How Much Does the School Environment Prepare Learners for “Real” Life?

January hasn't been much of a snow-producer by us, but I have had to endure the frequent, tortured laments, such as ” Why did we only get a 2 hour delay?" or "I need a snow day!" or "please, please let there be ice so I don't have to go to school tomorrow!" this is much the same as what I endured in the summer, when only a few weeks before school began, the complaints began. Comments such as "OMG! We only have 19 more days off!" and "Do not even talk to me About school supplies-it makes me sick" clog my Facebook page.

But these comments aren't from reluctant students, who by the way have had to complete packets and packets of summer work, but rather TEACHERS! As a former middle school teacher (who always worked a second and third job and never took a summer off), I began to think about traditional education practices and how little they prepare an individual for life in “the real world."

Besides the typical lament that school should be year-round, it is important to realize that the American educational system is based on philosophy, rather than science and what we know about the developing brain. For instance, it is now commonly-known that teenagers' brains go through a blossoming phase and that they typically go to sleep later and wake up later. So why do classes start so early for them? Sometimes I see kids waiting at the bus stop at 6:10 a.m., and in the winter darkness, I know they won’t be awake and Alert for at least 2-3 more hours. Why not simply flip the elementary school times with the middle/high school times?

Ok, so now the student arrives in school, where he or she is is expected to sit at a desk pretty much all day without talking to other kids. And during a quiz or test, we do not allow collaberation or use of resources. How is that normal in today's world? When was the last time you had to solve a problem and weren't allowed to ask someone else in the office, use the internet, consult a reference book, or check your notes. So what we’re really testing in school is memory, huh?

Do you play music while you work or move around when you feel restless? If you do in the classroom, the nurse will often send you a behavior checklist to fill out for your pediatrician (that's a whole different topic...)

And as far as creativity, we are creating a whole generation of passive learners who have learned to answer somebody else's questions but don't really know how to generate their own questions to explore.

So what can we do to improve the situation and help students and teachers get excited by learning, growing, and having fun learning?

Stay tuned for some ideas...

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