Hi, my name is Taylor and I am a senior at Alburnett High School. I’m a future UNI Panther and an education junkie. When I saw SLI’s call for guest bloggers, I couldn’t pass up the great opportunity to hopefully start some discussions with students who get as fired up as I do about education. (If that’s possible.) For my first blog, I’d like to tell you a little about my public school experience. I hope my story can encourage just one person to talk to their teachers, parents, community members, administrators, or peers about the future of students in Iowa.
When I was younger I was the picture of a perfect student. I LOVED getting homework, I refused to save anything till the night before, and missing a point on a worksheet was probably the most stressful moment of my day. On more than one occasion I asked to work on a group project alone, simply because I knew no one could meet my standards as a partner. Looking back, I may have been the student which teachers love, but I wasn’t the student our nation needs.
Everyone always talks about “A-ha” moments, and as cliche and ridiculous as they sound, I’d like to tell you about mine. I remember the day I realized what taking ownership of my learning could do in my life. For the last quarter of 8th grade, we were given the opportunity to pick our own books and work in small groups to read together and discuss. Our progress, book choices, and discussions were all student-led, and while this caused a lot of anxiety for me to begin with, it started a self diagnosed “learning addiction” that would develop into an insane obsession with topics like student driven classrooms, personalized learning, collaboration, and competency based education. Nerd-Alert, I know…
So when this miraculous opportunity of picking my own book to read was first presented to me, I did the obvious and asked my teacher if she had any book suggestions. (Really Taylor?) Throughout the final semester of the class I continued to push back against this freedom, as did my classmates, and looking back that almost makes me sick to my stomach. What kind of world will we live in in ten or twenty years if all the adults refuse to make their own decisions because they are “trained” to rely on instructions for every step of every activity or problem? It scares me to think that at 14 I was incapable of finding a book to read and then discussing it with my peers. It’s even more scary to think about all the classes I took afterward which allowed for close to zero student choice.
I’ve noticed many disconnects between what is expected of me as a student and what is expected as me as a member of the workforce. It’s sort of confusing to be a kid and adult at the same time, but it also offers a crazy perspective of the true purpose of the education system. Have you ever thought about what the world of work would be like if it was a reflection of school?
I need to turn in this week’s payroll for the company by Friday so everyone can be payed on Monday. If I have it done by Monday I can have half the pay and the employees will not be payed on time, but after Monday I lose my pay and no one receives their paycheck.
If I turn in a report without a proper title, the report doesn’t count and I don’t get to redo it or fix it. The report will not be completed and I will not be paid.
I show up to work a little late every day, so after a month I must come in on my day off, but am not allowed to do any of my work.
I was accused of harassing one of my coworkers, so must do my work in my boss’s office for a few days. I am only allowed to participate in group projects over email.
My boss has asked me to do a financial analysis on a particular branch of the business. He/She provides me with all the materials needed and puts together a step-by-step instruction booklet for my use when completing the project.
I get that all of those things are silly, but I urge you to take time to think about the reality of them. Employers are looking for critical thinkers, problem solvers, and teammates. They’re looking for people to ask their own questions, to make their own decisions, and to own their own mistakes. It’s time for students, teachers, parents, administrators, and community members to step up and make school a place where we can learn how to be learners, and it’s time for the expectation to be world readiness. I look forward to blogging in the future, and hope we can start some more conversations about Iowa education!