I began the day with the usual optimism and jubilance. As I entered my office at around 6:30 this morning my mind passed the same thoughts it had since the beginning of this week, ‘I can make a difference today’.
Coffee in one hand, briefcase in the other I sat down, switched on my Macbook, warmed the photocopy machine up and plugged into the matrix. (OK, that last bit didn’t happen)
The newfound optimism can be attributed mostly to the fact that my film festival, a project I have tried to get up and running for the past two years at my school, is going to be nicely funded by the administration this year. This means it has a great chance of being a big success.
So, I put my promoters hat on and have been shamelessly creating propaganda for the event all week long; posters, 30 second online ads, promotional booklets – you name it, I’m making it.
My first class this morning was a diverse and relatively enthusiastic group of year 10 students. Diverse in that there are a number of different attitudes and personalities, enthusiastic in that they are always ready to get to work on any media project and willing to learn. I think that the learning however, has stopped. At least the willingness has.
When vibrantly talking about the festival to the students this morning (I may have gotten carried away at one point with far too man hand movements and jumping up and down) I made a point of it to let them know that the film festival is open not just to media students whom I teach but also to staff at the college. This means that teachers can create productions to submit.
This piece of news seemed inconsequential to the students. All the students, except one. The expression on his face quickly turned from joy to fear as the news that adults would be entering the festival entered his mind.
Immediately his hand shot up. “Mister! That’s not fair!”
“Excuse me, why isn’t that fair?” I asked in reply.
“Because…” and here’s the kicker, “Teachers know more than students”.
This is the phrase that has haunted me ever since 9:45 this morning.
“Teachers know more than students.”
What, may I ask, kind of society are we living in where a 15 year old believes that in every aspect of their lives, an adult knows more than they do?
I thought that the old way of thinking, ‘Adults know best’, went out years ago. This isn’t true. It may ring true with a number of things that have come with experience such as raising children, property investment, financial responsibility, but it ends there.
We do not have the answers. Just because we may hold a high school/TAFE/University graduation, have a full-time job, drive a car and pay bills, that does not mean we are an oracle to be questioned for all of the answers in life. We don’t have the answers! And yes, sometimes we may have a few of the answers, but it’s up to the young to work them out for themselves.
I blame our education system. Students are graded in each subject area. These grades are based on informal and formal assessments such as tests, quizzes, expository texts, artistic and mechanical creations, fitness levels and exams. None of these assess the students ability to function in society – to contribute to society.
I hate grades.
I blame the concept of grading, of ticking or crossing a box, of giving a score, of assessing an outcome, of conditioning the student to behave in a manner that they normally would not just for the almighty “A”.
I hate it. This isn’t a reflection of real life. So many students and teachers talk about the ‘real world’, as if it is separate from their school education. Why can’t we actually approach teaching like we are in the ‘real world’?
So many of us in education are obsessed with ticking boxes and keeping students sheltered from reality. When will the day come where an educational institution doesn’t just attempt to educate and allow the students to learn, but to contribute something to society. When will our institutions provide, not only realistic expectations, but demonstrate real world goals and objectives to prepare our children.
So much fear, conformity and following of conduct is evident in a school. Students are full of fear to the point where self-expression has disappeared. Simply saying ‘no’ for a good reason or cause rather than ‘no’ just to be outwardly defiant is not evident anymore. Once upon a time, saying ‘no’ meant something. It meant defiance in the face of a lack of personal rights – right to privacy, right to speak up, right to a decent education.
We have created grade-grubbers who do not know how to think for themselves. We are creating a future void of any independent thought and motivation.
It is scary how that one phrase, “Teachers know more than students”, means so much more than just being a general quip by a high school student. This is the society that we have created and that we must very soon transform.
If we don’t, then the future looks very bleak.