Addressing Elephants in the Classroom

9511539458_b248cae3f8_z PhotoCC- By Guian Bolisay

How many of us agree with how the public school system is educating students these days? Are you for or against standardized testing? Parents, are you accepting of the fact that your child is most likely bored or disengaged at school? And finally, what is with the stigma that good grades determine learning?

Will Richardson’s article, 9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us, addresses the “elephants” in the classroom that may actually not be so noticeable to the general individual. When looking at the 9 elephants stated in the article, it makes me, a future educator, a little unnerved that we, as a society, are tolerant of what is considered learning and understanding in the public school system.

“We know that most of our students are bored and disengaged in school.”

This is not something that I want my students to face. Here’s the hard facts: if student’s are not engaged, they are not learning. If students are bored, they start to hate school and therefore, do not care about learning. Eventually, if students stay bored and disengaged, they tend to drop out of high school. Some, take their education into their own hands and continue on with their lives, others find something else to do.

Students need to be allowed to be creative and have some reign when it comes to their education. Technology is great, but it doesn’t mean student’s are engaged; stop using it as a  crutch. Lessons need to be mindful and inspiring, we want students to want to learn. As teachers, we should want to spark that curiosity, so students will guide their learning.

“We know that deep, lasting learning requires conditions that schools and classrooms simply were not built for.”

Looking back on your own life, did the lessons that stick with you come in the form of reading a textbook, or carrying out the action? Hard, life lessons learned, come in the form of carrying out and action and usually suffering a consequence. They aren’t enjoyable, sometimes you regret the decisions made, but you truly learned from them. I think it is safe to say that our students need to be engaged, completing hands on projects that they will learn from. Instead of teaching students about content matter through reading about it, have the actually perform the action. There is a lot of learning that can be carried out through actions that will stick with the students for years. But, being told what to read and then write an essay about it is boring. There seems to be no real purpose behind the assignment. Students are good at improvising; they can complete the task to meet the requirements without ever truly learning the content. The school system needs to let students guide their learning, to allow them to see the purpose behind it, and to relate it to real-life situations. They can meet the required standards through different content and materials, however, it does put more work on the teacher.

“We know that grades, not learning, are the outcomes that students and parents are most interested in.”

The public school system is one that “teaches to the test” and therefore, are more concerned about scores than they are about true learning and understanding. There is a huge difference in knowing the content to pass a test and understanding the mechanics of it to where you will not forget it. Yes, an “A” shows success, while an “F” shows failure, but how do we determine where the student is truly at? What if a student doesn’t test well, but can converse the topic and explain everything they know, reiterating what they have been taught? What if a student can build a model, but has difficulty solving the equation that would “build” the model on paper? We give students “A’s”, “4’s”, or “proficient” and vice versa, however, how can we truly tell if they are exceeding or failing expectations?  It is disappointing to think that as parents and teachers, we are more concerned with what the grade shows, than if the student actually knows the content.

Overall, I believe that it is more important that a student truly learns the content, and has a firm understanding than what the appear to be learning through a test. I would rather a student complete a project that is engaging and can show they understand the content than have them test over it. In general, our students are not allowed to be creative or guide their own learning and I feel that we are losing the enjoyment of learning. I hate that teachers have to “teach to the test” and are more concerned with meeting the standards than they are teaching conceptually and teaching for understanding.






7 Comments Add yours

  1. xiyunblog says:

    Wow! Great post and thinking on the article! I also liked what you wrote on the three elephants you picked as your focus. I totally agree on what your overall thinking was on the three focus points.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! After reading through this week’s articles, it was really hard to just pick three “elephants”. I could have talked about all of them!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. xiyunblog says:

        That is so true! I totally agree!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the most common things I read about this week was the grades vs. learning debate. I so agree that grades have become too important to people!


    1. I do too, and I find myself getting lost in that same issue. However, it’s hard not to, when the issue of good grades is being pushed on students from parents and teachers. This is something that I feel can be unlearned, but will take some big adjustments.


  3. lizolvera says:

    Students are stuck in a building almost all day. Of course, they are going to get bored and zone out of learning. This is a big elephant that many teacher have tried to get rid of. I liked how you said that they need to be allowed to be creative. We have to let the students control their learning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I completely agree. I am one who cannot sit still very long, and as student, loved being able to go outside during class. I will have my students up and moving as much as possible and outside as much as it is allowed. I struggle with being creative myself, so I hope that is not something that will hinder my teaching strategies. I want my students to be creative with everything they do.

      Liked by 1 person

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