here will always be limitations within the rigid public school system. However, especially as we make advances in technology that provides more opportunities for personalized learning and agency, there will always be ways to find flexibility to help learners take more ownership over their lives as learners.
Easily the most daunting challenge I face is the apathetic teenager, one who is disheartened, disengaged, or likely distracted by something much more appealing: Clash of Clans, Fortnite, Snapchat, the latest memes — what have you. How can I possibly design a curriculum that conquers instant gratification?
When your classroom doesn’t look like any other classroom — students are often overjoyed, but also bewildered. Why would I do anything when it’s not for a grade? If they’re not going to lecture, why wouldn’t I just goof off? If there’s not a test, is any of this information relevant? Educators face this scenario daily: by doubling down on progressive practice, their unwillingness to embrace the traditional delegitimizes their class.
Students love school the first day and begrudge it the rest. Teachers plan their beginnings to be engaging, then “get to work.” Isn’t it odd how easily this aligns? When a child is not forced into endless, substantiated curricula and learns about their peers, moves around, and is excited to be there — they’re engaged.
If a group succeeds in beginning change, any step forward is worth taking. That step must be large enough to matter, but not so much that the movement falls apart. Teachers must understand the pedagogy of democratic education — reading authors such as John Dewey, Deborah Meiers, Paulo Freire, bell hooks, John Holt, and A.S. Neill.