As an avid reader of education books, articles, blogs, etc., my senses are always on high alert for meaningless buzzwords that dot the ever-expanding educational landscape. I have come to loathe words and phrases such as; 21st century skills, college and career ready, rigor and many others that attempt to reform education with edu-talk as opposed to reforming education with actual practice. In my mind, educational adjectives should withstand the test of time, apply to all content areas and be easily understood by those who live in the education world and those outside of it.
Recently, I was reading about how we need to ensure our content and curriculum is more rigorous. Have you ever looked up the definition of rigor? It is neither inspiring, nor relevant to education. It is such a cold word. Rigor is exactly what is wrong with the American education system. Simply using esoteric words to give the appearance of hard work, is the exact same game of school most kids play across the country and throughout our schools everyday. A classic case of talking the talk, but no walking the walk to back it up.
Imagine if… instead of the word rigor, we found other inspiring, yet approachable educational mantras. I would like for my content and curriculum simply to be, personally relevant, interesting and meaningful. If I can ensure my content and curriculum adhere to these three simple words, I know that my students will produce rigor, as opposed to consume it.
Why is it important to have a curriculum and content that is personally relevant, interesting and meaningful? If a student finds the content personally relevant, interesting and meaningful, I know that I will not need to do anything to ensure they are embarking on a rigorous journey. Simply empowering the student to have choice and ownership of his/her learning will lead them down a path that inspires the very thing teachers work so hard to instill… motivation. Motivation to learn is intrinsic. All we can do as teachers, is provide an environment that encourages creativity, values non-conformity and appreciates individual interests and passions.
Relevant, interesting and meaningful are absent from most schools across the country. Of course standardized testing, teacher accountability, politics, etc., are often cited as the roadblocks to real reform. However, I can’t help but wonder why we don’t just use these three words as the foundation for our educational system. Our educational system doesn’t need to be more rigorous. It needs to be more relevant, more interesting and more meaningful. We need to start with the child, instead of starting with the content and curriculum.
In the end, I would like my students to lead instead of follow. I would like my students to create their learning, instead of consume it. I would like my students to challenge themselves, instead of waiting for me to challenge them. I would like my students to create knowledge, instead of borrow it. I would like my students to achieve greatness, instead of read about it. Lastly, I would like my students to see school as a place where it all begins, instead of where it all ends.