School’s out. Yet we must keep our collective eye on what counts in our classrooms.
Public schools in 45 states have taken the Common Core Standards to heart. They have been hailed as a “historic opportunity” that will help our children become more competitive in the larger world. Our teachers are now required to deliver 1,300 newly identified skills in Math and Literacy alone. Some states have already begun to assess their students, demonstrating that each child has achieved mastery. Standards in other subjects are on the horizon. Between addressing the Standards and preparing children for the test, will it be necessary for teachers to refocus their curricula?
There’s new data out. The first week in July Adobe released the results of its study on creativity in schools. Among 4,000 participants from the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Australia, 90% of parents and 87% of educators in our country believe that fostering creativity in our classrooms is “important to future economies and will mean that schools must work with children in new ways.” Describing their challenge, U.S. teachers responded, saying (1) school systems do not value creativity, (2) teachers do not have the resources or training to address the Arts, and (3) in today’s world schools over-emphasize testing. Those in other countries say that their current curriculum is the greatest barrier to creative teaching.
Teachers have more on their plates than ever before, and they need our backing. Here’s what we know about what counts in classrooms: Today’s children need to learn differently. Our classrooms must be research labs in which kids ask questions, take responsibility for gathering information, evaluate their sources, scrutinize and categorize data, and communicate it to their peers. Our schools must have design studios in which students can explore materials and have the time and tools to turn their ideas into something real.
Our children must learn to address complex problems and expect multiple solutions. They must become adept at working with real issues and know how to wrap their minds around big ideas. Academics don’t have to stand alone. The Arts are good for thinking. They create opportunities for imaginations to soar. They teach children to make inferences and see connections. They help students become risk takers, work through failures, and try out new options. They provide a vehicle through which children can express their understanding – in Math, Science, Geography, History, and Literacy. Elliot Eisner (Stanford University) says it best:
To be able to think about teaching as an artful undertaking, to regard the design of an educational environment as an artistic task…these ways of thinking about some of the commonplaces of education could have profound consequences.
Let’s not stop thinking and talking about what our schools can be. Before our teachers blink, the kids will be back!