Monday, March 26, 2012

What do students need to learn?

I spent part of my morning reading to kindergarten students at Parkview Elementary. I read from a book that my Mom used to read to me when I was in kindergarten over 50 years ago.  As I sat in front of those bright-eyed and eager students, I wondered - what do they need to learn?

That question is partially answered by the state curriculum standards and the Common Core.

We attend to those standards. I know we could do better but I am confident that our teachers and administrators know the standards, create lessons that teach the standards, and assess the standards appropriately.

Again, we could do better but I am confident that we understand this important role.

As I prepared to read to those kindergarten students at Parkview Elementary I was concerned but not worried about the curriculum standards. We can find ways to address the standards. We can make sure that we are teaching them well.

Instead, as I sat in front of those kindergarten students, I thought about determination, failure, and the commitment to get things right. How do we teach our students these attitudes?

I thought about a presentation I saw recently from Myshkin Ingawale. In this presentation he talks about creating a machine that would help test for anemia. The most fascinating part of this talk was his self-effacing declaration that it took him and his team 32 tries to get the machine right.

Ingawale saw a need, thought he could help, but discovered that it was more difficult than he originally imagined. Instead of giving up he kept at it. After 32 tries, they had it right.

That is a skill that I want the students in my district to learn. It doesn't matter if you are the smartest person in the room if you don't have the power to keep trying when things go wrong.

What do students need to learn?

What do I need to learn?

I need to learn that I should learn from my mistakes, keep attacking a problem, and find ways around roadblocks.

Those are skills that they do not assess on our state assessments. However, those are the skills that will determine if I succeed or fail. Those are precisely the skills that I need to learn how to teach the students in my district.

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