Teaching kids to learn versus teaching subjects (Part 1)| Redneck Wisdom

Khan Academy

It’s my opinion that today’s public education system in California is failing our students, our society, and our future.  I believe we’re too worried about teaching people subjects versus teaching children to learn how to teach themselves and to ready our students for their post education life.

I’m a father of a 2nd grader in public elementary school in one of the most advanced and wealthiest places in the world.  People literally fake their addresses to get into the school that my daughter is fortunate enough to attend.  I say this, not to brag, but to let you know that my frame of reference for this article comes from my experiences with what is considered one of the BEST public elementary schools in one of the wealthiest places in the world and I still think we’re failing our students.  I cringe when I think about what students in less fortunate areas are getting for an education.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important that kids learn math, science, english, writing, spelling, and other subjects that are taught in schools, but when I visited my daughter’s classes I saw that about half the class wasn’t confident in what they are learning.  The students would finish the work and the teacher would move on.  Then as the students got farther and farther into the subject many of the students would become even less confident in the subject, yet they could still “do” the work that was required.  It was only the kids that failed to do the work that got any special attention from the teacher who would then focus on getting the student to finish the work, but not confident in LEARNING the work.

While I was volunteering in my daughter’s class I would help the teacher by working with the kids that were having trouble keeping up with the class.  What I noticed about ALL the kids that came to my table, whether they were an “A” student or a “C” student, they would look like the had been defeated and many of the students would verbally express that they felt they weren’t smart.

The problem that I see with this method is that the kids that aren’t taught how to learn the subject are dependent on the teacher or others (like a volunteer, teacher’s aide, parent, etc) to help them advance the concept of that subject.  If we turn that upside down and focus on making sure ALL the kids understand how to learn the subject, the kids that know how to learn that subject or concept within the subject will be able to continue learning that subject WITHOUT relying on the teacher or anyone else.  This type of teaching will create a class dominated with kids that will enthusiastically want to learn the next step of the subject if they are given the proper resources to do so.

I know this is true for a couple of reasons.  The first is that there are organizations like Khan Academy that have successfully implemented this type of teaching strategy.  Secondly, I had a 5th grade teacher that taught in this manner and my friends and I were able to excel in subjects and enjoyed doing so.

So, how do we implement this type of teaching in schools?  I’ll answer that in my continuation of this post.



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