2. "Kids don't want to learn. They don't put in the work. They don't fulfill their potential."
In too many schoolchildren, we don't see the hunger to learn that we saw when they were toddlers. Toddlers seize their education with both hands, stumble and run and fall and get up, ready to learn more.
But inside our schools there are kids who don't seem to care about learning at all. Some kids care but have no confidence in their abilities; some kids stress out about homework and grades and adult approval. Few kids seem motivated, ignited, by something deep inside them, which is fulfilled by hard work and achievement of mastery which school is helping them to accomplish.
Where's the love of learning? What's been lost? How did we lose it? How can we get it back?
Too many kids in the public school system are bringing passivity about their learning to school with them, and I'm going to give very short shrift to all the particulars of why and how and whose fault it is (well, ok, here's a little more shrift: it's the fault of the system that we all have given our tacit approval to, by our inability to stand up and change it. It's not the teachers. It's not the parents. It's not the administrators. That's too easy. I place a lot of blame, but we all shoulder it, including myself.*)
Some teachers are better at it than others, this business of getting kids interested in stuff they don't care about. Lots of professional development has been devoted to it. There are whole libraries of books on the subject. How do you teach kids to love math? How do you make history come alive? How do you turn kids on to the mysteries of science? So many strategies, so many methods, while kids shrug, look out the window, fingers itching for the keypad to their phones.
We have convinced ourselves that we know, much better than children do, what they need to learn and when. The possibility of going about the business of education in an entirely different way seems impossible to contemplate.
Wouldn't it have just made sense to pay close attention to who these kids are instead of being in such an all-afire hurry to teach them stuff? I mean, not only having an "Identity Day," although I like the idea. How about an Identity Year?
If the public school system was a book, then the first page, the page that said: "First find their passions," has gone missing. Adults have been floundering about ever since, trying to find that missing page, that thing that would make kids love learning.
Start with passion and see where children will lead you. Respect what they need to learn right now, give them time and space to do what drives them, and see what doors it opens. Have faith in them. Let's stop making end-runs around the problem of motivating kids to learn, go to the source, find out what's inside kids and how we can help them make pursue their dreams of who they need to be.
Without passion, any kind of school change is just the same ol' same ol'.
*I've been a school board member for 8 years, and not much about how we do school has changed.