A friend of mine was complaining recently on Facebook (Where else do people vent about things these days?) about struggling to help her son with his homework until after 10 PM on a Wednesday night. The frustration in her post was very apparent. She’d had enough already, and her kids were only four days into the 2015 school year at the time. I’m talking about a smart kid and very intelligent mother, too. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this type of thing either about public schools.
I spent some time in public schools at different points in my life. I remember the late nights and burning the midnight oil in order to get a big assignment done that was due the next day. It seemed to happen whether or not I had put it off until the last possible moment, which I admittedly did in most cases. This was mainly in high school, though, for me. In the case of my friend’s son, he’s only in seventh grade. Most of her frustration didn’t come from the fact that it took so long to complete the assignments either. It was because the way her kids are learning math is different than the way that we were taught in school growing up. As a parent myself, I know this would irritate me and make me feel a little stupid in front of my kids through no fault of my own as well.
So what’s the alternative?
I recently read a book titled The ADHD Advantage: What You Thought Was A Diagnosis May Be Your Greatest Strength by Dr. Dale Archer. In it the author talks about Eagle Hill School in Massachusetts where traditional classroom learning has been flipped on its head. In fact, they refer to it as the “flipped classroom model”, which is a different approach from most public schools. They have students view prerecorded video lectures prepared by their teachers. The videos are each around ten minutes in length, and they view these at home. The information provided in the videos is the basis of their schoolwork – not homework anymore – which is done in the classroom during the following school day. This way the teacher is available to answer questions and help any of the students in case they get stuck on something.
In my mind, this method is absolutely brilliant. Even though the practice is geared specifically toward kids who have ADHD in the case of Eagle Hill School, the flipped classroom model is still something that could potentially work wonders for parents and kids alike in public schools. Parents can learn along with their children if they choose to, and the teacher who knows the lessons inside and out can be there to answer any questions while the work is being done in the classroom. It seems like a win-win to me.
Dr. Archer also points out that most children have difficulty sitting still, remaining quiet and listening to lectures for an average of 54 minutes at a time. A lot of them simply have too much energy, and I’m not just referring to those who have or may have ADHD. High energies levels are very common in children.
Of course, there could be technological limitations to providing video lectures for students. However, Dr. Archer states that over 80% of students have smart phones. I’m not sure where he got this information or how accurate it is, but computers still make up a large portion of Internet connectivity. So even if a smartphone or tablet device isn’t an option for some students, it’s very likely that they would still have access to a home computer. If not, a public library or friend’s house would be another option. The schools themselves could also provide access to computers for a period of time after regular school hours. With so many extracurricular activities going on in this day and age, it’s hard to believe that this would be a difficult thing to do. Where I live, every school in our district has a website as well, which could provide a central hub for teachers to use to post their lectures online. My kids even have their own Google accounts at school that they can log into and utilize for schoolwork when necessary, so it seems to me that schools are fairly current when it comes to new technology. Who’s to say that a lot of the videos couldn’t be used year after year, too?
Where do we go from here? Making public schools better.
In the end, we all have to agree that the educational system in our country is extremely outdated if not broken. Right? It has remained mostly unchanged for over 100 years, yet we continue to march on with it. Why? Because it’s the way that it has always been for us, our parents, our grandparents, and maybe even our great grandparents. That’s why it’s so important that we attempt to break the cycle by taking a critical look at exactly what’s broken and made an honest attempt to repair it.
This may all seem a little crazy, I know. However, it was Jack Kerouac who said it best, and was quoted by Steve Jobs years later for a famous Apple ad campaign, when he said, “…the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” The only question that remains now is: Who’s ready for a change?