Being a critical thinker is extremely important - The Global Achievement Gap discusses the importance of being able to think on your toes, be a problem solver, and think critically. Employers are not necessarily looking for people who are a master at a specific craft (there is always room to learn something new), but are looking for employees who are able to think for themselves and solve problems quickly when problems arise (because honestly, problems are inevitable).
Incorporating true thinking in the classroom can be difficult - students that are in high school now were always “taught to the test.” They are focused on getting the “right” answer. Critical thinking does not focus on necessarily the right answer, but exploring your answer and understanding it. I focus on giving my students open ended questions, where there is not going to be one answer. To be successful in this area is to be confident.
I attended a principal’s panel this last weekend. Principals from different areas of Southern California discussed resumes, interviewing, and hiring. One of the things that seemed to keep coming up was that they were looking for candidates who worked well with the other employees at their school - they were looking for good “matches” who would be able to collaborate with colleagues.
As far as collaboration between students.. I think it’s a really good skill for them to learn how to do. Working with other people is a part of life - no matter what you do, you are more than likely going to be dealing with people. Teaching students not only to work with others, but to work WELL with others is so important. I was subbing for a week for my master teacher, and he pretty much said to do whatever I wanted with my “teaching” classes. So, I tried something different - I had my students get into reading groups and read Huck Finn together, instead of being read to. In my first class, I chose the groups for them. They FREAKED! They hated working with “people they didn’t know.” This bothered me so much...they had been in this class together for SIX MONTHS, and were not comfortable with each other? So, the second group I had, I allowed them to choose their own groups. I would say that a fourth of the class were on track, while the other three-fourths were not. What this all comes down to is students taking RESPONSIBILITY for their own learning, as well as feeling comfortable with working with ANY of their classmates.
3. Be Willing
If I had a nickel for every time that I have heard a student say, “I can’t do this,” I wouldn’t need to teach (I’d be rich!). If I were an employer (which, in a way, I kind of am as a teacher), I would be looking for employees that are willing to try something new and willing to make an effort. It is so sad listening to students tell me that they cannot - I try to be a constant cheerleader, letting students know that they have the ability to do it. I want my kids to try. I want them to understand that they can. I want them to be successful. In order to be successful, you must be willing.
4. Take Responsibility
When you go to work, you are expected to complete your work (usually) on your own. You are in charge of your work - there isn’t going to be someone micromanaging (usually) your work. You will be expected to get it done by the time that it is supposed to be done by. You have to take RESPONSIBILITY for your own work.
One of the most important things that students need to do within the classroom is take responsibility for their own learning. I believe that students will get out of their education what they put into it. I feel that students now can fall into a rut of laziness - they expect to be given answers and just move on. What I would like to do is create a classroom in which my students are responsible for their own learning.
5. Incorporate Technology
Technology is an ever-present and ever-changing trend. I cannot walk around without seeing people buried in their cell phones. This generation, MY generation, is the generation of instant gratification - we expect instant results in everything we do.
The importance of technology is evident through the fact that, in order to get into this credential program, we had to take a technology in the classroom course. And now, being in the program, we are taking a technology class. Times are changing, and as teachers, we need to be ahead of the game. Students are glued to their technological devices - we need to figure out how to use that to our advantage. At my last school site, we had Chromebook or iPads for each student. This was awesome! I could ask students to do research in class or type essays and send them to me for feedback. At my current school, I had students use their devices to play Kahoot, and they were immersed!
6. Communication is Key
No matter what you choose to do in life, you’re going to have to be able to talk to people. Learning to communicate, both in written and oral form, is key.
As an English teacher, I focus on allowing my students to express themselves, whether that be through writing, presentations, or class discussions. I think it is essential to teach students to feel comfortable with themselves as individuals, because having confidence plays a huge role in one’s ability to communicate.
Now that information is literally at the fingertips of anyone who chooses to explore the Internet, anyone can literally learn anything. The 20% project that we are doing is a perfect example: we are required to learn about something, ANYTHING, and then use the knowledge to PLAY. We have to research our topic and perform in some way via the use of technology.
We need to put student’s knowledge to the test, and have them explain their learning through creation. I love incorporating art into my classroom (although some students are not so enthusiastic..). I recently did a mini lesson on satire, and then had my students create satirical cartoons on Huck Finn. Most of my students excelled in explaining their learning through artwork. I loved the cartoons that they came up with - some were absolutely hilarious. I also like the idea of having final projects - perhaps for a novel - to be creative, but also allow the students to have a say. Give them ideas of what the project could be, and let them go for it.