I've been dissatisfied with public education and being in the classroom for a long time. Things went downhill fast during COVID. Online teaching was difficult, am I right? I knew at least half of the kids that refused to turn on their cameras were busy playing Xbox while I was trying to teach them about ocean floor features or collaboration skills in AVID. Once we returned to the classroom, things didn't get better. Demands on teachers were at an all time high, and my students were mostly disengaged. It's really hard to teach people that don't want to learn.
I went on maternity leave with my twins, and when I came back to school in March, my babies were still not sleeping through the night. I was exhausted, and I mean EXHAUSTED. I returned to find that most of my Seniors in AVID were skipping class; I was lucky if I had 10 students attend class on any given day. Students were disengaged, and it was impossible to do any long term projects or Socratic Seminars with the attendance issues I was facing. There came a day where I put down my whiteboard marker and told my students, "You don't want to learn this. You're wasting my time and I'm wasting yours. What do you want to learn?" I picked up my marker and faced the board. One student tentatively said, "How to cook when I am out on my own." I wrote it down, and asked for more. "How do I do my taxes? How do credit cards work? How do I build my credit? How do I meal plan with a budget? How to I budget my expenses? How do I make friends in college? What are red flags in a relationship? How do I communicate with professors? How do I form study groups in college? How do student loans work?" The list went on and on; I couldn't write things down fast enough.
Now to find these lessons... I was tired and post partum. School was demanding and I felt like I had no time to plan. I scoured the internet looking for resources on "Real Life Skills", but to my dismay, I couldn't find anything. I threw things together for my students; they weren't pretty, but my Seniors ate them up! I began thinking about my goals as a teacher. AVID was the perfect place to start. I needed to teach my students skills - collaboration, note taking, organization. I would use the content they wanted to learn as the vehicle for these skills. I saw engagement increase exponentially, and attendance got better as well. It got me thinking, why don't all classes work this way? Students don't need to know that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell (why is this the one thing they remember?!). Public school is run much the same as it was 50 years ago. Learn this content, take the test, turn in homework, follow the bells - creating perfect little factory workers. The reality is, we don't need factory workers anymore. We need collaborators, innovators, out-of-the-box-thinkers, problem-solvers, young adults that will question the status quo and hold our leaders accountable. We need young adults that will take our country in a positive direction. I want students to ask why, and I want to be the type of teacher that guides our next generation to creating a better tomorrow.
I'm tired of students asking, "when will I ever use this in real life?" My focus has shifted to teaching skills - collaboration, creativity, developing arguments from evidence, inquiry, and and other critical skills, and using content as the vehicle to teach those skills. I do it in my science classroom too - the focus isn't on regurgitative content anymore; they are learning Real Life Skills under the lens of my core classroom content. Making this shift, Inverting Education in this way, I have seen an exponential increase in student engagement. What is more invigorating to your purpose as an educator than feeling like you are making a difference? Your students want to learn, they want to sit in your class and follow your instruction, they look forward to school! That is the fuel I need to fill my tank as an educator. Is this the type of engagement you need to reinvigorate your love and passion for teaching? Become and Inverted Educator and flip the script with me! Let's get those students engaged, thinking and collaborating!
I dream of a day in education where no student feels the need to ask, "when will I ever use this in real life?" Join me on this journey to reform the way things are taught in the classroom. You are the front line, the advocate for your students and one of the biggest influences in student experience in the classroom. Get empowered to make a shift that will benefit you and your students. Get Inverted!