I was walking around in my classroom today and I was attracted to a recently written graffiti which on the wall .That graffiti is a multiple choice question in which the writer asked his/her mates the following question:
“What is this place? choose the correct answer: – Prison -Hospital.”
This writing has pushed me to think about what is that that makes our students see school as either a prison or a hospital.I asked some of my classes about why school is a prison for them and they answered in different ways.Some of them think that schools don’t offer what students really need in their life.Some of them have expressed their opinion in written form saying that they study English,maths,geography and all the other core subjects;while,there is no space for other extra-curricular activities.Some students have said that the absence of subjects that appeal to students’ interests really demotivates them and makes school a boring place.The word “boring” was repeated in the answers of many of them.
Other students have said that school is “prison” for them because of the behaviours that come from some of their mates.
So many other writings on the walls of our school reflect the degree of hate that students -not all students of course- have towards school.Among the other writings that you see on the walls of our school are “rubbish”,”Shit!” and the like!
What is important in all that is not the words as such;but, how we can make students love school.The “reflections” that students write on the walls of classrooms while the teacher is busy with an activity or writing on the board show that students have other interests that are not catered for by the lesson that is taking place at the time of their writing.
Schools have to move from top-down systems where everything is decided from the top to a system where students have more freedom of choice.Schools should move into the era where students and teachers have more power on the materials they use,the activities they deal with and how they teach.
You might say that teachers are free to do all that!It’s not the case in our situation.The syllabus comes in the form of ministry circulars,the text-book is agreed upon and authorised by the ministry.The exams and the tests (number,methods,duration….) is all decided by the teacher.The amount of time that is located to a huge text-book -the syllabus- doesn’t match the huge content that has to be covered,which makes it impossible for a teacher to think of other things except when and how to finish a program in which students will be tested on the national and regional levels.All these constraints are a so heavy load on the teacher’s /the student’s back.
It’s high time for our educational authorities and school headmasters to see extra-curricular activities as a “paradise” for the school and the student.A huge amount of materials (grammar,reading,functions…) dealt with in a text-book doesn’t necessarily mean that those students have learned a lot.It means neither that the teacher has worked a lot or even better.Little is so enough and great when students see it as great.Too much materials leaves no room for the teacher’s and the student’s creativity and that’s exactly the job of old-times ‘ prisons.So,no wonder if students see school as prison.
Look,we shouldn’t forget that in many parts of the globe,including my country,our children have got more freedom outside school these days than they have in schools.It’s so sarcastic and funny that we keep teaching about human rights,values and freedom of choice ;while, school is the place where that is to be expected less,at least in the present time.
High school students are around 18-20 years old.They are mature and old enough to make decisions and have their own choices.Teachers are there to cater for the students’ needs,and they should be given that ethical right with no reservation.Teachers are the only ones who know what,when and how to teach.They also know that there times where teaching grammar or any other language skill wouldn’t work.So,give them the freedom to skip grammar and do something else that will certainly be of great benifit for the student.I am not advocating an anti-syllabus or anti-textbook view.A road map is always necessary for the goals to be achieved.My view is the road map should be the teacher’s business.The road map can be altered or simply ignored when that is necessary.With the present status-quo of education,teachers and students are obliged to follow a map that might lead to no where.
School should match the kind of life that students are living outside, either at home or outside home; if it is really to be called “school”.
I am not a school headmaster;but,I think that those looking at headmasters and administrators from the outside are more qualified to talk about the deadly aspects of a school leader.I have been teaching for my tenth year now,and I think that I have gathered enough data about what I think really describes the worst school leader.Here I am disclosing some of those features that you might have also seen or heard about somewhere.
It’s really a good thing for a school leader to listen to his/her colleagues,and have consultants and advisors within and outside his/her school.It’s a necessity today for any leader to cooperate and work within a group system.Yet,one of the worst mistakes that undermine the image of the leader in the eyes of his/her colleagues and co-workers is when the decisions taken by the leader are not his/her own,and they harm more than they cure the school and the students’ interests.It’s unfortunate that so many decisions are taken by others and put into practice by the school leader without even weighing the effects.
It’s also a deadly mistake for a leader when he/she’s no longer inspiring the school.Leaders should take initiatives,give ideas,guidance and advice for teachers and students as well.Some head teachers are only there and the educational adminstration,unfortunately, knows that he/she’s only filling the gap of the “head leader”.What’s the use of a “useless” leader? What roles is he/she really doing in school if not helping to make learning possible and to make growth and success the story of his/her school?It’s so sad that many school leaders do nothing more than watch who is present and who is absent today and the same tomorrow! A thing that shouldn’t be his/her job in the first place because that’s far under the position of a “leader”.
The other terrible feature of a school leader is when he/she is killing both the students and the teachers,and depriving them of their motivation and enthusiasm for a better school life.So many school leaders really destroy “their” school by the decisions they take,consciously or unconsciously.So many things are meant to be positive,and they end being no more than a failure.To err is human;however,it’s too hard when a mistake affects a whole generation; a whole nation.And that’s why making mistakes is really tough on the society in the domain of education.Enough about this!
So “childish” for a leader is when he/she gets into minor “conflicts” with the teachers or the students.Many school leaders pay too much attention to watching minute details about everything that’s happening in school that they forget about the big projects that the school is in need of.Who will deal with big issues when the headmaster is the one who deals with “absurdities”? It’s the leader’s job to have more open eyes on the outside of his/her school than on what’s happening inside.It’s the outside where he/she should find partnership realtions that will make the school a better learning place for everyone.
So sarcastic and laughter triggering when a school leader is afraid of spending the budget of the school.It’s for spending not for keeping for the coming year.There are many of the school heads who want to get an “EXCELLENT” observation from their superiors for having kept the money as it was sent to the school’s account.What’s worse is when the leader thinks that asking partners and sponsors for finantial help is “too much”! Some of them think that they are going to pay their own money!
Education is an adventure.We want our students to take risks.It’s NOT POSSIBLE as long as the teachers and leaders don’t take risks.I hope it’s not too long!
I have been wondering about the thousands of complaints I get from my colleagues while I use technology in my classes or wheen I schedule an extra-curricular activity.Many of the complaints I get are about the “you excite the students too much,and they refuse to focus on the lesson”.I would agree that my colleagues’ complaints might be true to a great extent.I accept that the students get hyper-active and too enthusiastic to see what’s coming next even in my classes while using the computer.
I would ,however, redirect my colleagues’ questions and complaints to the following: Why do our students get too excited and active during or immediately after a tech-led lesson? Why do they lose focus in other classes, while they become totally engaged when they interact with technology? These are the questions we should ask ourselves instead of blaming technology for causing unrest in our classes.
David Ausubel has long spoken about the zone of proximal devblopment within which our students learn,grow and get engaged. I tend to say that the “unrest” that takes place in our classes after a technology led lesson is due to the emotional and psychological unrest that has happened within the students’ inner selves.Being in a lesson that adheres to computers and web tools matches exactly the zone of the student ‘s growth;leaving that class into a chalk- led lesson retracts the student to stages well below his/her emotional,psychological and intellectual well-being.This is a reason already enough to shake the students’ state of the mind and to cause turbulance in our classes.
Our chalk’n lessons ,also,are a lot below Piaget’s stage of formal operations.I would go further and say that today’s adolescent merits a stage special for his/her own age;they are not only able to operate “formally”, but they can also do operations a lot beyond what some teachers can do.I would’n expect a student that is totally familiar with web2 tools,video editting software,powerpoint slides and a lot more than that to focus on the stories of theMiddle Ages undertaken with “yellow” books and blackboards.If you want today”s student to get involved and engaged in your lessons,don’t blame computers or extra-curricular activities.Blame yourself,blame the chalk and find a way out! That’s one of the new teacher’s roles.Embrace technology;embrace your kids.
You would seem too old for those kids looking at you and never relating your lessons,your ideas,to their world.Their world is not the one where you lived while at their age nor is it the one wheere you are now if you are techno-phobic.Most kids love fiction but not in the way they were told by their grand mothers around fire. Don’t forget that all of them have satellite dishes,and they watch most of their loved stories coming on air.So to make them engaged, do it in the same way.Teach them fiction,teach them critical thinking and analysis not the way you learnt it 10 years ago, but the way they live it today.
All the same,most of us think that extra-curricular activites are “extra”.It’s unfortunate that they are named so! Have you ever asked yourself why do students leave your class and join the “extra-curricular” activities room? Have you ever wondered why do they prefer the guitar,acting and singing to our regular lessons?
I suppose that these are the questions we should ask.We have to make our lessons more or less similar to the extra-curricular activites.Look at the things that you can bring in from those activities into your classes.There are so many things that attracts students to extra-curricular activities that you might use in your classes to make them loved by those you teach.Make your lessons a lot of fun;fun is not the opposite of serious work.Laughter shouldn’t be absent in your classes;if it does, then something serious is happening.Let students use technology,let them see a computer even for a while.
Students love to touch today’s gadgets.So why should you be scared of the mobile phone? Think of how you can use it to the best of your learners.There are plenty ways in which the mobile can be exploited in the classroom.The simplest is to use mobile dictionaries.Think about using the mobile video camera in projects.Give your kids the opportunity to see that the mobile is not bad in itself;what makes the difference is how you use it.Allow your students to see that the camera of their mobile can be used in taking pictures outside school and talk aboutthem in class.Give the students the opportunity to explore the audio recorder of their phones.It can be used to interview their peers and,and to record the teacher’s instructions….
Can you accept the label of “learner”?That’s what 21 st century teachers hould be. In the light of the huge techno-gap that exists between us and those whom we consider learners, an exchange of roles is nowadays cruciel.We have to listen to them and learn from them.There are plenty of things they can teach us every day,especially in relation to technology tricks.So why do you keep saying that you know every thing,and resist to assume the fact that they might teach us so many things?
So let’s make our life similar to theirs;technology rich.Let’s be global citizens the way they are! The job of the 21 st century teacher will not be that easy at all levels. We will face more misbehaviour if our teaching doesn’t match the students’ expectations. We will bee looked at down if we keep struggling with chalk;while those we teach are many steps ahead! They will abuse us with facebook and mobiles as soon as they know that they scare us.