By David Broyles
August 15, 2013
I really needed a brief walk on the positive side in the midst of educational budget bludgeoning in the media. This came in the form of Mount Airy City Schools Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) Coaches Patty Burgess and Lee Hunter and the Surry County Schools Teaching Technology Conference.
Part of what these educators are involved in really makes (get ready for the Shakespeare reference) a sea washed change in the way many of us are used to the Three Rs being delivered to us. Previously, the model was a cafeteria-style curtly described as “sage on the stage.” Students walk in, sit down and shut up. The teacher, standing between students and knowledge (the blackboard), tells you what you need to know. That's it. No lather. No rinse. Just repeat.
Don't get me wrong. A lot of learning happened this way and as a parent I have used aggressive lecturing to reinforce positive behavior. (My kids hated the talk and sometimes longed to be given a spanking instead.) My impression is teachers are not abandoning many parts of this approach. The shift, the change will make teachers more of a “guide at the side.”
As teacher Brittany Guy said, using technology to get the point across about the lesson during homework that night means less time the next day on what should have been learned. This frees time up for students to roll up their sleeves for some hands-on learning because there is more time for teachers to teach. How novel. That was the intent at the beginning of the process.
Cultural neutron bombs being what they are has forced me into using the Kentucky Fried Chicken bowl metaphor. You know, these are the bowls filled with layers of potatoes, chicken and what not. You always see more things added not subtracted in the commercials. It's like that with educators. More and more has been added on to schools which families used to do. Frankly, I don't think there's a way to turn the clock back on this. I just think it's sad that in previous years year-round education was discussed not because of learning but because the schools in some areas were the safest place for children.
Honestly, I like the potential for students to be more guided that goaded. What is being attempted could ultimately allow flexibility for students actively learning. It could allow a savvy child to have their freshman year of high school out of the way by the end of middle school which could be really handy in light of trends asking the younger to make up their mind what they want to do in life.
We all at some point have lived the saying “Just when I knew all of life's answers they changed the questions.” Our children face a bewildering, quicksilver world where that educated guess becomes little more than a roll of the dice. Not the firmest footing for confident decision making but the good news is learning has and will continue. There's something endearing in the very core of teachers. They do what they do because they love children and making a difference in lives.
We could give them a lot of lemons and I have faith they will continue to make lemonade, spinning straw into gold. Up on your feet hometown fans, there is a lot of excitement out there about the new school year in Surry County.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.