Poking through my feed reader this morning, I stumbled across a Mindshift KQED article that I think every educator ought to read.
Titled How to Spark Curiosity in Children through Embracing Uncertainty, it makes a simple argument: Instruction centered on facts that have already been settled fails today’s students. “Without insight into the holes in our knowledge,” author Linda Flanagan writes, “students mistakenly believe that some subjects are closed. They lose humility and curiosity in the face of this conceit.”
I worry about that argument because I’m held accountable for teaching a massive curriculum that is slam-packed full of settled facts.
While I believe in the importance of developing students who are willing to grope and probe and poke their way through moments of uncertainty — who are as comfortable NOT knowing as they are with having the right answers — the simple truth is that facilitating experiences that allow students to wrestle with uncertainty takes time that I just don’t have. If moments of genuine discovery are going to make their way into my classroom, something has to give — and that ‘something’ is going to end up being content that is currently listed in my ‘required’ curriculum.
And THAT’s what drives me nuts about being a classroom teacher in today’s world.
There’s a constant tension between what we SAY we want our students to know and be able to do and what we LIST as priorities in our mandated pacing guides. Almost twenty years into the 21st Century, we continue give lip service to the importance of things like creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking, but we create no real space for that kind of content in our school, district and/or state curricula guides. Worse yet, we do nothing to assess those skills. Instead, we are still holding students and schools accountable for nothing more than the mastery of settled facts.
That has to change. Plain and simple.
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