Friday, May 16, 2014

"How Much More Real Do You Want?!"

Today was a great day. The only class I went to was PE in the morning and then served food at our Student Council Senior Picnic and after that had the pleasure to be able to visit one of our middle schools and one of our elementary schools today in my district. Observing students that were ecstatic to have graduated yesterday all the way to kindergarteners that can't wait to come to school the next morning within such a short time span presented the opportunity for some sociology.

Our last stop of the day was Walnut Hills Elementary to view students Passion Fair Projects. This building has such a close knit family connection between teachers, students, and administrators. Heck, the principal was the one that gave us visitor badges when we walked in instead of being back in her office. We stopped in and talked with Ali Locker who was in a 1st grade room today and upon even the door handle opening they all turned, stared, and waved. The 5th graders eagerly shared with us their philanthropy-based Passion Projects they've been working on. The idea was designed along Angela Maiers' Genius Hour concept. 5th Graders presented to us and never hesitated on any of the questions we threw out at them. When I was in 5th grade I don't even think we knew what trifold stands were!
"I like to go on vacation but I don't like to see the people without homes. It takes a long time for that to get out of my mind and I just want to fix it." -Student
Topics for these ranged from recycling to littering to animal abuse to
homelessness to special needs students and many more! 

Before that we visited the middle school and talked with Mrs. Reinhold, who was helping kids in the library as they came in from study halls and various classes. Mr. Goerend's students were creating business plans of their own choice to argue that one bakery is needed more than a Javascript coding app that all gets trumped by the necessity for a new sports store on the block. And, the best part, they were all able to answer why they were doing this and how it related to English, and that we got different answers from every group. These students were working in their own spaces, corners, desks, groups, and with the technology that they needed to work. There wasn't an "Okay kids, let's all go to the computer lab and sit in rows and work as individuals on this project that you have to present" feel about it at all.

Walking into 7th grade math students recognized me from Instagram and said hi before they went back to their test. Let me remind you that there is a difference in age of 4 years, 3 grade levels, and 2 school buildings between these students and myself. Wouldn't you have cringed if a high schooler walked into your class in middle school?

Throughout the building the Speech and Drama class was writing plays in groups taking over their room and the hallway while 8th graders were practicing their job interview skills with our district Superintendent, the Executive Director of the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, and the Director of the Department of Education in the lunchroom. It was hard to think that that morning they had a BMX bike show come as a prize from the Fall fundraiser.

Now, we come to the post-seniors, the one that are so thankful that over 12 years of school are over and they get to enter the "real world" now. Even as a sophomore I'm guilty of this as I opened the post with "what a great day of skipping school". :)

But I question...

  • Will these same students in elementary and middle school think the same thing when they become high schoolers?
  • Is all the work I just described not a part of the "real world"?
  • Where does this gap between love and hate of school happen?
  • Where did the fun in learning go?
  • Why did learning become separated from the real world as students got closer to entering into it? 

Education has changed so much in the past four years I've followed it from when I entered middle school to today. Not only has it changed within my district but in the state, country, and world; no matter what people may say. The real world is only a stones throw away and our students are already yearning and reaching for it if we haven't already opened up the classroom door and told them to go find it.