What is the “It” factor when it comes to teaching and learning? Does it come from the student, the teacher, the school model or the parent? One could probably make an argument for each of these contributing factors which help to shape our youth. I would like to dig a little deeper at the “It” factor through the lens of engaging teaching opportunities facing youth today.
When considering the best model of school, we have to look at the student first. Thus, our answer can be different every time. Students can bring varied experiences to the classroom setting. This can be as different as the world is wide.
Genius Hour-Many schools are employing a concept used by FedEx and Google, or 20% time. Quite simply, they are giving students time to work on project oriented problem solving ventures. Highly efficient and effective models can link standards (proficiencies) to the work accomplished by students. Quite recently, I have been able to review work with students who are under patent, under contract and petitioning a local town council to change a noise ordinance law. This meaningful work is highly engaging for students and leading the charge for a better community.
Mission Work/Service Oriented work- Some outstanding models offer a J Term or winter term, which allows students to dabble in interest driven experiences. This is rewarding to the learner and quite meaningful to the planning for a career.
With consideration to Mission Driven work, it has been my experience that this produces an incredibly solid young person. Students often come out such an experience with a higher sense of humility and delivering justice in an ever increasing worrisome world.
Meeting the student where they are instead of the students conforming to the system-
I would be remiss if I did not mention Brady Exploration School in Colorado. I worked with their principal for a few years while we were both in Florida. The Exploration school was built to counteract a severe drop-out rate that saw students quickly become a burden as a drop-out, to the local community. This was not the case for all but it was for many. Simply stated, the system did not meet the students where they were in life. Many were single mothers, homeless or victims of a circumstance out of their control. Remarkably, Brady eliminated failure as an option. Here is the mission statement from their web site:
Our focus is on students who are non-attenders or dropped out of school. We work to fill their gaps and determine how they learn best. We build rapport, differentiate curriculum and instruction, and offer support they need to be successful. School hours are 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. We provide a computer for every student. To motivate students and encourage success, no D’s or F’s are given; teachers and students are responsible to ensure that the student is proficient through weekly progress monitoring. Students are assigned a mentor who helps to establish weekly goals, explore career opportunities, and guide students in preparation for ACT testing.
Hybrid Models of online learning and brick and mortar
Technology is quickly becoming the great difference maker for learning. It elevates engagement and brings the pace of learning to an anywhere anytime continuum. Hybrid models are giving way to flipped learning. Students can simply get the content delivery pieces in their home or anywhere of their choosing. This allows the actual class time to become much more hands on or lab type experiences. Over the typical time for a class, much more in depth enriching content can be experienced (depth over breadth).
I have mentioned a few ideals that are flowing in education circles today. Quite simply, the most successful educational models are great teachers meeting students “where they are” in life and helping them achieve new levels of growth that is quite remarkable. We live in a great time for educational offerings and there are many great educators leading the way!
Chad Smith is an elementary principal in Zionsville, IN. Find him on Twitter here.