How Would You Re-Vision Education?
Did you ever think it was possible?
Re-Visioning Education. Merriam Webster (my favorite website other than Sparknotes lol) defines revise as “to look over again in order to correct or improve,” followed by synonyms like “alteration, change, modification, redoing, refashioning, remaking, variation.” But the revision I seek is not to correct or improve what we are currently doing. Because what we are currently doing doesn’t seem to be working.
The re-vision I seek is to re-see, re-imagine, and re-vision how we see and do education. This re-vision was influenced over a period of time and linked together different experiences that spanned the globe.
Just after graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I can remember during a cultural exchange to Okinawa, where an exhibit in a museum had an American history textbook, not unlike what I had in high school, and an Okinawan history textbook. The side by side juxtaposition was a bit jarring when it showed what filled pages in an Okinawan textbook about the atrocities endured by the Okinawans in World War II was reduced to a paragraph in the American textbook. My ancestors' history was completely erased from US History.
Another example was on a trip to Europe with my great uncle to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of France from Germany, also during World War II. These little old men with canes were celebrities in France, where parades and monuments are erected in their honor, streets are named after them, and great great grandchildren of survivors stand in line to receive their autographs and take pictures with them. But their stories are not taught in schools here. I looked at the same war from opposite ends of the Earth and many of the stories were buried with the soldiers and citizens who perished on those lands. Even my own hometown didn’t include these stories or revere the bravery to commemorate them in our own curriculum to teach to the next generation. Was this okay? It didn’t sit well with me.
Fast forward to sitting in my master’s program and learning about things like culturally responsive teaching, funds of knowledge, and prior knowledge and it was exactly how I didn’t learn when I was in school. How could this be, right? How could everything that I was being taught how to teach my students be exactly what I didn’t get when I was in school? All the thoughts of confusion over novels, periods in history, and math came flooding back. If I was taught like how I was being taught to teach, how different would my life be?
These three stories were just the beginning of how my view of education shifted over time. Working with kids in my classroom I learned how socio-emotional learning was the foundation of Maslow: feeling like an outsider, fear, lack of communication skills, and insecurities broke my best intentioned lessons. Learning was not possible without going backwards first.
Yet things like, “Well, you should have learned that last year,” “I wish you guys had common sense,” and yelling are all things my kiddos tell me their teachers have told them in class just these past pandemic school years. This breaks the basic needs to build a safe space classroom to facilitate learning.
I was taught in my master’s program that tests told teachers what the students have not mastered. It allowed teachers to see where we needed to go back to re-teach and teach better. However, with kiddo’s fear of tests and focus on purely “the grade”, they are not used as teaching tools but rather “self-esteem” and “intelligence gauges”. I’ve even seen a rubric where “Intellectual Level” was a standard to be judged and “meh”, “hmmm”, “Okay!”, “Good!” and “Ah!” were the criteria levels. Can you tell the difference between a meh, hmm, and okay? Me neither.
The pull of teaching how we’ve been taught is strong. The pull of slipping back into “that’s how it’s always been” is wrecking kids. This is where my “re-vision” of education comes in. It’s not perfect, but I’m willing to listen and pivot, adjust.
Have you had your own experiences with life where you questioned why you weren’t taught it in school? Have you learned things in your adult life that you wished you were taught at a younger age? How many times in your adult life have you said to yourself, “Ugh, I wish I learned this in school!” Well, let’s put those “ah ha!” moments together, let’s share those important life lessons, and let’s change the game in how we educate our next generation.
How do you see the future of education? What would you re-vision?