The Fog of Right
I'm heading to Oklahoma City later this week, where I'll be warming up a conference of 3,500 teachers and admins, getting them ready to talk about the vocational world. Since I moonlight as a community college professor, educational issues are always close to my heart. And what I see in the classroom these days are students who have incredible firepower — but no spark. We've built a generation of teach-to-the-test thinkers who are now scholars in a "path of least resistance" mindset. I'm thinking: We built it, we broke it, and now it's time to find ways to fix it.
My own background has made me keenly aware of the moment when the window of focus closes and students' millennial mind funk kicks in. Here are some of the symptoms I see:
— "Deer in the Headlights Gone Wild": If you want quiet in the classroom, ask students "Why?" and watch 'em blink blink blink. The critical thinking crisis is critical.
— "Let Go of My Ego!": Increased student ego has become a high-voltage stun gun to quality discourse.
— "The Fog of Right": Training the brain to be obsessed with right answers is the wrong approach. Fear of being wrong rules students these days because they've been taught that only being right matters. But if young minds can't experiment and *fail* in the classroom, they lose out on one of the best paths to understanding. And where else can they go for these vital mind minerals?
One cure for these problems: Leadership. We need to stop training students to fear their own minds and only focus on winning test scores. We need to teach them that it's okay to lose a few rounds on the path to success. And we need to put aside fossilized norms of instruction that result in learned restlessness, because they teach *at* students instead of *to* them.
Here's what I've found: Tell your students the unwavering truth and they'll stop texting and give you their most precious commodity — their focus.