I can still remember the day vividly. I am not sure of the exact date, but I remember it was in November of 1979. I was in 10th grade at Intermediate High School in Broken Arrow, OK. I had a 1-mile (or so) walk home from school that took me by our local K-Mart.
I had heard that the British rock group Pink Floyd had just released the album “The Wall.” I really didn’t know much about Pink Floyd at the time, but I knew I liked one of the songs on the album, “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2.” Of course, as a young high school student, I loved the following lyrics from the song, “We don’t need no education.”
On this day, I stopped into the K-Mart, forked over about $10 and bought the double album on vinyl. Yes, I am that old!
I walked home quickly so I could listen to the whole album and it instantly became my favorite all-time album. Funny thing is, that at that time, I did not fully understand that song, or the entire album.
As I write this today, I can’t help but reflect and be amused by the irony that I have worked in education for over 25 years.
Today, with a few more miles under my belt, I am even more impressed with the album and that particular song. As a classroom teacher, a principal and a superintendent, I worked very hard to implement, to the best of my ability, a student-centered and individualized approach to teaching and learning. I met resistance from “the establishment” at each level of my educational career. The resistance was not necessarily against meeting student needs; it was more about stepping outside of the “system” in order to do so.
While I originally was enticed by the song because I viewed it as a revolutionary anthem, it was much more than that.
It is actually an anthem about reclaiming one’s individuality.
It is also a criticism against educational systems that would not address the needs of an imaginative child for thinking uniquely and expressing that in writing.
And that brings me to the present day.
I am still as passionate as ever about the need for educators to recognize and act upon each student as a individual. We must recognize each student as an individual, and by so doing, create their own unique pathway for them to learn and prepare for their future.
Personalized learning is growing in its reach in our country. More and more teachers, schools and districts are stepping away from the status quo and finding ways to meet the unique needs of their students.
In a study called "What's Possible with Personalized Learning? An Overview of Personalized Learning for Schools, Families & Communities" that was just published by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), a teacher identified as Rebecca, said the following:
“I don’t think that what children want from school has fundamentally changed. I think they want to be inspired, engaged and motivated. They want to learn new things, to be challenged and to do things differently. Whereas we were happy to sit at school and have information given to us and copy that down, learning by rote, children now don’t want this and won’t accept this at school. They like working with each other and finding things out for themselves. I think this is also what we need to be doing as responsive teachers. We need to be giving children the skills to think for themselves and be active learners who take responsibility for their own learning.”
The great news is there are ample and continually evolving resources available to help educators personalize the learning experience for their students. Many are outlined in the iNACOL report and I highly recommend reading the report.
I also recommend that if you feel the need to begin a journey, improve upon your existing journey, or learn more about personalized learning, that you start by reading, asking questions, talking to colleagues, parents, and most importantly, to students.
Together we can create pathways for students that are engaging, powerful, effective and that prepare them for further life success. The worst thing we can do, is to treat them like “another brick in the wall.”