Follow the directions and you will fail…

I started leaving a comment on a post from George Couros and figured why not make it into a blog post ūüôā¬†One question he asked was:¬†

How do we teach kids to learn to even question
what we do as educators, but in a respectful and thoughtful way?

My kids know at the beginning of the year that I don’t give traditional tests. ¬†When they come to me, they are still in “do everything the teacher says” mode. ¬†At the end of the first quarter I tell them we are going to have a test. ¬†Someone usually says something along the lines of “do we really have to?” ¬†I say nope..what do you propose? ¬†And we come up with an alternative plan. ¬†What happened in that class quickly spreads to the others, and each class comes in and questions what I am giving them, and asks for an alternative….they propose an alternative. ¬†They have learned that in every assignment that we have done that whenever a kid says “I wish I could do it like this” ¬†I say “do it.” ¬†When a kids asks if they can take an extra day I say “take it.” They see individuals getting what they want by making suggestions and getting what they want. ¬†Slowly¬†the suggestions start turning into questions. ¬†They learn that by questioning what we are doing, they have the power to change our course.

No one has¬†offered¬†up any suggestions this year despite me doing pretty much the same things. ¬†And when it came time to give the test they walked in and¬†I gave them this. ¬†The immediately got to work. Every class came in, took the directions, and got to work.. No one questioned the test. ¬†The second day came, and no one questioned the test. ¬†The third day they came in and took the test. ¬†The fourth day I gave them the test back and told them I never intended to give it to them…all someone had to do was question me.

The comments from all the classes were simply that they were not “trained” to question the teacher. ¬†Well now they know…

The next project after the test, there were probably 25 different types of final products…it’s starting.

But they still need a bigger kick…when we come back in January they are going to get another assignment with a page full of directions. ¬†At the bottom, the last line, it will simply say…

Follow the directions and you will fail.

The reality is that most teachers like to follow directions, and need them to feel safe. When everyone in the class is following the directions, they feel safe. Their power stays intact that way. ¬†I think that is one of the reasons why I do not know a single teacher personally who questions the common core state standards. ¬†It is the environment we get when we hire teachers who liked school, and¬†received¬†good grades. ¬†Can you imagine if during interviews we asked, “When was the last time you questioned authority?”

So George, getting your kids to question what we do is not “rocket science.” ¬†Your kids will eventually turn out to be who you are and not who you want them to be. ¬†If the teacher continues to question things in class, they will eventually start to question the teacher. ¬†If you support the individual kids who question, it will soon spread to the class. ¬†And when all else fails…you can force them to question you! ¬†I suppose in may ways it is like teaching someone to swim by sailing out into the middle of the ocean and pushing them over the side of the boat. ¬†But from experience I can tell you that after you push then over they do under, but when they surface they never go under again…in fact, by the end of the year they eventually jump back in and take over the boat.¬†

The last line in George’s post is a quote from Sugatra Mitra:

‚ÄúI think our job as educators, the biggest job in today‚Äôs information, saturated world, is to give the child an armour against doctrine.‚Ä̬†

The kids are pretty good about finding their own armour.  What we need to provide them with is not shields, but swords.

“A typical public school in the United States is all about honoring the herd. ¬†The students are supposed to be sheep, but too many of the teachers are just older and fatter sheep. Schoolism is a herd mentality.”
James Marcus Bach

How do we get kids to question?  How do we break the herd?

We hire more wolves ūüôā

Which do we want???


I am fierceFirst image is from here and includes the following caption:
“We took our first test in first grade this week (a math test for chapter 1)¬†and¬†I wanted to go over my expectations of a good test taker.”

Second image is mine ūüôā

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