Since my job revolves around trying to get kids ready for college, I found this article compelling. Read the whole thing if you an. Here are parts that especially caught my eye.
I know that ultimately I’m responsible for my education, but I can’t help blaming the schools and teachers I had in my early years for my struggles today. My former teachers simply did not push me to think past a basic level, to apply concepts, to move beyond memorizing facts and figures. Since the third grade, my teachers told me I was exceptional, but they never pushed me to think for myself.
I did what I’d been taught growing up in school: memorize and regurgitate information. Other Georgetown freshmen from better schools had been trained to form original, concise thoughts within a breath, to focus less on remembering every piece of information, word for word, and more on forming independent ideas. I was not. I could memorize and recite facts and figures, but I didn’t know how to think for myself. Now, in an attempt to think deeper, I sometimes overthink myself into silence.
Once I got to high school, I maintained good grades simply by listening to my teachers and giving them what they wanted to hear: themselves. I could go to class, pay attention, and as long as I was respectful, I stood out as a great student. Classwork, homework and exams were all similar, as if someone were just cutting and pasting the questions in a different order.
It wasn’t until my junior year at Cesar Chavez that I first opened a textbook to learn material that a teacher had not given to me verbally. It was for Advanced Placement Human Geography, my first AP course. (I had to persuade the administration to let me in.) The class was by far one of the hardest I had in high school, along with AP English and thesis, a class in which we did independent research on a public policy issue. Suddenly, I was expected to think about concepts, such as public policy’s cause and effect, and apply these ideas to real-life situations. There was no one correct answer; if I could explain my position, I could be correct.
One of the biggest surprises has been discovering how academically independent I will have to be. No longer can I just listen to my teacher lecture for an hour and absorb everything. Now, I have to go out and get the material, reading more than what is required and doing exercises that I have given myself.
What an indictment of his school. I try to teach my students how to think, not how to memorize and regurgitate. I say I’m more concerned with preparing them for college than I am with performance on AP or IB tests, but those are factors I’m judged on. Within the system it’s hard to come up with a method that truly prepares students for college because our reality is we can’t fail everyone who probably deserves to fail.
I’m just glad this wasn’t written by one of my former students.