begins to make perfect sense, fewer classes means students won’t have to memorize as much and long breaks between classes means students have time to digest all of the information that they have learned.

So overall Finland has proven that when it comes to education less is so much more. If you want to have an actual good education and be prepared for life and know how to properly adult, then make the school system aware that it is an absolute failure and it needs to change or else we will all suffer the consequences.

There are many issues with our current education system and I have only talked about some of them. But I believe the main thing to fix is the issue of students having so little freedom to decide what they want to do. Many children don’t want to learn complex algebra or know how many wives Henry had. Humans as a species are people who will naturally learn on their own; we don’t need to hold their hand and tell them to do this and that.

In this very classroom where I am writing this document, several students have been working hard on their own projects that they actually want to do and care about doing. It is time that we fix the school system and give the students who are forced to come here everyday to listen to complete nonsense only to forget about it all later an actual choice in what they want to learn. We need to give students more freedom, more space, and more responsibility.

In history, democracy has proven time and time again to be the best option; so let’s implement some democracy in our school system. By the time students get into high school, they should no longer be forced to learn something they do not want to; and they should not be punished for not reaching the schools expectations. Give students complete and total freedom to pick every class they want. It’s not as crazy as it may sound, in fact it is the best option.

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Slow Down

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Are traditional school schedules and teacher classrooms too rushed and hurried to foster creativity and innovative thinking? Is the pressure to perform in a standards-based culture too high to promote deep and reflective thought? Do factory-model schools cultivate trust and relationships that drive honest feedback, teamwork and the co-creation of solutions?

And the implication is that the real or perceived societal pressure we feel to get more and more things done, and process more and more information, can be an enemy to real love and true learning.” – Four Reasons to Slow Down by Jon Bloom

Learning takes time and patience and this conflicts with how our society and our public education system often operate.

“In an ideal world, the school day would reflect kids’ changing needs and rhythms. There would be time for free play; school would start later to allow time for students’ much-needed rest; the transition time between classes would be longer, allowing time for kids to walk down the hall and say hi to their friends and plan their next moves; kids would have the opportunity to step away from school “work” in order to regroup and process what they’ve absorbed. “The actual encoding of information doesn’t take place when you’re hunched over a desk,” she said.” – Why Kids Need Schools to Change by Tina Barseghian

Deep and thoughtful learning that generates creative and innovative ideas and solutions requires the time and patience to:

  • think
  • reflect
  • dream
  • hope
  • discuss ideas
  • ask questions
  • seek answers
  • encourage others
  • build relationships
  • generate new ideas
  • test theories
  • create solutions

“The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 ‘leadership competency’ of the future.” – The Creativity Crisis by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman


This leaves me wondering about the learning and creativity within my school…

    • Do students know how to be creative? Can creativity be taught?

Creativity can be taught,” says James C. Kaufman, professor at California State University, San Bernardino.” – The Creativity Crisis

  • Are teachers designing learning experiences that promote deep learning and creative output?

“What’s common about successful programs is they alternate maximum divergent thinking with bouts of intense convergent thinking, through several stages. Real improvement doesn’t happen in a weekend workshop. But when applied to the everyday process of work or school, brain function improves.” – The Creativity Crisis

“When students display creativity and innovation in PBL, they are able to generate and refine solutions to complex problems or tasks.” – How Can We Teach and Assess Creativity and Innovation in PBL? by John Larmer

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Encourage Reflection & Action


As the instructional coach, I wonder what I can do to support deeper thinking and creativity within every classroom and online learning environment in my school. Maybe I should procrastinate and be unhurried! 🙂

“We’re always asked to be faster and more precise. But what can we learn from slowing down — even procrastinating? This hour, TED speakers explore why taking it slow is crucial…for all of us.” – Slowing Down from the TED Radio Hour

This radio program and Grant’s article, Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate, illuminate the idea of slowing down in order to come up with creative and innovative ideas. By slowing down and taking time to reflect on a problem, we give ourselves time to come up with different solutions. Sometimes, our initial solution or answer is not as good as those ideas we come up with after taking in and wrestling with and testing lots of ideas.

“But while procrastination is a vice for productivity, I’ve learned — against my natural inclinations — that it’s a virtue for creativity.” –  Grant

“It was only when they first learned about the task and then put it off that they considered more novel ideas. It turned out that procrastination encouraged divergent thinking.” – Grant

““You call it procrastination, I call it thinking.” – Aaron Sorkin

I had never heard of the Unhurried movement until I started researching for this blog post, but the principles definitely align to being patient and engaging in discussions in which you truly listen (skills which I’m practicing). I love the philosophy of this approach which challenges us to relax and focus on listening instead of talking in a frenetic volley that is laden with interruptions.

The Unhurried Approach “applies to any process that requires the participation of human beings. We use Unhurried as a guiding principle in our work with people.”

I hope to apply the principles for being unhurried at work and plan some opportunities for Unhurried Conversations for teachers and students. In order to support deeper thinking and creativity within every classroom and online learning environment in my school, I will…

Photo Credit: flickr

Listen

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Reflections

This week I was fortunate to participate in a professional learning experience in which participants studied and practiced Cognitive Coaching strategies. The foundation of effective coaching is having a trusting relationship with the coachee and relationships are built upon open communication. Therefore, if I want to be an effective coach it’s imperative that I become proficient in the area of listening and fully attending to the person with whom I’m engaged in conversation.

Like many of us, I tend to focus on my own thoughts and ideas and listen with the intent to speak instead of understand the speaker. I’m also very action oriented and impatient so often I want to rush to a solution. (Because, my gosh, there are so many problems to solve! We’ve got to get busy… Hurry up! Solve those problems! There’s no time to waste!)

“You cannot listen when you have an agenda. You cannot listen when you are just waiting for a pause in the conversation so you can insert your opinion. You cannot listen when you presume to know what the problem is before it has even been explored.” – Jesus, Life Coach: Learn from the Best, Laurie Beth Jones p.210

“They [poor listeners] listen only long enough to get the topic of your conversation, and then they proceed to tell you all the thoughts in their mind regarding that topic. Or, if you present them with a personal struggle, they will quickly move to give you an answer by telling you what you ought to do in that situation. They are adept at analyzing problems and creating solutions. But they are not adept at sympathetic listening with a view to understanding the other person.” The 5 Love Languages: Singles Edition, Gary Chapman p.85

Human beings are very social and that entails talking AND listening. Now, we’ve got the talking part down pat. Most of our problems stem from not listening or simply listening reflexively.

Reflective listening takes place when you not only pause and consider what has been said, but are able to repeat it back accurately to the speaker. Reflexive listening is waiting simply for your chance to insert something into the conversation.” – Jesus, Life Coach p.211

Ouch! Many of us in the Cognitive Coaching sessions felt this sting; the sting of awareness that we are not fully attending to the speaker or listening with the intent to understand but only to give our own point of view.

“If there is any one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own.” How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie

Actions

If I intend to fulfill my professional and personal vision and mission with a servant heart, then I must PRACTICE until I perfect my listening skills. If I want to improve my coaching and “mediate thinking,” then I have to COMMIT to becoming a better listener.

“…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43-45 (ESV)

“If I can listen to what he tells me, if I can understand how it seems to him, if I can see its personal meaning for him, if I sense the emotional flavour which it has for him, then I will be releasing potent forces of change in him.” Barriers and Gateways to Communication, Carl Rogers and F. J. Roethlisberger

In addition to the Cognitive Coaching strategies, I will practice the following skills.

Sympathetic Listening – The 5 Love Languages: Singles Edition

  1. Maintain eye contact when you are listening to someone.
  2. Don’t engage in other activities while you are listening to another individual.
  3. Listen for feelings.
  4. Observe body language.
  5. Refuse to interrupt.
  6. Ask reflective questions.
  7. Express understanding.
  8. Ask if there is anything you might do that would be helpful.

Effective Listening – 10 Steps to Effective Listening  

  1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.
  2. Be attentive, but relaxed.
  3. Keep an open mind.
  4. Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying.
  5. Don’t interrupt; don’t impose your “solutions”.
  6. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions.
  7. Ask questions only to ensure understanding.
  8. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling.
  9. Give the speaker regular feedback.
  10. Pay attention to what isn’t said – to nonverbal cues.

As I practice listening, I need to be sure to focus on PAUSING. During some of our Cognitive Coaching practice activities, I was reminded of how much I detest silence in conversations. (Eye contact makes me nervous, too, but for now I’ll focus on pausing. 🙂 ) During our planning-conversation practice, a colleague and I really struggled to keep a straight face as we made eye contact and tried to paraphrase and pause. I felt so exposed as I tried to keep eye contact, juggle all these different thoughts, paraphrase AND listen! (This is going to take a lot of practice:/ )

“From the time Americans are small children, we are taught to dislike silence. The punishment of being sent to one’s bedroom for “quiet time” or “time out” causes children to plead for mercy and promise to be good. And what is the dreaded sentence they wish to avoid? Silence.” – Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time, Susan Scott p.222-223

Conclusions

All things considered, I am excited, hopeful and prepared to continue this journey – the journey of not only becoming a better coach but also becoming a better human being. It’s tough, but we’re all in it together and we need one another and if listening makes the journey better, then just do it!

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” – Proverbs 18:13 (ESV)

“…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak…” – James 1:19 (ESV)

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” – Proverbs 18:2 (ESV)

Photo Credit: flickr