Sunday, July 26, 2015

On the Brink of Greatness



I figure it must have been around 1977, Star Wars was probably just out, and I remember that somehow my parents had let me watch Jaws. As a result, I wouldn't lay in my parent's waterbed nor swim in the pool all summer! (I had what school teachers often referred to as "an active imagination.") I remember sitting in the back of the class in a dirty pair of tough skin jeans that were just a bit too short. I only knew they were too short because some kid had asked me when the flood was coming on my way into class, and I knew they were dirty because, well, I was a boy and it was 1977.

I hadn't memorized my multiplication tables, everyone else seemed to have done it: from every angle of the classroom kids were shouting out 21, 28, 35 in unison, and there I was, mumbling along as if the numbers were forming in my head as quickly as the pig-tailed prodigies to my left and right. Despite never having the correct answer at the tip of my tongue, I did love choral response. As long as I moved my mouth, and avoided eye contact, neither the teacher nor the priest ever really knew
whether or not I had my act together.


Flash forward, it’s 2015, kids are rockin' 1:1 digital devices, more research has been done on teaching techniques in the past 30 years than all the research on the same subject since Socrates. Our teachers study the difference between constructivism, cognitivism and behaviorism in our credential schools and our classrooms are crafted for acoustics and ergonomics.  It is 2015, we are the smartest we have ever been as a species: we put a man on the moon, a rover on Mars and we just got up close and personal photos with the planet formerly known as Pluto.

I believe we are at the beginning of the greatest educational breakthrough in history of the human civilization. I call this the, "You Ain't Fooling Anybody" Era.

Our teachers have formative assessments that drill down to the sub-sub-standard; we have differentiated digital tools that remediate and re-engage students as quickly as you can flip the lid of a Chromebook; we have inspired young teachers who pay far more than just lip service to the belief that ALL kids can learn - this talent of new teachers are dedicating their lives to the pursuit of equity through differentiation.  Students sitting in today’s classrooms don’t get by faking choral response, our modern champions of education are too well equipt with 21st Century tools to allow any student to fake his way through the 4th grade. Online differentiation tools, commitments to research based teaching methods and constant use of formative assessments are changing the learning landscape for our kids and I think they are going to change the world because of it.

I slipped through the cracks in 1977. On the bright side, it taught me some sneaky coping tools that have worked many times in my favor, but truth be known, I didn't like not knowing the answer to 7x6. I believe that if I had the teachers that I see entering this industry today, and had access to the tools these 2015 all-stars are issuing in the 21st Century Classroom, I couldn't have dodged 42 with a simple improvisational lip-sync and a sideways glance to slip the teacher’s gaze.

Our kids are lucky to have been born into the Era of You Ain't Fooling Anybody.