Okay, so this post is related to my teacher as connected learner badge, but it is “extra-curricular,” in that I’m writing it because it must be said. A caveat before I begin: I believe in an education that teaches some subjects broadly, things like mathematics, the sciences, arts, literature, reading, but I don’t think that teaching to a standardized test is helping us get there.
Over the course of this past academic year, the business I work for had the opportunity to take on a student intern from a local public high-school. We’ll call him Sean. Sean was chosen for this internship program because he was not succeeding in the classroom. I could see why on my first day working with him. He was completely calloused towards, well, a lot of things. I couldn’t help thinking that the education system hadn’t done him many favors.
But, two days ago my manager got to go with him to his school where Sean had the opportunity to award our business the school’s “Employer of the Year” award. I was in class, so didn’t have the opportunity to join in this endeavor, but seeing the picture of this young man, dressed in the clothes of a punk, skater-kid, smiling next to my manager, award in hand, could not have made me more proud of both Sean, and our opportunity to be part of his education.
See, my manager told me that Sean’s teacher had noticed a change in him. He had begun to take responsibility for himself, saying things like, “My jeans have holes in them! I can’t go to work like this.” Sure, it’s a small thing. But it shows growth in Sean. Over the course of the past year he was able to put his love for people to work in a customer service environment, he developed people skills (I put him through the ringer, role-playing customer service interactions from people who are super kind and know what their looking for in our retail shop, to characters who are probably on drugs, and aren’t exactly pleasant for anyone to show kindness towards), he did the dirty-work of keeping the shop tidy, and his desire for cleanliness shined (ha! see what I did there?), and that’s before I mention his utter inability to work unsupervised nine months ago, to his relative aptitude now.
It wasn’t our business that did this for him.
It was the opportunity to be a human being, in a real work environment, working with real people. We were able to capitalize on some of Sean’s interests and skills and channel his energy into places where it mattered–to Sean.
These are lessons that he will take with him whether he works in retail, becomes an astronaut, works for a non-profit, or writes a best-selling novel. Let me know how calculus, or for sake of equality, the proper placement of a comma, will have that wide of an application. If you can think of a way, let me know. I can’t.
This is why I think connected learning matters. The emphasis of this badge is on how technology can help us to achieve this sort of broad application across subject areas. How do we develop students as human beings while also developing their ability to solve a quadratic function? With the new technologies, we have new tools to accomplish this, but it doesn’t count for anything unless we rethink the multiple ways in which students can grow in a classroom. Yes, knowing how to do math and construct a good scientific hypothesis and develop an argument about The Outsiders is important, but to restrict our view of education to those things is to do a great disservice to our children and our future. I’m worried that this sounds preachy, but then I look at Sean’s growth this year and I can’t help but say something. Because of his school district’s alternative approach he grew from a punk kid into a young man that stays true to his punk roots (lol). Even if he had been successful academically, he very well could’ve turned into a punk kid that knows how to graph a sin wave. But the skills he learned in his internship will help him (hopefully) have the work ethic to learn trig functions, and be a better person.
#sorrynotsorry if that got preachy. Don’t let children be crippled as human beings but good at history. Give them the tools to be good humans and good students.