As a teacher now myself, I want to make sure my students never have to ask me when they'll use what I'm teaching them; I strive to make the relevance of the topic and the connections to their own lives crystal clear. If it's not important to them, then they won't give me the effort (and hopefully the enthusiasm!) I'm seeking. If I can't make Shakespeare, Dickens, and argumentative writing applicable to my 21st learners, then I should find something else to teach. Instead, I use Romeo and Juliet as a catalyst for conversations about teenagers, love, brain development, and decision-making; Great Expectations gets us discussing what character traits are truly important and how much we should be willing to change ourselves for someone else; and argumentative writing helps us defend our favorite athletes, musicians, and movies. Check out my "trailer" for my class below!
School should be the "real world," but our students don't often see it that way. Our students see us create an artificial environment of rules and regulations that have been in place for as long as we can remember, yet they are nothing like the "real world" they experience every day outside our school's walls. If we truly want our students to be successful, happy, life-long learners, here are a few things we can do to help them.
Stop Pretending Cell Phones Don't Exist
|Devices exist in the "real world"|
Allow For ChoiceTeachers, you don't always have to tell students every detail of how to do things. I used to be guilty of this. I had a vision for the content, the process, and the product, and I would clearly outline each step for my students. It's not that I didn't ask for feedback or change up the projects, or even that I didn't sometimes offer what I though of as choice (you can choose option A or option B!) to students. I just never truly allowed for student choice that wasn't initially my choice. It is comfortable that way, both for teachers and for students. But a few years back I taught the same class six times each day for the first time, and I was bored. One of the changes I made was to deliberately allow for student choice. I let them choose books to read or how to make a visual representation of their thoughts with any tool they could access. I let them generate ideas for projects and allowed them to teach each other new web tools. Because in the "real world" they get to make some decisions for themselves. Their interests and strengths matter, and our classrooms should reflect the influence of our students. It can be scary for us; teachers like to be in control. It can also be scary for students who have never been offered the opportunity to choose for their own learning and don't know where to start!
Stop Raising Hands
Stop Assigning Mountains of HomeworkMy first few years in the classroom, I taught French ful time, and I never "assigned" homework. I did ask my students to spend 5-10 minutes a night looking over their words and conjugations, but I never assigned writing compositions or worksheets. My philosophy was that French was new to everyone and that students would do more harm than good to themselves making mistakes that I couldn't help them correct in a timely fashion. I also knew the amount of work other classes were assigning, and I knew they simply didn't have time for it all. But that changed when I started teaching English full time. I felt pressure that first year to assign homework each night; English is a core class, a tested area, after all! But I was miserable, and so were my students. I had more work to do to keep up with their assignments, and I was disappointed when they either didn't do them or didn't do them well. So I changed. I make sure never to assign work over the weekend or a break, and I always give multiple days to complete any assignments that may need to be wrapped up outside of class. Students are happier, and so am I. Test scores didn't sink, and my students could still demonstarte their learning and growth. This is the "real world." How many adults do you know (besides teachers) who worry about their work away from work or take their work home with them?
Don't Make Learning a Secret; Make Students Responsible for It
This has been a game-changer for me. I read Paul Solarz's Learn Like A Pirate this summer, and he shares how he gives students responsibility for ensuring the class is on task by sharing a daily schedule. With the schedule projected on the monitor, students know exactly what should be accomplished during the class, in which order (if necessary), and they hold each other accountable for making sure the schedule is followed. What the class is doing is not a secret that only the teacher is responsible for following, but becomes a collective responsibility. What is more "real world" than that?!
These are just of few of the measures I have taken to make my classroom a more authentic, relevant place for my students, but I'm always looking to adapt, grow and improve! I'd love to hear some amazing ways you've been able to add more "real world" to your class in the comments!