Not What, Not How…but WHY

Change Must Start With The Need

Ask most students why they attend school and you will probably hear any of the following:

Because mom and dad make me.bored-child_2784027b

I like to hang out with my friends.

Being at home gets boring after awhile.

Ask most students if they would attend school if they didn’t have to and you would likely hear:


As sad as that is, it is reality. I posed this question to one of my teachers the other day. With a smirk on her face, she knew the answer as well. It is a reality no teacher—no principal—wants to admit.

…but her response told me something else.

She, like many teachers and principals, realizes we are not reaching kids at their point of need. She, like many teachers and principals, is searching tirelessly for ways to reach kids. The want is there, the know-how is not.

I don’t blame her. EdWorld has filled educators with so much smoke-and-mirrors-in-the-name-of-reform over the years, it is enough to make one’s head spin…as in a Linda Blair-like head spin…with green vomit.

We keep listening to the wrong people who keep telling us the wrong things to try in our schools and in our classrooms.

Research based…proven to increase your school’s reading scores…no more disruption in the classroom…blah, blah, blah…blah

These practices are ineffective because we refuse to identify the need [it is human nature to avoid asking a question when we don’t want—or like—the answer]. We have changed the WHAT and we have changed the HOW, but we have not addressed the WHY. The WHY of our much needed change stems from the fact that our students have changed. Students today acquire information differently than they used to. Students today apply information differently than they used to. Students today are motivated differently than they used to be.

[Check out this video for more information on ‘Gen Z’]

To adapt our practices where we would actually have difficulty keeping kids OUT of our schools will require some effort. Well…maybe.

kids_buildingMaybe all we need is a change in mindset. What if for one moment we afforded ourselves the right to step out of grown-up world and step into kid world? What if we threw off the barriers and the obstacles and the judgments that prevent us from inspiring and motivating? What if we threw out our daily schedule long enough to listen to and empathize with the students in our building? What if…

Before we knew it, our lessons and our classrooms would become so inspiring that not only would students crave school, they might never want to leave. [I may be a cynic but I always keep a bagful of idealism in my pocket]

In the 1998 classic Stand and Deliver, Edward James Olmos delivers a powerful portrayal of Jaime Escalante—a math teacher in East LA who inspired at-risk youth to learn calculus. Escalante had no magic recipe. Escalante made math cool. Escalante made math fun…Escalante listened to his students.

There is no magic solution. But if we don’t care enough to identify the need…If we don’t care enough to admit change—true change—is necessary, students will continue running through schools like bricks in a factory.

Onward, Brave Voyager! #NeverSummer