Wit & Wisdom

Game Changers & Tales of Triumph and Woe

Am I Preparing Students for My Age or Theirs?

CJ Westerberg, November 3, 2013 6:53 PM


painting above by Edvard Munch, "The Scream" (dimension altered for format)

Update: Digital Set to Surpass TV Time in US

"We already live in a world of disconnect,
where the classroom has stopped
reflecting the world outside its walls. . . ."

By C.J. Westerberg

We've all been there: conferences where the lights are on the speaker at the front of the room.  We are there - admission either paid for by the institution, company or our own dime - to listen to an expert so we may learn something - to be better at thinking, knowing, doing and being - and to network.

We know we are there for only for a day or two so we will endure the odd sensation of being in a bubble.  If it's a three-day conference, attendees mainly pick and choose and rarely stay through every session back-to-back, unless they are on the conference committee (of course, we have to handle "urgent" business, which is always a convenient excuse to leave that under-water feeling, even when you end up in the outside area, talking with other attendees).

We know we won't have to do this mental bootcamp schedule for 9 months per year, 5 days per week, from approximately 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM, with approximately a 1/2 hour for lunch which really translates to 10 minutes to eat the time one gets to a place, and typically 3 minutes in-between classes.  If you are lucky, you will have a 45 minute PE period that actually involves major movement of muscles, rather than sitting in a room learning about good nutrition, while the cafeteria serves as much fat, sugar and white dough as possible, and the brownies from the weekly fund-raising bake-sale are wafting through the corridors.

Or, let's move to another scenario.  Have you ever sat in a classroom with a handful of adults - far less than the typical 25 students  - for a period of an hour or two?  The adults are about to go batty by the time the hour hand moves and most often blame it on the "small chairs".

Or, have you shadowed a typical school or a group for a full week?  Day after day, no sneaking out mid-class for a phone call . . .only allowing the breaks a student would get?  (I know, I know, students "get into trouble with too much free time" . . . hmmm). 

If not, imagine it.  Or, take some Ritalin or Adderal to numb yourself to the experience, if you can't control your inability to contain yourself in any of the above situations.

I can never understand how and why we expect students with far more energy,  ideas, natural creativity and far more everything, to be more "contained" in their behavior than adults.  Yes, we get the concept of discipline but not as in a torturous exercise that may not necessarily be relevant to a disciplined mind or a healthy one. 

Oh, and by the way, have you checked out the work desk series by "Relax Your Back" where the desk can shift to a standing position to relieve fatigue and back pain?  And all those fabulous chairs with ergonomic support and flexibility?  Guess only adults need to move and shift positions during the day - check this out from their site:

"A clean desk may increase your productivity, but our adjustable desk actually promotes circulation and relieves stress on your back and muscles. Experts recommend that if you work at a desk you should stand up periodically throughout the day."

Yeah, we know, there is more to worry about than kids' motivation or well-being - nothing to do with learning, right?  So when we stumbled upon this video link via a tweet from Nunavut Teacher, it just made us think of "those desks" again . . . but this post really isn't about desks.  Excerpts and video:

"Who seriously believes locking twenty-five students in a small room with one adult for several hours each day is the best way for them to be educated?  We already live in a world of disconnect, where the classroom has stopped reflecting the world outside its walls. . . .

The greatest hurdle in education reform is that society doesn't have a clear vision of what education is for .. . "

"If you put a doctor of a hundred years ago in an operating room she would get lost, yet if you placed a teacher of a hundred years ago into one of today's classrooms she wouldn't skip a beat.

"Moving From A One-Room Schoolhouse to a one-world schoolhouse is now a reality".
- Cisco

How's your back these days?

Two Minute Video Below

Orig. published in The Daily Riff July 2010

Help for the Deskbound via The New York Times

Are Our Kids Sitting Too Much?  Are We?  via The Daily Riff

Nature's Child Documentary

Exercise: Miracle-Gro for the Brain

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  • I agree! On any given day even I find myself fidgeting in the classroom. I would love to wander the hallways or find an excuse to print something and walk to the printer - ofter 2 to 3 times in a block just to feel like I'm moving and the scenery around me is changing. I would love to open windows and smell fresh air, or even better, go outside into the fresh air and spread out a blanket on the lawn with a nice cold slurpee and talk about the ecosystem we live in. The factory model of schools is stifling for both teachers and students. So why do we keep forcing them through it? Why do we keep assuming that this is an acceptable approach to education?

  • Hi Alyssa,

    I couldn't have said it better myself! There are some really interesting studies out there that actually prove that children are becoming more deficient as they age in our current education system and it is due to the increase of standardization. Additionally, the rise ADD and ADHD has been increasing at the same rate as standardized testing in this country and I find that correlation to be really significant. It's unbelievable to me that we continue to push children through this, somewhat ancient, form of education and policymakers honestly believe that increasing standardization will raise standards. The problem is not with raising standards, I mean really we should constantly be challenging ourselves and our students to do their best. I think the manner in which we have been raising those standards through increased standardization is where policymakers have fallen short on education. Let's face it, its the most economically sound and transparent way to collect data and show "progress". This article makes an excellent point about a doctor from 100 years ago and a teacher from 100 years ago and the disparity between the difficulties they would face in their careers today. I believe if we portrayed this scenario more often to adults and policymakers, they might think differently about our current educational systems.

    Here is an excellent video that also touches upon these topics:


    Best of luck to you in your educational endeavors! :)


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