THE ELEPHANTS CANNOT BE AVOIDED MUCH LONGER

Elephants in the Classroom Pic
Photo CC By-Tanti Ruwani

According to the online Cambridge Dictionary, the phrase “elephant in the room” means that there is an obvious problem or difficult situation that people do not want to talk about.  In the current world of United States education, there are many of them, and they are large.  In his blog, ‘9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us‘, Will Richardson takes these issues head on and encourages other educators to do the same.

While all 9 of these so called elephants are quite literally weighing down the education of  our future students, there are three that I would like to focus on.

  1. ‘We know that most of our students are bored and disengaged in school.’

In a recent Gallup survey shared by Richardson, only 32% of high school juniors said that they were “involved and enthusiastic about school”.  HELLO!!! This is a serious issue! Not even 1 out of every 3 students feels like they are getting anything out of going to school for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 13 years of their life and we’re seriously not going to do something about it?! Is this really okay with all other current and future educators, because it seems totally wrong to me.

While teachers may feel bound to teach what their school district and policy makers have mandated, there are always ways to engage your students.  Only 17% of students from the same survey reported that they have fun and “get to do what they do best” while at school.  Why could we not teach the standards we are given using topics that our students actually have an interest in and want to learn about?

2. ‘We know that deep, lasting learning requires conditions that schools and classrooms simply were not built for.’

As addressed in the previous point, student interest and passion for class topics is severely lacking.  Why? Because true learning is not having the contents of a 30 year old text book beaten into you day after day, without every leaving the chair at your desk.  The learning that our students long for and the learning that they so deserve often happens outside the classroom.  By taking our students outdoors to explore nature, taking them on field trips, inviting guest speakers, exploring careers, and catering our lessons to fit the desires and interests of our students, we can give our students the skills that they will need beyond the 12th grade.

Most students of today are not given enough of a say in their own personal learning.  Literally everything that goes on in the average classroom is predetermined and students do not have the chance to inquire and discover on their own.  While it may not be possible or practical in most public school settings to give students free reign, we can give them the opportunity to make the decisions that will help them reach our common end goal. Each student learns differently and we should allow them to do so.

3. ‘We know that learning that sticks is usually learned informally, that explicit knowledge accounts for very little of our success in most professions.’

In my experience as a pre-service teacher, I have known this to be true.  I have obtained knowledge in all of my education and methods courses, but none of these have even come close to amounting to everything I have learned during my time spent in actual classrooms through field experiences.  What students learn in 8th grade algebra or sophomore English, and the grades they receive at the end of these classes are not going to define their future career, success, or happiness.  We learn best when we the setting is informal and we are able to discover what we actually need to know simply by experiencing it.

When we give our students skills and opportunities, rather than textbooks filled with insignificant information that is going to be tested and then forgotten, what they learn may actually stick.

There is absolutely no question that what students are actually learning is more important than what shows up on their test scores.  A student’s ability to conform and memorize what they need to know for the test and then spit back exactly what the makers of the test want to hear has zero correlation with their ability to learn (for real) and succeed in life.  It’s about time we all realize this and work together to make a change for the better.

 

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10 thoughts on “THE ELEPHANTS CANNOT BE AVOIDED MUCH LONGER

  1. Ashlyn,
    First of all, I would like to say how much I have enjoyed reading your blogs this semester. You have some great ideas and I am excited to see where you end up as an educator and baker.
    I agree with everything that you said in your post. It was hard to pick three elephants when all of them were so relevant and spot on. While it is hard to admit, I am glad that teachers are finally starting to take a closer look at student learning.
    I posted about student boredom and disengagement too, and I think that is among the most important. Students need to want to learn in order for educators to teach them.
    Thanks for sharing. Have a great Summer!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Kelly! I really feel like student boredom and disengagement is such an obstacle in our current classrooms. We have to start finding ways to reach more than 30% of our students on a regular basis. It will be up to us as the future generation of educators to step up and begin changing the trend. Thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts! Happy Summer!!

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  2. I like that you talked about the students being disengaged in school. This is part of the reason students don’t retain the information. Do you think that students aren’t engaged because of the curriculum, the teachers, or lack of motivation?

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    1. I think students lack engagement because the way information is presented does not appeal to them. Even if we are given a set of curriculum that we are to use as teachers, we can find interesting and fun ways to present it to our students. When students have a say in what they are doing and get to work with material that interests them, the motivation to learn will follow. Thanks for reading, Ryan!

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  3. It is up to the teachers to make the learning environment enjoyable and conducive to learning. Constant lectures and note-taking is not going to provide students with information that can easily be recalled. Also, teachers who allow students to write the notes down verbatim and then use those same notes on the tests are not doing anything for those students. That information will have come and gone once that test is over. Learning should be interesting and shown how it applies in the real world. Those experiences are going to be memorable and useful for future use.

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    1. I would agree that showing students how material we are teaching them applies to their real world experiences is extremely important. Without showing them this piece, they are more likely to feel disengaged and willing to forget material soon after it is tested. It is up to us as future teachers to make these changes. Thanks for reading!!

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  4. Your blog was really good! I think it is important for us as future teachers to know that we need to make our lessons fun for the students. When I was high school, I always enjoyed my English class because my teacher made it fun every day. I learned the most that I ever have in that English class because I actually enjoyed being there. I think educators need to really think about what is helping students learn and make changes so that students enjoy learning.

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    1. Making lessons enjoyable for our students is incredibly important! When students are engaged and interested, the amount of learning that takes place increases significantly. Thanks for reading, Kelsea!!

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  5. Ashlyn,
    I completely agree with you. I picked 1 and 2 as well because I felt like, that as a teacher you can control how well a students likes and pays attention in your class. If we know students are bored and not paying attention why don’t we take initiative and fix it. Great Post!

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    1. I feel the same way!! While students are in our classrooms, we have the ability to take control and make their educational experience an enjoyable one. There is no reason that we shouldn’t. Thanks for reading, Mikahla!

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