Sunday, June 20, 2010

Teaching with a Criminal Record

I am a robber of creativity.
This is what I call myself after reading Ken Robinson and Daniel Pink.
As part of a well-renowned high school faculty, I should have a better title for myself. But now, it all boils down to this: a guilty man. A convict. A criminal.

Imagine, there you have me, an English teacher, on a routine lecture on sentence construction, parts of speech, how to use idioms, and how to identify character traits in a story. But what can I do? Those Digital Monsters in front of me (all boys at that) wont understand a thing if I ask them to interpret a poem by Shakespeare, or use imagery and metaphors to describe their One True Love. They will cast me into hell if I let them do a thesis on the Effects of Texting to the Spelling Proficiency of Fourth Year Students like them.
So what’s left of me? The blackboard, the Overhead Projector (which, I regret to admit, is not yet extinct in our classrooms), and first year lessons which they should have mastered but just didn’t stick because of a lack of a clear direction.

What’s causing all this repetition and staleness?
We don’t cultivate creativity.
 “The real value of the arts is not in making marginal improvements on the peripheries of the existing system of education, but in transforming the heart of it.”

Today, students don’t go to school anymore.
They’re dragged there.
And once their parents succeed, they wreak havoc – sanctions here, tardiness cases there, disrespect, bullying, and whatnot.

Then I see the bigger picture.
We are a victim of an L-directed mindset.
About ten years ago, the school finally decided to standardize its curriculum. That means that all the branches of the school aim to have one and the same teaching material for all year levels.
Cute thought. But what did they do?
First, they held inter-school competitions. Then, they ranked students aptitude against each other. Finally, they subjected all school quarterly exams to hundred-point multiple choice type tests.
You think that’s deadly? Wait ‘till you hear what’s buzzing inside the faculty room. You see teachers on a routine about the same lessons year after year; creative teachers being limited to teach only what’s going to come out in the exam; and new teachers frantic because they can’t seem to get their student’s attention through lectures of Dante’s Inferno and The Kinds of effective sentences.
During the two years I spent as a teacher there, one thing was for sure. It was very difficult to pinpoint someone to sing, to declaim, to write, to emcee, to act, and to just be creative.
Where has the enthusiasm gone?
“Everything’s fine with saturating oneself with English or Math or Science. Those are the courses we want our students to take, anyway. But saturating your students with arts, dance, music or even poetry might prove catastrophic.” They say this because of the misconception that the Philippine education has culturally put a high premium on the Academics over the Arts.

Truly, this is what powers the nation, but it does not capture its spirit. Creativity should be the cornerstone of education. Without it, teachers will not have the ability to inspire, and students will not have the strength to apply what they have learned. In the process, students will continually ask these PAMATAY questions like: “Why do I need to know this?” and “E ano ngayon?” What’s worst, be it the Greek gods and godesses or kinds of Adverbs that they have to memorize, they interrupt you and say: “Can I use this when I grow up?” Boom. Unless you can find a way out of the mess, and make up a convincing and life-threatening answer, mamamatay ka talaga.

Thankfully, there is still hope.
My school, which I relentlessly shamed earlier, is attempting to save face. The DepEd too is not to be outdone.
They have noticed the same problems and are now looking for a creative way out. And they called it Understanding by Design.

Now, don’t get me wrong. THIS IS NOT NEW.
However, it is quite remarkable, and timely, that the Philippine Educational system would adopt this “backwards design” model into the curriculum this school year.
What’s it all about?
It seems that they learned that students DO ask those pamatay questions, and are now trying to stop them from doing so. They also learned that traditional teachers often employ the Coverage-focused and Activity-focused style, which forces them to teach the contents of the books, but fails to connect them together, and to real life. Well, this design attempts the impossible: one, putting a high premium on the teacher’s creativity, and two, relying on the teacher’s ability to make his students have fun while learning. Let me explain further.

This design starts by identifying the desired results. This means that every quarter, teachers are to create a General Objective which everyone will try to assimilate at the end. For example, the general objective for the first quarter of the first year is that “the students are able to Narrate.” All activities for the quarter will then be geared to attain that.
The second step of the design is to define acceptable evidence. This is where the creative part comes in. Measurement and evaluation relies heavily on projects based on real-life experiences. This may be in a form of a field trip, play, production, business enterprise, etc.
Finally, teachers are to construct meaningful learning experiences to support the general objective, and thus create flexibility and creativity inside the learning area.

Sounds fun? We have to stick around for the results.
Foreign and Filipino educators have long wanted to remove “robber” from their credentials. If they continue doing this “18th and 19th century” education and arts policy, children’s minds will totally be void of sparkle and enthusiasm.
I, for one, am proud of Philippine education. Not that I like it, but I can say that it continually tries to resurrect itself even though it has been dying again and again after these decades.
And if I am still strong to reap the harvest of this kind of creative education, who knows, maybe we will be dominating the world of knowledge in the future. 


1 comment:

  1. i hated going to school. when i was in prep i realized that i was in big trouble because i counted the years i would be stuck in school. but eventually i ended up liking school because my friends were there... and that i had to go to school in order to sneak out


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