I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy watching Phineas and Ferb with my daughter. I have seen many episodes, enjoyed the humor, but rarely have I had any “a-ha” moments while watching the inventive pair of boys, their pet platypus and his evil genius nemesis – Dr. Doofenschmirtz.
This changed over our holiday break when we watched an episode in which Phineas and Ferb were sent to a “reprogramming” camp to relieve them of the potential dangers of their creativity. As I watched the following musical montage, I immediately thought of Sir Ken Robinson and his discussions about school’s effects on student creativity (I tweeted out the video and was thrilled to get a retweet and comment from Sir Ken himself).
I frequently hear, and see, frustration with the apparent lack of interest and motivation shown by students at our junior high school. Based on the number of books, blog posts, and discussions related to this topic, I know we are not alone. I also understand the frustration. Being a great teacher is truly a tremendous challenge requiring a commitment to ongoing personal growth and an investment of substantial amounts of time and energy. The persistence, flexibility and patience required to plan instruction that is both meaningful and engaging is one of the most difficult requirements of the job. Apparent student apathy strikes at the heart and soul of who we are as educators.
But, consider for a moment, a child who has gone through six years of an educational system, as described in the RSA Animate presentations by Sir Ken Robinson – Changing Education Paradigms, and Daniel Pink – Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. Like Phineas and Ferb, many of these students have become convinced that school is not about them. It has nothing to do with creativity, innovation, or their interests – instead it is about whatever the adults decide is important.
Changing this perception is not going to happen in a single lesson, class or even school year. Instead, our schools must be committed to an ongoing process of “re-purposing” our educational system to encourage creative endeavors, instill innovation and convince students that school IS about them. Given the current climate related to accountability and testing, this will not be an easy task, but it is possible, and it is necessary.
We can start be ensuring that our students are given every opportunity to actively participate in their own education by creating, innovating, collaborating and sharing their work with an authentic audience. Allowing students to pursue individual interests and produce work that encourages passion and develops pride goes a long way toward breaking the chains of apathy.
What will you do to give students these opportunities in 2012? Make it a great year!