If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time. – Marian Wright Edelman.
One day I had the idea to shadow students at an International School that I was an educational consultant at. I wore really casual clothes and adopted the slouch that is so common with teenagers these days. I went to the maths classes of the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grades.
I also attended their chemistry and physics classes to get a feel of how those courses were taught. It gave me a deeper understanding of the work ahead in ensuring that our students receive the type of learning they deserve to get. I say ‘deserve’ because the students were eager to receive the knowledge. They desire to get more and my hope is that we will begin the work to ensure that they get it.
As I stated before, we ask our students to do a lot of sitting down and receiving information passively. This almost drove me out of my mind. I kept waiting for inspiration, getting my imagination stirred and interaction as I learnt with my ‘fellow’ students but that didn’t happen. Also, hardly did any of the teachers ask for the input of their students as they taught and I had to fight hard to bite my lips as I saw so many teachable moments, especially in the maths and chemistry classes.
Until we start being more student-focused in our lessons, not just teaching what we are accustomed to or like, our students will continue to get the short end of the stick. Try experiencing being a student, even if it’s just for a class, I guarantee it will be an eye-opening experience.
Ask students honest questions about their expectations and what things could be done to improve their learning experiences. You would get interesting feedback that would definitely change the paradigm of learning as we know it. The most important thing I took away from my experience as a student was how little my opinion counted and it didn’t encourage my learning.
I went back to my own experiences as a student in middle school, high school, college and graduate school. The classes I recall with amazing clarity are the ones in which my input was sought and I was actively involved. That made a remarkable impression on me even to this day, whenever I teach, I ensure that my students are actively engaged in the lesson and that their opinions count.
It is crucial for me to ensure that I am a constant learner, that I walk the talk and not just talk the talk. When I taught at a school in South Carolina with a group of wonderful students who had discipline problems (putting it mildly!), our school was the last stop for them and sometimes it felt like one was in a battleground. We received a smart board as a means to get our students more engaged and excited about their lessons. It was in our computer lab and we had to take turns in using the room.
The thing was, it was rather baffling to our staff. Instead of being a bonus, they could barely use it, not to talk of making it a part of the lessons for the students. I was determined to master it for myself. I understood the theory of how it was supposed to make our lessons more interactive but actually adopting it was another issue. So I spent my lesson prep time determined to make head or tail of it. I was determined that I would crack the code of making it workable for engaging and interactive lessons for my students.
It required a lot of research on my part and quite a number of trial runs with my students in various classes. I had to ensure that I made the process fun for both my students and myself, and not get bogged down by the frustrations that I encountered.
It’s important to be unafraid to get into the fray with everyone else as a leader.
Adetola Salau; Educator / Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur / Innovator
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness. She runs an educational foundation with the mission to transform education.