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ISTEP is Over, Let the Learning Begin

A month ago, I ran across a Facebook post that made me smile. The post was a picture of school welcome sign with the posting, “No classes this week due to state assessments, we resume you child’s real education in two weeks.” While the post made me laugh, it really hit a true cord to how education has changed, and not in a positive way.

As I write my first blog, the realization of how education has changed has motivated me to return to my roots as a teacher, and hope that my kids get the opportunity to learn with the same opportunities that I had: learn by doing.

Ironically, the learning experiences that were most meaningful were not always in the classroom. As I moved through my high school education, the focus was to get enough background knowledge to be able to go to to Purdue and become an Electrical Engineer. As I progressed through my career, I started to realize that what I was expecting and hoping was not coming to realization. I had always been told that once I get through the base courses, I would have an opportunity to start applying my knowledge and begin "doing". It didn’t happen. After two years of Engineering courses, I was still living in the world of theory, multiple choice questions, and was left wondering when do I get to do something.

Long story short, I changed my major a few times and became an Industrial Technology Education teacher. Yes, a “shop” teacher that never had a “shop” class in high school, but had fond memories of every hands-on class, project, or experiment I had completed. The leaf collection, dissection of a cat, the fruit fly experiments in high school Biology, working with the Apple computers in computer science classes, the experiments in Physics and Chemistry classes, and even the checkbooks and ledgers we had to keep in Accounting classes.

Twenty-four years later, I am a Curriculum Director and my life is surrounded by testing and data, but my heart has been and always will be full of projects, application, experimentation, and I guess you would say just plain old fun.

So as I saw the Facebook post, I started to think about how great it has to be in the classrooms now that ISTEP is over. Field trips, experiments, activities, projects, and all of those things that teachers have been conditioned to think are not truly teaching students to learn, we can now do because ISTEP is over. Wow! What has happened to education?

As a member of the this PLN, EdTech Heroes, I have had the opportunity to learn again. We have been playing with drones, Spheros, Makey-Makeys, GoPro cameras, Google Cardboards, and more. Experimentation, trial and error, figuring something out, problem solving, and creating has returned to my life because of a crazy, eclectic, exciting, and diverse group of educators.

So as I move into the twilight of my career, the beliefs I have developed as a Curriculum Director have not really changed...I believe that we must expect teachers to monitor instruction and continually ensure students are learning. However, my methods for teaching I developed as a teacher, also have not changed. Students must be given the opportunity to own their learning, learn by doing. It is time to act like it is the weeks after ISTEP all year long.

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