I don’t have any “real” connection to the School of Education, besides a curiosity for learning and an on-and-off interest in being a teacher. To be perfectly honest, I signed up for this class on a complete whim, in need of extra hours in a course that sounded interesting. And what a great decision it turned out to be! The Politics of Reading has challenged me, frustrated me, motivated me, and taught me. It has also helped me reflect – on life, on my education, on our social system, on the people with power. But perhaps the biggest lesson that I am taking away is the benefit of being in a good learning environment surrounded by people who care.
Although we spend an incredibly large percentage of our life in school, is it always a true “learning environment”? Or it is often an environment filled with competition and report cards and confinement? I have often found that our education system is structured such that the emphasis is placed on the results rather than the process. We place the value in our final grade, regardless of if you actually learned anything. With this construction, it is easy to lose sight of the path you take – whether it’s writing a paper, working on a project, studying for a test – so long as it fits the rubric or follows the study guide. If you can make an “A”, who cares about the rest! But is that really what we want? In ten years from now, I can’t help but hope that my grades will be long forgotten, but the material I learned will still be relevant. It is pretty rare to find a class that places the focus on the learning, as opposed to the grades, like this one has.
What I’ve realized, mainly through writing these blog posts, is that without the pressure on the final results and making an A, you have the ability to really engage with the material. In the absence of being told what and how to think about something, I was able to really LEARN on my own. It seems counterintuitive, but I think it’s more that our school system isn’t arranged in the best way for actual learning.
For a class that I had no initial intentions of taking, I find myself talking and thinking about this material more than any of my other classes. I frequently find myself going on rants about the flaws in our education policy and how it hinders students’ chance at succeeding. I’ve never talked to my friends about a history course or chemistry concept. I think that is related to the fact that I am being filled up from the learning instead of smushed down by the grades.
If we could apply this mentality to the broader education system I think it could solve many of the problems. So often students drop out of school because it seems irrelevant or they feel they aren’t succeeding. But if students were being graded on how much they are learning instead of if they can pass a test, I think they would feel a lot more successful and school would seem more useful to the real world.