In the last two weeks, I have attended the ISTE conference in Denver, CO and the National Customized Learning Summit in Spearfish, SD. As always, these conferences really get my creative juices flowing.
I believe wholeheartedly in customized learning. I believe we must meet students where they are and allow them to learn at their own speed. We are pushing some learners too fast, resulting in holes in their learning and frustrating them. Our advanced learners are being slowed down and bored. I believe many of these students are not reaching their full potential because they are just giving up. I also believe we need to engage students in areas that interest them. Our kids are not even aware of their own passions any more! I truly believe that the education system is well overdue for an evolution and we can do a far better job with our youth! I have been determined to do whatever small part I might be able to do towards that end.
I have gotten to where I dread turning on the news. Every day is a new act of violence and hate. Our economy and politics are a mess. I realize that our culture is the problem. Hate is learned, as is violence. I have been at a loss on how we are going to fix that. However, I had the honor of listening to Dr. Kevin Lein, principal of Harrisburg High School in Harrisburg, SD. this school is starting it's fourth year of customized learning this year. I love the things they have down and admire their willingness to dive right in. Last fall, their was an incident that shocked us all. A student that had just transferred in came to the office and shot Dr. Lein. Fortunately, his injuries were not life threatening and his assistant principal, Ryan Rollinger, was able to tackle and subdue the shooter. Even while talking about it many months later, Dr. Lein asked us all to send prayers or good thoughts (depending on our beliefs) to this young man.
What I took away from his keynote, was Dr. Lein's belief that if we get to know our students and form relationships and if we give kids what they need, they will not feel the frustrations that lead to hate and violence. I have thought of little since yesterday but this. Could it really be that simple? Okay, I realize getting us all to really embrace this change in education is anything but simple, but could it really be important enough to really change the culture to something far more caring and compassionate?
As much as I believe in customized learning, this possibility just adds to my absolute certainty that this is the way we MUST move. I became a teacher because I know that education is the way to a better world for all of us. Education really could shift our culture to something far more positive if we all made a concerted effort to do so. That said, I am even more firm in my resolve to take this message further, so I guess it's back to work for me!