Student self motivation – needs time to awaken

Our place of learning is a bus

I arrived at class the other day and I had four students waiting for me. The other 4 students (there are only 8 in the class) were out in the community doing their thing – paid work, pre-apprenticeship course, shifting house and an internship.

One of the students piped up and said, “So, what are we doing today?”

I was disappointed. The students are being encouraged and taught to take ownership of their own learning and to show initiative.

I read in a blog post today: “It’s so sad that so many students sit and wait to be taught.”

It’s no wonder then that my students have not ‘fully’ unlearnt the attitude instilled in them for around 10 years…wait until you are told what to do!!

But there is hope as all it took for me to say was…”What do you want to do?” And they all had something to DO.

Brad: I want to go and buy a book to list all the jobs I am doing for the ICT work at Cutting Edge (his LTI – Learning Through Internship).
Ben: We need to visit Computer Tech Support and see if they will have me for an Internship).
Haydn: I need to do the paperwork required to set up my internship doing concreting.
Sean: I want to explore the possibilities of setting up a student exchange so Big Picture students can come and spend a week with us so we can learn from them.

I was pleased that this attitude to learning is being developed and just under the surface, waiting for a crack to let the light in.

My students are thinking about things to do and starting to take ownership and show initiative.

The Big Picture approach of students following their interests, working in the community and a teacher/advisor to guide them in their learning does work: It is one student at a time in a community of learners.


The Building Revolution – merely a facade

In Australia, the Federal Government has undertaken a major building program that has involved large numbers of schools getting new classrooms, learning centres and sports stadiums etc. It was introduced as an economic stimulus plan for the nation.

At a quick glance it looks as though it would revolutionise education.

I don’t know about whether it is a revolution of education perhaps more of a “renovation of schools”. And new and shiny is always good…isn’t it?

This is what the government says on their website:

The Building the Education Revolution (BER) program is the single largest element of the Australian Government’s $42 billion Nation Building – Economic Stimulus Plan, with around 24 000 projects to be delivered in every community across Australia.

The $16.2 billion BER program aims to modernise schools through the delivery of necessary infrastructure, and by doing so, support local jobs and stimulate investment.

The BER is now in its most dynamic phase with construction underway in thousands of schools across the country. In many locations, students, teachers and their communities are already enjoying the benefits of recently completed projects delivering world-class, 21st century facilities.

A primary school near my home

As I travel around my city I see many brand spanking new buildings that are modern and inviting. This is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. It is only a start.
What I also notice is that these buildings have been built on open spaces in the schools at the expense of outdoor leisure space. Less outdoor space to run and play. It gives the impression that what happens inside the buildings/classrooms is sooo much more important. That “inside” is more important than outside. That true learning occurs inside 4 walls.

It appears that the doing outside is not as valued as the doing inside.

Let alone the doing that happens outside the school.

From the UnCollege blog of Dale J. Stephens, he so rightly heralds to us all:

“Learning by doing—in the world, not the classroom—is the best way to develop your talents and turn booksmarts into streetsmarts.”

To me the revolution is but cosmetic of an education system that is outdated inside it’s walls as the old factory system employed 150 years ago is still going strong.

As long as the classroom and school walls are seen as the lone bastions of learning from kindergarten to college (University) then our kids will be denied the streetsmarts they so need in life.

So Mr Government, keep the new buildings coming but allow school leadership increasing freedom to greater personalise learning for students and the opportunities for them to learn in the community.

The best place for learning – home or school?

I have been reading more of John Taylor Gatto and his radical views of school and I am realising more and more that his views should become less radical and more the norm.

I am sure that would mean the dismantling of a system that has been around in its original form for 150 years and this won’t happen quickly, and perhaps not in my lifetime.

No matter, I am happy to throw in my few seeds of change.

Here is the latest snapshot of what he wrote in –


“A few days ago I got a call from a newspaper that wanted some advice for parents about how to launch their children into school. All the reporter wanted was a sound byte from a former New York State Teacher of the Year. What I said was this: 

Don’t cooperate with your children’s school unless the school has come to you in person to work out a meeting of the minds – on your turf, not theirs. Only a desperado would blindly trust his children to a collection of untested strangers and hope for the best. Parents and school personnel are just plain natural adversaries. One group is trying to make a living; the other is trying to make a work of art called a family. If you allow yourself to be co-opted by flattery, seduced with worthless payoffs such as special classes or programs, intimidated by Alice in Wonderland titles and degrees, you will become the enemy within, the extension of state schooling into your own home. Shame on you if you allow that. Your job is to educate, the schoolteacher’s is to school; you work for love, the teacher for money. The interests are radically different, one an individual thing, the other a collective. You can make your own son or daughter one of a kind if you have the time and will to do so; school can only make them part of a hive, a herd, or an anthill.”

To me you can sum it all up with: Who will best educate my child, the family or the dictates of the State, the school system?
The State has been doing its job for around 150 years and John  continues to warn us that the School System is contributing greatly to the killing of our nation by making our kids compliant, regulated and dependent…

“Think of the things that are killing us as a nation – narcotic drugs, brainless competition, recreational sex, the pornography of violence, gambling, alcohol, and the worst pornography of all – lives devoted to buying things, accumulation as a philosophy – all of them are addictions of dependent personalities, and that is what our brand of schooling must inevitably produce.”

It is very sobering to read this as I am a participant in the system of “school” and I am doing my best now to break free from the rules of the system and to provide a more natural and effective model of learning that puts the kids first. And the Big Picture approach embraces the home and includes the parents as partners with the student in their learning.