A Rebel Educator
If you ask most teenagers how they feel about school, you will get responses typically ranging from bored and disinterested to confused and frustrated.
While many say it’s fun and that they love it, what they are commonly referring to is their social circle at school and the interaction that affords — not the actual learning.
Pretty much no one says they enjoy the learning.
17 years and a ton of money spent to improve their intellectual capabilities, and their fondest memories are hanging out with their BFF.
Does anyone else see a gaping hole here? Is this what learning and school is meant to be?
It can’t be. We can’t let it.
Learning shouldn’t leave teens feeling disinterested, disengaged and bored out of their minds.
It shouldn’t make them feel disempowered, with no agency over their own learning.
It’s unnatural, and it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
How else can we explain the stress, anxiety and pure dread they feel when they are evaluated on what they’ve learned?
Kids and teens are biologically predisposed to learning. It’s a powerful survival instinct humans are born with and it needs to be nurtured as such.
We need to rethink, reimagine and perhaps revolutionize the way we expect our teens to learn.
We need to know, and more importantly, we need them to know, that their teenage years are when their brains are more powerful than any other time in their lives.
This is because their neuroplasticity is peaking, so it’s easier, faster and so much more effective to learn things at this stage. This is when memories are easier to make and last longer compared to adult years.
On the flip side, teenagers are also neurobiologically prone to boredom so the way in which they are exposed to new information makes a world of difference.
That’s where the Rebel Educator comes in…
I want the teens we teach to be intrinsically motivated — not by some grade they get on an exam but because they see the value and benefit in the learning.
I want them to be deeply engaged — not compliant, because they actually enjoy and look forward to the interaction.
I want them to be intensely curious because that’s their nature.
It’s our responsibility as educators to kindle this deep engagement and intense curiosity.
It’s our responsibility as educators to ensure that they feel profoundly empowered by what they’re learning.
It’s our responsibility as educators to inspire them to keep learning long after it isn’t required by the education system.
Because then, and only then, can they know what it truly means to learn.
But it’s also more than that.
We need to dismantle the framework of fear and coercion the education system thrives on.
We need our teens to stop seeing themselves through the lens of SAT scores, aptitude tests and instagram filters; and realize that they are each, unique and incomparable.
We need to stop trying to get them to fit into whatever metaphorical box is currently mandated by the powers that be; and actively encourage them to own the wonderful traits that make them stand out.
We need to understand that standardized tests cannot measure empathy, compassion and kindness — the main qualities of an evolved human being.
We should take time to see them as individual students, not just a class.
We should take time to build trusting relationships with them, keeping in mind what James Comer said, “No significant learning takes place without a significant relationship”.
We should inspire them to a global consciousness — not just a nationalistic one, a sense of justice — not just lawfulness, and a respect for life….all life.
That’s what a rebel educator does…it’s what I strive everyday to do.
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