The disenfranchised student, the suspect counselor, and a reflection on an Ed Tech’s perspective
June 18th, 2007 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Last day of classes today before exams start. Could it possibly be a low key day? Doubtful when you go to your mailbox and get a form from guidance indicating that a student has been dropped from your class. Dropped from my class? But it’s the last day of classes. The student could have dropped any of 180 other days? Why is this happening?Moreover, how irresponsible of the counselor to drop a student without even a discussion with the teacher.
What does it mean? In the current district I work, the student has now upgraded his average from a 40 to a 50 for the year. He doesn’t have to take the final exam. So he prospectively has made out better than his classmates who still continue to work and try. What message are we, (no, let me rephrase: his parents and his counselor) sending to the student? Perhaps it goes something like “You don’t have to be responsible for your actions.” “You can blame circumstance instead of working hard.” “We’ll bail you out without teaching you the lessons of following through” “We’ll allow excuses to trump responsibility.” “We will irresponsible shelter you from learning lessons that will improve your character.” Whatever happened to: “It’s OK to stumble if you are willing to get back up and keep going.”

So I think back: did I do my job? I kept parents informed, and did that part. But I am forced to think about my instructional strategies. Recently, on Wesley Fryer’s Blog, there were some fictitious letters posted from students and teachers, which I frankly viewed as very anti teacher. I got the point: we have to think about education in different ways. The recent movement to think about gaming and education is smart because it states that the traditional paradigm doesn’t always work for all students.

This gets me thinking back to the Discovery/eSchool News blog awards panel discussion I did last year in Orlando at FETC. I, the science teacher, sat on a panel with some of the brightest and most innovative ed tech voices around. What I walked away with was that, as a science educator, instructional technology is ONE of many instructional paradigms that I employ in my classroom. Others? Inquiry laboratory work, Nick K’s test analysis procedures, debate, independent research . . . inquiry, inquiry, inquiry – in its many forms. To reach the disenfranchised, we must employ many models and address many learning styles. Gaming might work for one type of student, and it very well may fail miserably for another.

My point? I’m not so sure if it all ties together, but here goes: Education must be innovative, we must be willing to try new things and at the same time, we must expect that students meet their responsibilities by holding them to the highest standards.

The connection? Creativity and research are innovative ways that will work for some students. The model produces high success for those who buy into it. They succeed in ways they can’t in other settings: my Matt, and subject George are prime examples. For others? We need to find the fit – but they must be a part and take the responsibility to own their education.

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