John Spencer and A.J. Juliani, authors of Empower, say, “Students continue to fall into the same trap year after year with traditional schooling. They rarely have the chance to choose their learning path in school and routinely treat school like a ‘job’ instead of the most valuable learning experience they will ever have. By the time students get to high school, over 83 percent are stressed out, 67 percent say they re bored half the time, and many learn to ‘play the game of school’ while worrying about what will happen to them if they do not get a particular grade and get into a specific college.”
This is a powerful statement and claim. The idea that students are often either stressed out or bored does not seem ideal. As I reflected on this comment, I considered my own children and began to notice evidence of this even with them. How can this be? We live in a time where innovation and human advancement is happening at an exponential rate. How is it possible that the very students that will perpetuate that advancement feel bored or worse, stressed?
Each year, we survey our students and ask them questions about their learning experience in AISD. Specifically, we ask students how satisfied they are with the education they are receiving. The results are astounding. In high school, 41.7 percent of 10th and 12th graders report not being satisfied with the education they are receiving from their schools. This number isn’t much better in Junior High or Elementary with 39.7 percent of 8th graders and 31.7 percent of 6th graders reporting the same. The interesting point, however, is that 87.4 percent of 6th grade, 82.4 percent of 8th grade and 81.2% of 10th and 12th grade respondents say that their classes are in fact preparing them for their futures. So while the students who responded believe their classes are preparing them for their future, they are still dissatisfied with their education.
“Choice gives students the opportunity to cast their own line and choose what bait they want to put on the hook. Learning follows, not because it is forced upon them, but because it is naturally connected to curiosity and inquiry.”
Why is this? Could it be that our students are craving for more relevance in their learning? Do students want to have more choice in their purpose related to the tasks they are being asked to engage in? Spencer and Juliana share an interesting idea from Sir Ken Robinson, a best-selling author and speaker on creativity. He said, “Whether or not you discover your talents and passions is partly a matter of opportunity. If you’ve never been sailing, or picked up an instrument, or tried to teach or write fiction, how would you know if you had a talent for these things?” They extend this thinking stating, “Choice gives students the opportunity to cast their own line and choose what bait they want to put on the hook. Learning follows, not because it is forced upon them, but because it is naturally connected to curiosity and inquiry.” We are working to do this very thing in Arlington ISD by leveraging our learning framework, the Active Learning Cycle, to give our students more choice and opportunities to engage in learning experiences that they enjoy and connect with.
What an honor it is to educate the learners of AISD! Thank you for all you are doing to provide our students with highly relevant learning experiences that is preparing them for their futures. May we continue to leverage research-based best practices to promote highly rigorous and relevant learning experiences that focus on students’ needs and empower their ownership in the learning process. I know that in so doing, we will not only continue to ensure our students are prepared for the futures they see for themselves, but also promote their deep satisfaction along the way.