Only once in my life did I come face to face with a real life elephant. They seem like such nice and peace giants and I would say they are. But when my six year old self saw one face to face, I was amazed (and slightly frightened) by how big they are! It just loomed overhead! That is where the old saying “the elephant in the room” came from. These are big issues that are looming in the background of a situation that everyone decides to ignore even though it is a huge problem. There are several “elephants” when it comes to the topic of education. Will Richardson discusses several of these in his article 9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” You.
One of the biggest elephants that Richardson discusses is that “We know that most of our students will forget most of the content that they “learn” in school.” This is a huge deal. We as teacher spend so much time in the classroom teaching things that have little to no relevance to our students’ lives and that they will not even remember in a month. We should be focusing more on teaching and having students learn things that bring meaning to their lives and that they will remember and draw from in their future.
Another elephant that I find rather large is that “We know that grades, not learning, are the outcomes that students and parents are most interested in.” When I was in high school, I was extremely concerned about my grades. I had a slipping grade that was on the verge of a B. I went to my teacher and asked if there was any way to do extra credit or anything that would keep my grade an A. He got rather frustrated with my pestering and finally told me something I value to this day. He told me “Sydni, grades don’t matter. It won’t matter in five years if you got a B or an A in your history class.” There are many things that matter more than getting good grades in school. Living life to the fullest, learning things you are truly interested in, and having fun, are way more important than how well you could memorize dates and information. At the time, I was very mad at him for saying such a thing, but weeks later, I really began to understand what he meant and how he was right.
The last big elephant that I will discuss is that “We know (I think) that the system of education as currently constructed is not adequately preparing kids for what follows if and when they graduate.” Schools have been focusing so heavily on things like test scores that they have fallen away from what truly matters: teaching students what they need to know in order to succeed in the next step in their lives. Schools should bring back classes that teach life skills, such as cooking and financial planning. These things are inevitable in the future for students, so why not prepare them for it?
In conclusion, there are several looming elephants in the back of the classroom. I just hope we as teachers can move towards leading them out the door and back where they belong.