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This morning, I logged into Twitter and noticed a stream of education articles. Several described how homework is ruining childhood. A few mentioned why schools are crushing creativity. I noticed my own blog post describing how “kids aren’t tired of learning but they’re tired of school.” So, here’s a little pushback on all of those posts (mine included).

Amazing things are happening schools. All the time. I’ve seen this as teachers have tagged AJ and I in our Global Day of Design before the day has actually happened. I see this when I go on Instagram and take a glimpse at what’s happening in Tim Lauer’s school. I notice this when my daughter won’t stop talking about what she’s learning in kindergarten or when my son gushes about how much he loved the mock business / economics experience his class just finished. I noticed it last week when I observed an amazing teacher in her practicum and noticed all the kids who were excited to be at school and who viewed it as a safe place and a refuge.

These small stories are happening all the time, due, in large part, to amazing, dedicated teachers. It’s why I created this video a few months back:

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So my first thought is that maybe collectively we need to share and celebrate the good stories. I know it’s not the intention of authors and speakers and consultants. However, when all we ever hear is how awful schools are for kids, is it any wonder that teachers feel demonized and scapegoated?

I get it. There are flaws in the system. There are outright injustices that we need to tackle. But what would it look like to listen to all perspectives and then offer holistic solutions?

Take homework for example. I used to speak boldly against it. What about the cool out-of-class extension activity? What about parents who want their children to have additional work? What about that kid who goofed off in class and didn’t get any work done? You can dismiss these concerns or you can say, “Maybe we could make homework optional and take a holistic approach to community and school partnerships.”

You can complain that schools are crushing creativity. But what would it look like to advocate for project-based learning and design thinking instead? What would it look like to help reform the curriculum map so that it encourages and inspires creativity? What would it mean to have a conversation with teachers in Alberta, where they have overhauled the curriculum to embrace creativity?

I’m not suggesting we ignore the flaws in the system. However, what would it mean for us to take some of the energy we are devoting to complaining and use it to advocate for positive change?

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John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.More about me


  • Scott says:

    John, you reminded me of my days working in publishing. Anytime there was an issue that I took to the manager, I always thought of at least in solution I could suggest. That way it didn't seem like I was just bringing problems all the time or just complaining. Often we used solutions other than my first idea, but at least we had a starting point. As I think about education issues now, I'm going to also consider solutions in the same thought. Thanks.

  • Jenny says:

    Sometimes I wonder if we, as educators, are not being thoughtful enough about the messages we send when we talk about schools and education and learning and teaching and kids. We do need to address the issues that we face, but we also need to be careful that we aren't overstating them or making things worse through our words. It's a tough line, I think.

  • I think for that kind of problem the school should need to hire a technology expert for it. The expert teaches students and teachers about that thing and this is the solution to dealing with such kind of problems.

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