Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Driving Forces

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."

Albert Einstein
German-Swiss-American mathematical physicist, famous for his theories of relativity.

As I am sitting here tonight thinking about the world around me and the one that my children are growing up into, I wonder about what drives a person to do and be who they are? Is there some magic formula (you would think that a chemist could come up with one!) that helps determine what a person is and what motivates them? Is it genetics? Could it be just plain dumb luck? Do people decide what they are going to become? Does the world around them make the decisions? (Boy o' boy, I need to get some sleep.)

I know that there is a plan for all of us. I know that some people are motivated while others seem to not be. I think that school in general seems boring to students because they have lost a reason to be motivated. They seem to be looking for a way to find the secret easy path. (Not all of them mind you.) The question that I am really thinking about is how to motivate the ones that seem to not want to be motivated? I guess if I had the answer I would be a very rich person. Is it rewards that motivate? If so, why do grades defeat this?

If the goal of chemistry is to be a problem solving class then why are students not excited to learn about it? The world around the students is one filled with wonder and magic, I know, I see it in my daughter. I wonder how to get the students to be as excited about the stuff around them and how it all works together as my little one is. If some students are going into science and engineering because they like to look at the world around them and wonder then I guess I have done my job as a teacher. I do not think that I can get all of them to like science (that would be a Hatak utopia!) but just a few of them. What would it be like if one of the students that I have in class has the cure for cancer in them? or the details for space travel? or how to make the fields produce enough food to feed all who are in need? and I did not do my best to get them excited about science? I hear that the number of students majoring in science and engineering is lowest it has been in decades! Do they not want to work to find answers? Do they not wonder? How do I get these "lost" scientists interested?

I think that what we are doing as a group and with the new methods that I am trying at least I am doing something to reach this generation. I hope that I do not forget that the material is not nearly as important as the method of learning and self-motivation that comes from school.

"Whoso neglects learning in his youth, Loses the past and is dead for the future."
Euripides (484 BC - 406 BC), Phrixus

Professional Blogging - My thoughts

So, there was a recent post on the blog "2 Cents Worth" that discusses the views on "Professional Blogging."


The usual excuses are presented about why teachers would not want to blog. (Time being the main issue.) I could not agree with this more but I think that there is more to it. Teachers need to see the value of having a journal that can be shared with other teachers. I do think that there are those teachers who find the value in keeping a journal and those teachers who think that sharing with other teachers is very important. The struggle that I am having is finding the time to do all the things that I want to do. Truth be told, I will find the time in my day to accomplish the things that I want to do along with the things that I have to do. It becomes a list of priorities. I think that teachers need to stop using the time argument as an "easy out". We need to be looking at things that will help us to be more effective in the classroom and help the students to connect with material. Right now, I see the blog as a tool that can be more helpful to me and a way to discuss ideas with other educators.

As David Warlick says in the post referenced above:
Today, the world is the curriculum, and the world is changing every day. In a time of rapid change, education must become highly adaptable, a place where teachers can retool their classrooms every day. The time issue must be solved. ItÂ’s a very simple problem (granted that the solution would not be simple) that, if solved, would have a dramatic impact on teaching and learning. But a significant part of that impact would come from the professional discourse that would be necessary in order for teachers to productively manage adaptable classrooms. It would come out of well thought-out and compellingly written (and illustrated) conversations from teachers who are paying attention, reflecting on their observations, sharing their insights concerning the impact on teaching and learning, sharing, and continuing the conversation.
When I read this post, I started thinking about my classes. I cannot ignore the fact that the method of teaching science that is occuring now is really not science. I have said it before that I think the current method of science instruction teaches the students about science and what has been done in science but does a lousy job teaching the students how to be scientists. Then there is the issue of motivation. I do not just mean the motivation of the students, that would be a whole different entry. I mean the motivation of the teachers (I am talking to myself right now, so feel free to listen). It takes time, energy, resources, and a willingness to fail to change what is happening in a classroom. Time is the easiest scapegoat. I think if I can figure out the resources then the time will not be as big of an issue. The truth is that it takes a lot of work to create the changes that I would like to see happen. It is good to see that there are a few teahers out there who are willing to try to change and then continue to evaluate what they are doing.

"We are continually faced with great opportunities, which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems."
-Margaret Mead
From: Teacher's Calendar, Andrews McMeel Publishing, March 30 entry.