Changing Schools, Changing Behavior

I watched this interesting animation yesterday about changing the education paradigm. It’s well worth the eleven and a half minutes. (I’ve included it below so you can easily watch it yourself. I’d love to hear what you think about it!) It really ramped up my awareness of WHY today’s educational system simply doesn’t work.

It’s been clear to me for a long time that the educational system that I grew up with, and what I see being experienced out there today is NOT supporting the optimum growth and development of our youth today.

Now… as I said, I just ran across this video last night and then today one of the first things I read was a blog post by Seth Godin talking about misguided management techniques.

Stay with me here… you might not see the relationship but climb into my mind for a moment (scary thought, that :). It’s actually quite simple, those same ineffective management techniques are being used in our educational systems… and even in our parenting.

For instance… we cling to the belief that we can be our child’s external compass by being their taskmaster. By yelling louder, pushing harder and relentlessly riding them we imagine we’ll generate excellence. Hoping that they will eventually start pushing themselves… and value excellence. But seriously, how well has this worked? Oh sure, bullying can give us the desired behavior right then… For instance… I recall being very short on patience and turning into a screaming banshee when watching the 10 year old, for the upteenth time, toss trash into the wastebasket only to have it bounce back at him because the trash bag was full even though it was HIS job to empty it when full. You can bet he emptied THAT bag of trash that day.

But as soon as you stop, they stop. I remember saying to my girlfriends that I must be a terrible mother because I simply didn’t have the constitution to scream at my kids all day every day. Today of course, I’m very clear it’s not necessary and certainly isn’t a good way to ‘manage’ people… so I no longer suffer any guilty thoughts at my inability to bully my way through the day. It might get one trash bag taken out… but it doesn’t last.

Another way parents try to manage their children, and schools try to manage their students, is by using competition. Pitting people against one another might work effectively for some… whether it’s posting grades on a wall, comparing one sibling to another, or telling the peewee hockey team they are one win away from earning a spot in playoffs… may work in the short run. It is part of our nature to be competitive, which is why it will work in the short run but the drawback is that there is only one winner, most competitors lose.

I am NOT suggesting your child needs to be steered totally away from competition. A bit of true, genuine competition, you know where there is a clear winner, can be a very good thing in their lives. I just wouldn’t recommend it as a form of managing people, children or adults. It trains them away from the cooperative spirit that truly leads to a fulfilling life.

That why I prefer the ‘open door’. Give people the space to show up with excellence. Set expectations to encourage them but then get out of the way. Help them when asked but don’t hover over them. People, even kids, will get hooked on achievement when it’s self-directed and they have the benefit of mutual support. And this means we have to get out of the way! Shouting at them from across the field, even with the best of intentions, isn’t going to help anything.

So, like the film below talks about how our children are living in a different time than we were. The ‘factory’ mindset simply doesn’t apply any longer. Our kids are living in a different space… standing on a different platform… one where co-operation and mutual support reign. Why not hold that space firmly for them? Yes there will be a learning curve around how to manage themselves to excellence… but there will be achievers eager to move ahead quickly, and many, many more willing to learn who will be able to produce amazing results.

So give yourself the gift of watching Sir Ken Robinson’s video about Changing Education Paradigms and ponder some ideas about how we, together, could make changes that will support our kids growth and enthusiasm for learning. Which will, in turn, benefit us all!

8 thoughts on “Changing Schools, Changing Behavior

  1. Thanks Valerie! As you can tell, I certainly agree that it’s time for HUGE Change!
    And sometimes that can be as simple as letting the kids show us the way! :)

    I appreciate your comment!

  2. Coincidentally, someone sent me this video also, and I have been planning to blog about it for weeks now. Thanks for sharing. It’s good to read your version of it.

  3. Thank you Nicoline! I love it that you’ve been contemplating this video too.
    As an educator yourself, I know you realize and recognize many of the changes needed… as well as the challenges involved in changing the system itself. Yet I think it will happen… how about you?

  4. wow Mary K, this is a fantastic post and video. As one who has a little one just starting out in the education system I’m a little freaked out after watching it. The divergent thinking test they gave kids ~ I can see how Hanna would do really well in that, and I can clearly remember ~ especially in math how there’s only one answer, and only one way to get the answer. If you don’t show your work, but still get the “right” answer it doesn’t matter because you didn’t do it the “right” way. I can see how that kind of thinking completely crushed divergent thinking. How do you ever see the school system changing? I think with the new kinds of kids and the new things they’re dealing with it’s going to have to… but how do we start?
    Jackie Lee´s last blog post ..The Control Freak’s Guide to Working with Freelancers

  5. Thanks Jackie! Divergent thinking is something valuable to encourage… rather than discourage. I suspect that some of the ‘resistance’ to conforming that we see in children today… is labeled with all sorts of titles like ADD, ADHD and even high-functioning Autism, etc. — and the system changing will come about ultimately as a demand from the children themselves.

    Or maybe it will come about as more and more parents simply refuse to send their child to public schools and instead choose options that offer different approaches. I know in my area there are a LOT of Charter Schools that encourage divergent thinking, do not sort kids by age, and only offer self-directed options. These schools are working beautifully so there really is no reason the Public School System needs to run the way it does. It’s not the educators that are unwilling… it’s the governmental regulations and their interpretations that seem to be the biggest problem to me.

    All I know for sure is that change is inevitable and very, very doable! :)

  6. I am totally onboard with your comments. The challenge, however, is are there any schools you are aware of (anywhere in the world) that support this notion and have created their own methods outside of the ‘system’.
    Please help we are seeking highschools :) cheers Kim

  7. Hi Kim! Thanks for your comment..

    We have quite a few charter schools here in MN that are actively striving, and many with good results, to support these notions. Though of course, there are some ‘within the system’ parameters that they must follow… yet most of those compliance’s don’t affect the kids directly. If I was seeking a high school today and didn’t have a GOOD selection of physical Charter Schools to look at I’d definitely search for a virtual high school online or consider homeschooling. What kind of choices are you looking at in your area?

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