Dr. Lara Boyle's TEDx Talk - Vancouver 2015
First, you must take 15 minutes to watch Dr Lara Boyd's TEDx talk. No. Really. Watch it. You waste 15 minutes on Facebook or Instagram or whatever your guilty pleasure is without blinking an eye. This is worthwhile. Trust me.
What were your big take aways? There were a few, right.
The biggest idea for me was that all brains are different (I knew this) and that it takes time and practice to commit learning to long term memory. Some learners are able to move learning to long term memory more quickly than others but given time and practice, all learners can move to this high level of learning.
That doesn't seem too earth shattering. But here is the thing...how often are we really giving our kids the time? When I think about the litany of complaints I air over the course of any given day, week, or school year, I realize that MANY of them boil down to the fact that I need more time. My students need more time.
I am not anti-Common Core. However, this set of rigorous standards has put even more pressure on us to teach at a rate that is not conducive to the learning of all students. This is especially true in mathematics where students don't get extra practice at home, at least not like they do with reading.
Most parents encourage recreational reading with trips to bookstores and libraries and by sharing bedtime stories. Family reading time is often a time when families slow down and grow closer. Unfortunately, here in the U.S. families are less inclined to engage in math play with their children. Generally, the time students get to do math in the classroom is all the time they get to spend on math learning. Students need many opportunities to engage with new math concepts before conceptual understanding can be moved into long term memory stores. There are a lot of things that aren't right in our math classrooms today. Some of us are still spending too much time on teaching kids to memorize facts and procedures in the absence of meaning making. Students are not given enough opportunities to observe and wonder, to question and observe, to play and model and prove their thinking. This problem is only compounded by the fact that we do not give students enough time to do math (really do math) in the classroom.
When I consider the research and what experts like Dr. Lara Boyle are saying about how we learn, I wonder about our students who are failing to meet the standards. Often they are pulled aside to receive explicit instruction, or worse yet, pulled out, or even worse, they're evaluated to see if there are learning difficulties that make progress even more challenging. Maybe, just maybe, there is absolutely nothing "wrong" with these kids. Maybe, quite possibly, they just need more time, quality time, to do math and build their understanding. I also wonder how our interventions have impacted these kids. I know we have had the best of intentions but all kids are smart and I'm sure that most kids in these situations infer that we think that they are "low" or less smart than their peers. This is an ugly reality for too many of our students.
There really is no judgement here. I don't have it figured out. I know my colleagues, even my colleagues whose approaches I don't agree with, are working hard with the the very best interests of our students at heart. I definitely don't know what he solution is but I really do think we have a problem here.