In the article, “Why Kids Need Schools to Change”, Tina Barseghian highlights the philosophies of an educator named, Madeline Levine, Ph.D. who is the author of a book called, “Teach Your Children Well”. The article addresses some of the issues that adolescents face in the classroom that are seldom discussed in relation to education reform. Levine begins by saying that “kids learn better when teachers are invested, paying attention, and showing they care”. I couldn’t agree more with this statement especially after my experience in my last pre-practicum where I observed two different teachers in the 11th grade. One teacher was attentive and interested; the other just trying to pass the time while their students’ listened to music or slept. Levine says, “the biggest impact you have as a teacher is the relationship you establish with your students” and this became obvious as the students’ eagerly awaited one class to begin and failed to show up in the other. Levine goes on to discuss the role of expectations and that the higher the expectations, the better the outcome. You come to learn what expectations are achievable from really getting to know your students and by “taking seriously the range of interests kids have”. If you take an interest in the students as individual learners, creators, and thinkers you have a better chance of getting your students to want to push themselves for themselves and not just for the End of Course (EOC) exams.
Levine spends most of her time at Challenge Success, which is a school training program operating out of Stanford that has already been incorporated in 100 schools around the country. Challenge Success works on modernizing old systems in place using five criteria:
“Project Based Learning”– “Collaboration, work on things that cross time zones, and cultures”. As a future teacher, I truly believe in collaboration, group work, and small group discussions. I love seeing the exchange of ideas among people and how different experiences shape and re-shape how we all come to particular answers.
“Alternative Assessments”– Levine says, “We should have alternative criteria for gauging students’ knowledge and ability to show what they know”. In my opinion, this is true not only for students’ who fall by the wayside but also as a way of gauging the ways in which different people learn, how they process and digest information, and how students’ produce work that some standardized testing prohibits. The book, “How People Learn” discusses ways in which we can expand the current forms of defining and testing achievement and understanding.
“Scheduling”- Here Levine expresses the importance of sleep among adolescents and explains the ways in which our 200 year-old system enables students to get this sleep they so badly need! The motto here is CHANGE!
“Climate of Care”- Levine says, “… in public schools there are just a few counselors for a thousand kids or more” and this may be true. However, I find it difficult to imagine being a teacher, a counselor, and a therapist though I do see the importance of having an interest in our students and paying attention to students’ who exhibit problematic or worrying behavior and addressing those issues in a proactive way.
“Parent Education” – “Parents should know how to push their kids’ towards the edge, but not over it”. And I think the same is true for educators and education systems as a whole. Our goal should not be to ruin our students’ lives and deter them from furthering their education but rather guide them towards a path of enrichment and understanding about their world and the world that came before them.