Education is Messy

A few weeks ago, I joined four of my Flynn colleagues to view The Partnership for Change’s movie screening of “Most Likely to Succeed.”  The movie, in a nutshell, is a father’s lament about his decision as a parent in regards to the school he chose for his daughter and it’s pedagogy after his daughter becomes sullen and withdrawn from her current content driven school program.  It provides a side by side comparison of two pedagogical approaches to education; content based and project based.

While contemplating the movie’s overall theme and comparisons, I must say I felt pretty satisfied with the  STEAM program I am building at Flynn.  The soft skills described in the Tech High School (project based school) aligned with the skills we are using in STEAM everyday;  team work and collaboration, problem solving, critical observations, communication, taking risks, and learning to fail.  Many of these skills are often used daily in our classrooms as well.  These are the necessary skills students need to cultivate to have a seamless assimilation in our communities and workforce as adults.

A few ideas of this movie really spoke to me.  One was that the idea of education is messy.  It’s not always linear and neat, it throws you off your feet once in awhile and you have to take the risks associated with it .  I can surely attest to this, as probably most teachers in our community.  There is no one size fits all approach to education, but being brave enough to try new approaches is how we are going to make success attainable to all of our students.  On the flip side, learning is messy too.  My fifth grade STEAM students have been engaging in modeling and building understanding of concepts over the last few weeks and boy is it messy!  They share initial ideas, then discuss, critique each other, then revise their ideas and hopefully engage in some respectful arguing along the way.

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Making meaning together is messy!

The second idea that spoke to me and is always a healthy reminder to adults is to allow kids to create on their own – don’t put your own ideas into their ideas and projects.   This initially brings me back to my days in college when I worked for a preschool and children created art projects.  I always remembered to allow their work to reflect their creativity, not the teacher’s interpretations of what finished artwork SHOULD look like.  This certainly applies to my current teaching as well when my students are creating projects and developing ideas.  The teacher or facilitator must go into the project with no preconceived ideas of the end result.  Teachers must  ignore their own ideas, so it’s truly the student’s own interpretation.  Isn’t this really what we want for kids though?  To be confident in their own ideas and not be afraid to create?  I think so.

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“Most Likely to Succeed” is playing again in Winooski on November 12th.

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