I heard a great quote the other week at the ASCD Conference with our kin to the south. I wish I could figure out who said it. Alas, my age is finally catching up to me. The quote was “Schools need to give up their chronic inconsistent search for great programs and start building people’s capacity to solve problems.” A light bulb went on for me, perhaps it was the bright light which made me forget who was speaking. With all the catch phrases and lingo hitting the educational frontier right now, we can easily get caught up and forget what is really important. Think about it: Right to Intervention, Inquiry Based Education, Game Based Learning, Inclusion, Backwards Design, Differentiation, and the list goes on. Isn’t it easy to just throw up your hands, close your door and just TEACH!!! I get that, I absolutely get that.
I think we may need to step back from the trees a ways and get a look at the forest a little more completely, though. What is the ultimate goal of education? We would like to see students who leave the system come out being contributing citizens in society, able to think clearly and compassionately when faced with difficult decisions. We want them to be creative in their problem solving so they can get us out of the mess that our generation and those before us have made. Well, that’s going to take a little work on the part of the school system.
It is so easy for us to embrace programs that make our lives as educators easier, searching for the magic bullet of learning that will enable kids to learn seamlessly. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that it just doesn’t exist. Programs come and go and each has a strength and, likely, a weakness. So, stop for a moment . . . back up and remind yourself what is important. We need to teach our students to be problem solvers. That’s messy. Why? Because they need to face problems that are challenging . . . and that isn’t neat and tidy. Yes, we need to help them find the knowledge they need to solve the problem. Yes, we need to help them develop the skills for problem solving. Yes, we need to provide structures where they are allowed to create and make mistakes. We don’t simply give them a problem and walk away . . . but eventually, they need to use all that they have learned to help them in their journey to solve problems.
Deep learning is often messy but the mess is where the growth is. So, use the new programs, honor knowledge, teach to skill development but remember that at the end of the day, it comes down to solving problems.
Keep on learning.