Schools are not the same places they used to be. For many, school has not been a place that they have visited since they left school. That may well be thirty years ago. Since those times, the world has changed dramatically. Advances in technology, communication, transportation, medicine. Education is no different. Education has, in most schools, changed in a number of ways over the last couple of decades. It can come as a shock to parents who, when sending their first child to school, expect to see and experience a classroom similar to what they remember, but are actually faced with a system that resembles nothing that they recall. In my conversations with parents who have children starting school, their first impressions are of surprise and wonder. They can’t believe how different Primary Schools are. In small ways and in big ones. This post today is dedicated to revealing the top tens ways in which (most) Primary schools these days, are different to years gone by.
Education is personalised: not one size fits all.
In the past, children received a one size fits all curriculum. We would all move to a new grade, all be given the same worksheet, same page number, same text book, same test. Everyone was taught (but didn’t necessarily learn) the same thing. The teachers essentially taught ‘the class’ and focussed solely on the curriculum for that year level. The problem is, kids..are not the same. If you yourself have more than one child, then you would know that brothers and sisters are often polars apart. Mine are basically unrelated. So it would make sense then to understand that children learn in different ways, at different rates. Children are not robots who can be programmed to behave and learn in the same way. Some children learn by doing. Others learn by reading. Others by watching, listening, drawing, modelling, dancing and so on. Much like a road map, there are different ways to get to the same destination. Some routes take longer. Some are shorter. Some involve pit stops. However if we all take our own road, we will get there in the end. A teacher’s role in schools these days is to facilitate learning in a way that helps children learn best. Teachers personalise learning based on a child’s need. Often children are grouped together in like abilities, and other times they are in mixed abilities. Teachers create learning opportunities that fit a variety of needs in their class. You’ll see different children dong different things and different times.
Often there is up to eight years of range in a classroom, so teachers need to understand the curriculum not only at their level, but around it. Every class of children can be plotted on a bell curve, and education ‘needs’ to reflect that.
Classrooms are no longer four walls
Classrooms are now often called learning spaces. Spaces that can move beyond the traditional four walled classroom. Because, well learning does indeed happen outside school, and our learning spaces need to reflect that. Spaces can be open and closed depending on the school, and depending on the environment. You may hear the term ‘open plan’. These spaces are flexible and provide children with a variety of nooks and break out spaces where they can work in smaller groups or on their own.
Children may have more than one teacher
In many schools, teachers have shared responsibility of the children in that year level. Your child may or may not have more than one teacher, but they will certainly encounter more than one teacher throughout their learning. The saying that ‘may hands make light work’ can also be applied to teaching. They still may have a ‘home’ teacher, but together, with combined knowledge and skill, teams of teachers can work to help your children grow and thrive by planning for the specific needs of a variety of children.
Children no longer sit in rows of desks facing the front
In years gone by, children sat at desks facing the front. At the front stood the teacher. The teacher was the all ending source of knowledge. Except teachers actually DONT know everything. No one does. In this day and age children are invited in to the learning process beside the teachers. Teachers can be experts, but so can children. Teachers facilitate and help children to learn and find the answers together. It is important that teachers model making mistakes, and the process of finding solutions to problems, even if they too don’t know what they are! Classrooms are often now organised in groups of tables to help children learn how to work together. Children often now choose where they want to sit, and when, depending on the task. The days of sitting in the same spot for a term are long gone!
Children set their own goals
Your children are the ones learning, and they too are often the ones setting learning goals for themselves! Sure the teachers are involved, but it’s important that our children know and understand where they have been, where they are and where they are going. For themselves and their own learning!
Parents are an essential part of the learning process
I often hear parents making comments like – ‘when my kids are at school things will be easier’. In some ways yes, but on other ways no. The fact is that parents need to be part of the learning process. Whether helping their children at home to read each night, or helping in the classroom (if they can), or being experts in a field of work to help kids learn about how the world works. Be prepare to be a part of your child’s learning. Even if you just read with them at home, each and every night. YOU are their first teacher, and nothing will change!
Access to learning is anywhere, any time
Schools are becoming more and more like google. You can access learning in any space, place and at any time. Often children are using online learning management systems like Google Apps that allow them to access their learning on any device. This means that if they are away from school for various reasons, they can still participate in the learning.
Homework is often a waste of time
Yep. The verdict is in. Research states that homework in it’s current form is a waste of time in Primary School. Aside from reading each night, homework has little benefit. Schools are refining their homework policies to reflect the needs of their individual communities. The fact is that schools cannot control what happens at home. Many children do not have parental support to help them do their homework, and thus are being set up for failure. Children need time to play, rest and be with their families. Yes, there are important aspects of revision including reading and number work, but often the pressures of homework do more harm than good in Primary school. Just be open minded to the fact that children do in fact learn from activities they access at home, and simple things like household chores and being outdoors can be the best classroom of all.
You don’t just get two reports a year
Learning is also shared with parents in a variety of ways. Your child’s school may use an app like SeeSaw or Story Park to share samples of learning and track growth. Parents should also be in constant contact with their child’s teacher, whether in person or via email. Reporting will be ongoing and in time.
Education is much more than the three R’s
The most important skill we all need in the work place is the ability to work with others. The ability to work interdependently. The Victorian Curriculum in this state, reflects this importance. Education these days values the foundations of literacy and numeracy, but also other important skills relating to dispositions and skills needed in real life. Heaven knows that our children need to learn to manage themselves, their tantrums and their tears! It is also important that schools value all aspects of learning including the arts, physical education, science, media etc etc. The world needs a variety of people with a variety of skills. Schools are a place that help children find what they are passionate about. We should help our children flourish and feel good about themselves. Sure, it is important that they can read, write and count, but it is vital that they know how to problem solve, be resilient, talk to others, bounce back when they make mistakes and think flexibly. Code is also fast becoming King. Many of the jobs that our children will have in the future have not been ‘invented’ yet. Vocations including ‘social media manager’ were not around twenty years ago. Schools need to equip our children with the skills they will need for their future. A future that is open to vast opportunities, many of which, we can’t even predict!
So….are you ready for school? They, in all of their forms are glorious places. Just keep an open mind knowing that every school and system is different, but they all house teachers who are passionate about helping our children grow and learn!
Next week I will share a blog post that explores the basic skills your children will need before they start school! Got a question you need answering? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! In the mean time, if you want to watch something that will help you make sense of why schools need to ensure that they innovate and strive to cater for our children’s needs then watch this video by Sir Ken Robinson. A TED talk focussing on ‘The Learning Revolution’. Happy Watching!