I’m writing my “Welcome Letter” to students. It’s going to a blog post this year. I’m trying to save trees–it’s a pain in the ass to get more paper when I run out. I have to requisition paper just to make the forms to get the paper, and I can’t really afford a virtual assistant. So, digital, here I come.
When I start the school year, I think of my most difficult customer. The kid who doesn’t want to be looking at my ugly face for 180 days and prays for a snowstorm or natural disaster to relieve him of that obligation. I don’t target nerds like me…they show up politely whether they like me or not. If I can convince school haters, I’m golden.
So, within the first day or two I’ll ask a question, “What would you like to learn?”
Life is about learning. The problem with education isn’t that policy’s bad, teachers suck or kids are stupid, it’s a failure to provide an intersection point.
Imagine a graph–any graph. There is generally a point where the two lines meet. On a supply and demand or pricing graph, you have a bunch of people trying to not pay for stuff and a bunch of people trying to overcharge. Depending on the amount of stuff in circulation, the lines meet and you get a dot in the middle. If the lines don’t meet, that means you didn’t sell your product.
I wasn’t good at math. I had to go to the Psych Services tutor in college to understand this stuff. She told me, “You’re okay, take a deep breath.” The guy in the next cube over was being treated for his fear of spiders.
Anyway. A graph is a graph. Right now what we have in education is a graph where the lines don’t always intersect. We have one group of people deciding what will be taught and evaluated, another teaching, and a third wishing they could learn something else entirely. Lines that don’t meet. When the lines don’t meet, that means you didn’t sell your product. My product is education. Not just education, but the LOVE of education.
When the lines meet, you get a dot in the middle of the graph. You need the dot in the middle of the graph. The dot represents the place where we all come together and agree on something. Cost effectiveness. The price we’re willing to pay. The salary we’ll take. Work efficiency. Break-even point. The willingness to teach and learn. It’s all the same. The lines need to meet.
I’m a writer–I don’t generally write about graphs. But the truth is the truth whether I like it or not–the dot in the middle–the point of intersection–is the truth in all things. In math or relationships, we need that common ground.
One student put this in perspective, “You write a lot of curriculum. Teachers meet for this. Why don’t students meet with teachers and write it? ” Brilliant. Especially at the high school level where students are my customers. They express what is useful to them. Then, I guide them on paths to the top of the mountain.
So, this year, I’ll be asking “What do you want to learn?” We’ll decide together.
“Casey,” you might say, “How will they know what they need?” You’d be surprised. Given guidance and an objective, they soar. When I get customer dissatisfaction in the ranks, I say, “Here’s what I was aiming for. How can you achieve this to show me you learned?” Most of the time, they do far more than I’d have assigned.
Learning isn’t top down. I learn from my students. This year I learned from the world. I’m a better writer, a better person…I have the type of friends who push me to be great. I push my students to be great. Better than me. Students often ask me a question.
“Miss, why are you teaching?” You see, everyone views teaching as the job you get if you can’t get another job. It’s a perception I’m trying to change.
“I’m here because I love you guys. I want you to be better than me.” It takes a while for that answer to sink in. When it does, when students believe this truth, we learn great things together.
This year, I’ve learned things I love–things I wanted to learn. Why would my students be different? That is why we will start with the question, “What would you like to learn?”
And then, we’ll accomplish that goal.