“Choose Awesome” is a known term in my house. My kids have heard me say it many times, whether it be talking to them about their commitment to their music or sporting activities or simply just talking about being a better person, they know that it means, “To do your best, regardless of the circumstances, in the most respectful and dignified way you can”. I’ll get back to my kids shortly.
Like most teachers around Sydney today, I am sitting at my laptop preparing for the new school year. It’s raining and miserable outside, so it’s the perfect day for planning. In looking for some videos for teacher workshops I stumbled across the one from AITSL below. I’m sure many teachers are sick of hearing ’21st century students’ and ’21st century skills’ as we are now well and truly into the 21st century and I think we should simply be talking about ‘students’ and ‘skills’ so please ignore the title and listen to the message in the video.
I’ve heard the message in this video many times but what got me thinking, and ultimately blogging (other than avoiding that planning I was talking about earlier), is that my kids will go back to school on Wednesday and some, many or just one of their teachers will have never heard it or has heard it and dismissed it. This concerns me…greatly.
The kids have spent the last 6 weeks travelling to many different places around NSW and spending time with different family members and friends. They’ve built many worlds in many different games, both with technology and without. My 8-year-old loves making stop motion videos and has spent many hours storyboarding, designing sets and creating those videos. My 9-year-old has discovered Skype this holidays and uses it to connect to me when I’m at work, his grandparents, and kids from the Minecraft server he plays in, Massively Minecraft. He has video-chatted with @jokay to learn more about Minecraft. My 11-year-old continues her love of Sims 3, having received many extension packs for Christmas. But her interest has now transfered into real life. She is interested in the architecture of buildings and has definitive opinions on style and construction. All three kids love watching Minecraft parody videos on YouTube and it’s their dream to script, design, produce and publish a parody hit on YouTube. They are always talking about how they can turn new songs into a parody. They have ideas written down everywhere and can’t wait to act on it. The challenge they have set for themsleves is to learn how to make animations like CaptainSparklez, their YouTube hero!
I hope that they will be able to take all the learning and experiences they had during the holidays and celebrate them, use them in the classroom and help others to develop their skills in those areas. But I fear that they will instead launch straight into the business of school. Literacy in the morning session, numeracy in the middle session and a valant attempt to fit the other 4 KLAs into the rest of the time. This is not a criticism of my kids’ school at all. It’s a concern that the message in that video above, is not being received by educators and school leaders, across the board and that governments and institutions place unnecessary requirements (*cough* NAPLAN *cough*) on schools that do not embrace creativity and differentiation. So all I can do is hope.
I hope that my kids turn up to school on Wednesday and their teachers have worked with school leaders to develop project based learning experiences for the school year that are student driven and consider the individual interests and learning needs of all the kids in their classroom. I hope their teachers won’t teach to a test…ever. I hope that creativity will be a part of every lesson, knowing that creativity comes in many different shapes and forms. I hope my kids will tell stories every day, whether they be written, spoken, programmed or acted out. I hope they will connect to other kids and adults across the globe, understanding perspectives that differ from their own. I hope they will bring home homework tasks that ask them to solve problems and create new understandings of the world. I hope at the end of the year, their will be no presentation for ‘Top of the Class’ or ‘Most Improved’ but instead, receive a digital portfolio of their work that shows progress and creativity along with reflections from them on their experiences in the classroom for that year.
This is what I hope for. Some might say I am hoping for something that is unattainable but I say these hopes should be the expectations of every parent if they want their child to be succesful and relevant in the world. So I hope, and if my hopes are met then I will be one very happy parent and educator as my kids will get to choose awesome every single day. If my hopes aren’t met then I hope that my kids will still choose awesome, no matter what experiences they face in their classrooms and homework tasks.